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Raleigh man's obsession leads to jerk sauce enterprise

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So my first question to Austin Williams was this: "How did you become interested in jerk sauce?"

His response was something like: "Because I'm a washed up white guy from the suburbs?"

Williams, 36, of Raleigh, pleads the fifth about whether he's ever been to Jamaica. But he explains that he became obsessed with this Jamaican cooking tradition while exploring the Jamaican restaurants while living in Atlanta. After moving back to North Carolina, he tried to make his own version of this fiery marinade using the three key ingredients: thyme, all spice and Scotch bonnet peppers. During his one of many attempts, Williams, a commercial real estate developer, substituted pineapple for the traditional scallions.

"That's the day the Shizzle was born," Williams says.

Williams' marinade was so popular with his friends that he went into business with one of his addicted friends, Darryl Hemminger. They began making The Shizzle Jerk Marinade commercially two years ago. Since then, they have gotten onto the shelves at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, NoFo at the Pig in Raleigh and the Triangle stores of Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and The Meat House.

Last fall, their Voodoo Hot version won the barbecue sauce category at the annual North Carolina hot sauce contest in Oxford.

About this culinary-quest-turned-business, Williams says: "It's been so much fun. I've been busier than I've ever been in my life. It's hard but the product has traction beyond my control."

A 14-ounce jar costs $6.99. For more information, go to

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About the blogger

Andrea Weigl has been the food writer at The News & Observer since the summer of 2007. She has won a handful of awards from the Association of Food Journalists and the Society for Features Journalism. Her profile of chef Ashley Christensen titled "A Force of Nature" will be published in the sixth edition of "Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing." She is serving a three-year term on the James Beard Foundation book awards committee. Follow her on Twitter at @andreaweigl.