It all started on a taco night in September 2019. It was University of Michigan student Jared Schacter’s turn to cook dinner for his housemates, so he decided on al pastor tacos with homemade hot sauce, since he wasn’t satisfied with the sauce options on the market. To balance the spice of the chili peppers, he experimented with bananas and plantains in place of commonly used processed sugar, and his friends were hooked—so hooked that they realized they’d stumbled upon a flavor too unique and delicious not to share. Thus, BOMBANANA Hot Sauce was born.
After tinkering with the recipe to get the flavor just right and cutting the difficult-to-source plantains from the mix, the BOMBANANA team—comprising Schacter, Grant Dukus, Jonny Moss and Kevin Bhattacharyya—sought out a co-packer to get their new product off the ground. “We’d proven ourselves as a really strong team in the classic college ways of throwing parties, making really cool beer pong tables and all these things,” says Schacter, who now lives in Bridgehampton. “We were all finding ways to be helpful—some on design, some on the actual building and engineering.” His contribution was, of course, his cooking prowess, which he honed as a line cook in Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne in New York City.
Schacter recalls that during the research and development phase, a specialty hot sauce shop in Charleston lamented that their banana sauce was their worst seller and that, ‘They had learned the hard way that bananas and hot sauce don’t mix.’ The BOMBANANA team couldn’t help but smirk knowing that demand for their subtly flavored banana sauce was on the rise, while this overpowering banana-flavored sauce clearly missed the mark. The BOMBANANA original blend and spicier Muy Muy variant feature a cohesive blend of banana, chipotle chilis and arbol that offers a surprising level of versatility.
Schacter personally uses BOMBANANA on his eggs and pizza, as a chicken marinade and steak sauce, in shrimp ceviche and in bolognese as a replacement for red wine and tomato paste. “People have wildly different levels of heat that they’ll tolerate and enjoy, so those two sauces were us trying to cover part of the spectrum,” he says, noting that an extra spicy sauce, a little-to-no spice sauce and a tomatillo-based green sauce are currently in the works. “We want to provide a really quality experience for people to feel the joy and the care when they eat our hot sauce, so giving them a variety of different flavors that we can cater to people on the spectrum, making our product as accessible as possible, is something that’s of paramount importance to us.”
With the help of partner Feast Detroit, the young entrepreneurs manufactured their first batch of hot sauce in February, launched their online shop in April and got BOMBANANA on store shelves by May. “Even though we were founded in the pandemic, we didn’t let that slow our roll. It’s required a lot of flexibility and adaptability,” Schacter says. “We really focused on getting down to the dirty work of building this, making a business and being really OK living in the trenches with it, as opposed to being too pie-in-the-sky. As far as getting it in stores so fast, that’s a credit to good old-fashioned hard work. We really pounded the pavement and approached a whole bunch of stores.” East End purveyors include Fairview Farm at Mecox, Babinski’s Farmstand, Peconic Prime Meats, Schmidt’s Market, The Green Thumb and The Pizza Place, with the team adding locations in New York, Michigan, Illinois and other states regularly. “The goal is really to get in all the places,” Schacter notes. “Citarella is a super big priority for us.”
Despite the BOMBANANA company’s relatively small size, the team is determined to make it a leader in sustainability, minimizing its impact on the Earth with glass containers and 100% recycled shipping materials. “Even when we’re at this small level, we still want to be changemakers and see our planet be a healthier, better, more vibrant planet,” Schacter says, adding, “We’re going to keep chugging along, keep trying to be great, keep putting our best foot forward and keep trying to give people a hot sauce that we think they deserve.”
To learn more about BOMBANANA Hot Sauce, visit seekthespice.com.