Stuart Whyte delved into the science of fermentation before he understood anything about the process.
“I just put things into jars and waited to see what happened,” he admits.
Sometimes things worked; sometimes they didn’t—like he forced carbonation into asparagus spears with the intent to use them as cocktail garnishes. “Don’t ever do this,” he warns, “Worst thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.”
Only after getting his hands on Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation did this curious chef begin to grasp the concept of one of the oldest forms of food preservation. He was working in Vancouver at the time; first at the highly esteemed Thai restaurant, Maenam, followed by The Pourhouse in Gastown, and finally at Tacofino, where he managed the operations of their entire fleet of food trucks. Being immersed in the intense and distinct flavours of Thai food at Maenam changed his world of cooking, he says, but it was The Pourhouse who gave Whyte the green light in creating a lineup of fermented hot sauces.
His first products were a Thai chili and garlic hot sauce (“like sriracha, only better,” he says), and a jalapeno and leek combination that added a zippy je ne sais quois to everything it graced. Original Redhead Condiments was born—and yes, Whyte is the redhead in the ORC.
He’s got the science part down pat, now. His condiments are robust, flavourful and multi-layered—cues taken from the Thai and Mexican foods he learned to cook in Vancouver.
“Spice is great, but acid is where it’s at,” he says during our lunch at an Edmonton restaurant. He pulls apart the layers of his lackluster East Indian-inspired sandwich and muses that it could use some acid. Pickled onions, I offer, or a chutney, perhaps? His eyes light up. “Yes! I have mangoes fermenting at home. They’d be perfect.”
In 2016, Whyte moved to Edmonton and landed a job in the kitchen of Brad Lazarenko’s Culina Mill Creek. Lazarenko, who has a habit of fostering his cooks to become successful business owners in their own right, encouraged Whyte to expand and deepen his sauce project. Soon, Original Redhead Condiments were appearing on Lazarenko’s menus at Victoria Park and Riverbend golf courses. It didn’t take long for word about Whyte’s spicy condiments to spread like wildfire.
For the past two years, Whyte has been selling his product at farmers’ markets and on the shelves of a handful of restaurants. His product line has grown to include nine items, including five fermented hot sauces full of gut-healthy probiotics and prebiotics; two pickled vegetables, a hoppy mustard, and a proprietary seasoning blend of spices and chilies. That growth has exhausted his equipment and taxed his manpower. Whyte is hoping a $15,000 influx from his ATB Boostr campaign will allow him to upgrade his equipment, increase production, develop new products, and enable him to spend time educating the public about the health benefits of fermented products.
You’ve got until June 19th to get in on this red hot campaign and be a part of the Original Redhead’s future. Delicious rewards await. Get ‘em while they’re hot.