Spicing up Williams-Sonoma
ANDREW GARRETT shows off his hot sauce that took two years to develop, which can be found in Williams-Sonoma this September.
Former Sonoman Andrew Garrett will add some heat to the aisles of an institution that got its legs right here on the Plaza. Williams-Sonoma will begin selling Garrett's "NW Elixirs Hott Sauce #1" in 157 of its 240 stores across the U.S. and Canada this September.
"The hot sauce was a pet project of mine," said Garrett, 30, who said, as a chef, he was looking for a spicy sauce he didn't have to add anything to. "I wanted something that would act like a marinade, that you could put on eggs and tacos, something you could use anywhere."
Garrett, who now lives in Portland, Ore., is making the mixture up batch-by-batch. He is too particular about how the vegetables are roasted in the sauce to just pass the recipe on to someone else.
"I'm producing the sauce myself because there's so much that goes into it. You need that perfect caramelzation, especially on the onions, to get the sauce just right," he said, adding that the concoction took him two years to develop. "As chefs, food is never as perfect as we want it to be."
During those two years, Garrett made batch after batch, looking for not only the ideal flavor profile, but also how to keep the recipe constant so the sauce could be replicated for sale. The secret? "Dried chilies," he said, "It gives the consistent heat level."
Around the time he had perfected the sauce, a friend was setting up a meet-and-greet for vendors to present products to the buyers at Williams-Sonoma. Garrett was ready to showcase his creation, hand-poured into glass bottles bearing the old-fashioned label he designed.
"They tasted it and loved it. They contacted us about three weeks later and said, 'We want to put it in stores,'" Garrett said. "It was a trip to get that phone call."
Garrett said it is the first of many sauces he hopes to release under his brand name, NW Elixirs. From more hot sauces (hence calling the first #1), to dessert sauces, salad dressings and marinades, the sky is the limit for this foodie. But he will always have a special place for the city that inspired his passion for all things culinary.
Garrett grew up on a fruit farm in Glen Ellen, the son of Dennis Garrett and Linda K. Nelson, which is where his love of food first found its footing.
"I learned really early that farm fresh food was the only way to go," he said.
After attending Dunbar Elementary and Altimira Middle School, Garrett was one of the first students in the pilot program for Culinary Arts education at Sonoma Valley High School, led by Brigitta Crews.
"She really taught me how good food could be," he said.
While going to school, Garrett honed his culinary prowess slinging sandwiches at the Sonoma Cheese Factory and washing dishes at Marco Dana's in Kenwood. When he turned 18, he hung up his kitchen whites for some Army greens.
Working on tanks, he was stationed in Germany but assisted on missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. It was a normal day of training in September when terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes, committing the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, drastically changing the armed services.
"We went from a peace keeping mission in the Balkans to getting ready for war," Garrett said, adding that he never served in the Middle East. "I did not make it to the desert."
After three years of service, Garrett was ready to get back to life in the kitchen. He took a job working in the kitchen at Viansa Winery while he attended culinary school at Santa Rosa Junior College.
But he cut off his education early when he got the chance of a lifetime, to work with James Beard- award winner Yoshinori Kojima at his Rohnert Park restaurant, Latitude Grill.
Garrett then moved into another star-studded restaurant when he took a job as kitchen manager in Russell Ramsey's Chophouse, one of celebrity chef Guy Fieri's Santa Rosa restaurants.
"He (Fieri) was the one that taught me if you want to be successful, you need to take risks," he said.
After a short stint in San Francisco, Garrett decided to explore the Pacific Northwest and was drawn to the food scene in Portland. He found work in James Beard nominee Chris Israel's kitchen at 23Hoyt and had stints at Mother's Bistro, Mama Mia and Café Nell before he launched his own High Heat Catering in March. In addition to doing special events, Garrett leads tours of farms and meat purveyors, teaching small groups how to select the best ingredients before taking them back to his commercial kitchen to cook.
While his new business keeps him busy, Garrett is putting his heart into hot sauce, which will be available for purchase beginning in September. While visiting Sonoma last weekend, he made a stop by the Index-Tribune to drop off a sample and this reporter can report "NW Elixir Hott Sauce #1" offers a lot of spice with enough heat to make a statement, without burning off your entire tongue.
When asked if there are any food stops he makes a point of visiting while he's in town, Garrett said, "It doesn't feel like a full visit home if I don't stop for pizza at Mary's."