It all started one year ago when Josh Lines wanted to spice up his salmon and leek pie.
Lines reached for the basic bottle of restaurant hot sauce and began to question why there isn’t a common Canadian alternative to the vinegar-heavy, pureed pepper American sauces like Frank’s Red Hot and Tabasco Sauce.
That’s when he decided to develop a hot sauce of his own.
Lines, who has worked as a bartender for about 15 years, teamed up with a culinary scientist best friend and began developing a brand new sauce.
A few months later, Front Street Heat by Top Shelf Collection was born.
“I want to do something that is nice to cook with, that works in a Caesar, something that’s balanced,” said Lines.
For Lines, the taste and culinary applications of the sauce came before its sizzle.
“A beautiful sauce first, the hot sauce second,” he said.
Front Street Heat, according to Lines, differs from traditional sauces because it uses roasted peppers and lime juice rather than the vinegar and hot pepper paste normally found in a list of hot sauce ingredients.
“Instead of having that burn in your mouth 10 to 15 minutes afterward, it gives you that heat up front but that heat is designed to fade away quickly and leave you with the good flavour of the sauce.”
“It’s thicker and better for culinary uses,” he said.
Lines said he has heard from people who claim not to like hot sauce change their mind after trying Front Street Heat.
For example, said Lines, Caesar cocktails made with Front Street Heat have more body and flavour compared to a drink made with traditional hot sauce, adding that Top Shelf Caesars were popular at the recent London Food and Wine Show.
Lines’s sauce has had local success popping up in restaurants and grocery stores across the county.
Front Street Heat is on the shelves at the local Real Canadian Super Store, Shoppers Drug Marts, No Frills, and Metro as well as Blackwater Coffee, Davy Jones Quality Meats, The Cheese Store, and Pure Local Organics.
Lines provides large jugs of Front Street Heat to restaurants and the sauce has been incorporated into the menu at numerous local eateries.
Now, Lines is pushing to get Front Street Heat across the country.
“My goal is to become Canada’s hot sauce,” he said. “We don’t have a national brand and this sauce is certainly good enough.”
The sauce has already stretched beyond Lambton’s borders getting into stores in London and Windsor.
Lines has reached an agreement with Metro which could theoretically distribute the sauce across Canada.
“I’d like to move into London as quickly as I can and from there get Toronto’s attention.”
The sauce’s name, according to Lines, can help it connect with communities everywhere.
“There’s a Front Street in most Canadian cities,” he said.
For now, Front Street Heat is Top Shelf Collection’s only product, but Lines said there is always an opening for hotter sauces and other products down the road.
Lines said he couldn’t have been successful without support from the local community.
“It wouldn’t have happened if Sarnia didn’t embrace it and been so into the local vibe and helping local business.”