spices things up
After five years of owning and operating a Mexican restaurant, Jorge Oropeza decided to kick it up a notch and spice up the offerings on his menu.
He introduced a mouthwatering hot sauce at his Palmdale restaurant, El Tucan Azul, that had customers drooling and coming in for more.
The sauce went on to become so popular with restaurant patrons that they would ask Oropeza if they could buy the sauce separately to take home with them.
It was then that Oropeza decided to bottle the magic and sell it.
That was about five months ago, and now his El Charro Hot Sauce is selling not only at his eatery but also at gas stations, markets and liquor stores.
“It’s been a short time, and people are actually buying the sauces,” said Oropeza, a Palmdale resident of 15 years. “I’m actually going myself, store to store, promoting everything myself.”
At first, the bottles only featured the restaurant logo.
“It was just small bottles with the logo on it, the restaurant logo, and that’s when I decided to put the brand,” Oropeza said.
The inspiration for the sauce’s brand name came during a visit to Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles approximately three years ago.
“My little kid, like 2 years old, those were the first words he said, ‘El Charro, El Charro,’ because he wanted to take a picture with the charro (hat) and the donkey,” Oropeza said.
Currently, Oropeza offers the hot sauce in two flavors: mild “Original” and “Fuego Habanero.”
He is working on releasing a new flavor.
“I’m actually working on La Verde, a green sauce. That’s actually the new product that’s coming out in two or three weeks,” Oropeza said.
Oropeza said it feels good to know that residents are enjoying his sauces, and he hopes to expand production.
He makes and bottles the sauces all by himself at the restaurant.
Oropeza’s output is about 1,200 bottles a month in what is basically a one-man operation.
“One thousand bottles. It’s not a lot, but by doing everything by hand, it is,” Oropez said.
“Right now I’m actually in the process of buying some equipment, so that way I can actually produce 10,000 bottles with less time than what I’m actually putting on right now doing everything by hand.” he said.
Oropeza’s gift and talent for sauce-making has family roots.
His father used to make sauces of his own in Jalisco, Mexico.
“I can’t even remember what it tastes like,” Oropeza said about his father’s sauces. “That was like 20, 30 years ago.
“He already passed away so I can’t come up with it.”
Asked which one is his favorite sauce, Oropeza said it was difficult to say.
“The Original is pretty good, the Fuego Habanero, too. I don’t really eat chile, but it’s good,” Oropeza said with a laugh.
“My mother is the one who tastes the spice — I don’t. I can’t, it’s too much for me,” he added.
He said tasting it all the time is not necessary because he has all the ingredients and recipes on how to do the sauces.
The popularity of his sauces has grown as customers have spread news about them through word-of-mouth.
“A lot of people, they are taking them down to the (San Fernando) Valley so I’ve been receiving a few calls from little markets over there, and they’re actually requesting the product,” Oropeza said.
“Unfortunately I don’t have the money to expand the business to make it bigger,” he said. “But in the future I’m actually considering opening a little factory here in Palmdale, like a small place.
“Right now I can’t make a lot of those here because the place is too small.”
His hot sauces are also crossing over into other culinary cultures.
Oropeza said he feels happy to see different types of people from different cultures ask him for his sauces and show an interest in purchasing the product.
“It’s funny because even Armenians, they are asking for my hot sauce bottles,” Oropeza said with a laugh.
“The Armenian markets, they’re actually selling my hot sauce, and it feels kind of good. Armenians buying my Charro sauce, that’s great,” he said.
Those interested in purchasing El Charro Hot Sauce can go to El Tucan Azul at 2350 East Palmdale Blvd. or visit www.elcharrohotsauce.com.
“Because a lot of people were asking for the hot sauce, I was forced to do a website,” Oropeza said. “They can actually place an order and review everything that I have, put comments and all that.”
The website describes the hot sauce enterprise as a “family-owned business with a passion for hot and spicy food.”
“We are excited to bring to you what has been a staple of our kitchen to your dining table. The knowledge we have learned from our past generation’s recipes and the experience we have gained from cooking, we share with you with our hot sauces,” the website states.