Francesco: Born in Venezuela and half Italian, I emigrated at 10 years old to the United States, and have lived in eleven different cities, across five countries that span three continents. This has shaped my worldview and given me a profound appreciation for cultural diversity and people from all walks of life. My lifelong love of working with food began initially as a side gig, a way to make an income while working as an actor. My self taught cooking skills flourished significantly while being the head of food services at a meditation ashram, where it was my duty to cook for hundreds at the retreat's restaurant. Regardless of my entrepreneurial ventures - internet startups, being a professional DJ, even real estate - over the past 35 years I would consistently find myself returning to the food industry to fulfill my passion for being of service, preparing food, and exploring various cultures through their cuisines.
I began experimenting with fermented vegetables after becoming inspired by Alex Hozven's obsession with that style of food. This led me to explore making a fermented hot sauce. I was on a search for a more provocative flavor experience, one that would reveal the inherent subtleties and dimensions of the peppers, herbs, and spices, rather than a hard first impression of vinegar and heat.
Mandy: I have been a fitness professional since 2007, which means I've coached many people over the years through learning to eat differently in order to reach their goals. This was on my mind when I encouraged Francesco to start selling his fermented hot sauce, a condiment that I absolutely love and that is acceptable within the confines of virtually all eating programs. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. Having started several successful businesses in my life, it was easy for me to see that this was a rare and golden opportunity to make a unique, delicious, healthy product available to two distinct groups of people: hot sauce fiends and the health conscious, especially those folks who have dietary restrictions (vegan, paleo, keto, Whole30, etc) and are desperately seeking a way to add flavor and spice to their food without compromising their goals.
After two years of pushing (some might say nagging) Francesco to start selling it, I took the initiative to order some bottles, put some sauce in them, and take them to the gym to see who would be willing to buy. All 24 bottles were gone within a day, and so began Cultured Heat. I will be the first to admit that I had NO IDEA of the amount of work in store for us. That said, I couldn’t be more grateful for where we are and where this is taking us, thanks in large part to the unparalleled support of the Houston food community, and especially to my clients, who were ultimately our guinea pigs-turned-biggest fans.
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Our vision for Cultured Heat is creating small batch fermented condiments, sauces, and foods that are locally sourced, celebrating the cultural diversity of Houston, and respecting sustainable farming practices. We began our product line with a handcrafted, critically acclaimed hot sauce that is free of sugar, gluten, and vinegar, making it both Paleo and Vegan. The newest members of our fermented family are mustard, curried sauerkraut, giardienera, and fermented vegetable slaw. Check back for more as we continue this journey of experimenting and concocting delicious new culinary creations.