Tim Sharkey is not your average small-business owner. He has the Chico State business department running situation analysis scenarios for him, he’s tackled the social-networking empire and he manages to promote “flavor first” in his line of juice-based spicy condiments under the name of California Habanero Blends. “It’s nice going over to your friend’s house, going into their fridge and taking out your own sauce,” Sharkey said. His three blends of habanero condiments include flavors of key lime, ginger garlic and chipotle peppers. These interesting blends complement foods from pizza to stir-fry with a unique kick that proves his “taste first” motto. As Sharkey stood at his booth during the Thursday Night Market, his patient and personable attitude shined through as he explained to a few preteens about how his sauces are made. A middle-aged man walked past Sharkey minutes after he finished setting up his display and stopped to say, “I love your product. The chipotle? It’s perfect.”
What made you decide to make hot sauce?
Friends and family had originally given me those gimmick hot-sauce bottles and it turned into a little collection. After a while of them sitting around collecting dust, my wife told me that I either had to eat them or throw them away. After a while I realized that they weren’t all that great and that I could make a better recipe than most of these hot sauces.
How do you come up with the perfect taste?
After weeding through all the different hot sauces I had, I was keeping the habanero-based ones—so when I started experimenting on different sauces I went toward that pepper, but it was way too hot. So I started thinning the heat down with carrots. I didn’t like the vinegar-based sauces because they changed the flavor of what you’re eating so I wanted to do something different so I went with the lime juice and I liked it better. And I love garlic, so I threw it all together with salt and pepper and that was the sauce.
What’s your favorite flavor out of your products?
The Garlic Key Lime is my favorite—the hot one. That’s the original product I came up with. That was the hot sauce I used.
How does it feel seeing you product around Chico?
It feels good that you get accepted and actually when you’re out to look over and see your own product. Not everyone likes a lot of flavor in their food—they have a pretty basic pallet—so it’s nice to look over in a restaurant, and it’s the same recipe you have at home and it’s now in public and other people are enjoying it. It does feel good.