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 http://theshizzlesauce.com/