Story and photos by DAVID FISHER
Sometimes food just needs an extra kick. Additional flavors and heat can make what was once bland, become a brand-new taste full of extra zing and spice.
Giselle and Jason McClure of Salt Lake City have concocted an original flavor booster known as chili oil. The McClures create the chili oil in their own basement, only to later be distributed to 22 different locations in the Salt Lake Valley available for purchase. Their concoction prompted them to start their own business, Chili Beak.
Unlike hot sauces and salsas, tomato and vinegar is not added to create chili oil. It is a unique blend of a variety of chili peppers with oil and other spices. The main pepper that is used is called chile de arbol, which means bird’s beak chili. This is where the name Chili Beak came from. It is a completely unique product which the McClures ultimate long-term goal is to see on tables at many restaurants as a replacement to Sriracha.
Chili oil is the ultimate condiment. It can be added to everything from eggs, soups, brownies, and even popcorn. Simply just stir it with a spoon, and scoop it onto food. Its smooth consistency and natural ingredients create a unique flavor that does not upset the stomach. No preservatives are added, and all ingredients are all-natural. It can be used as a marinade, mix in, or even added into recipes to create original new flavors. The flavor of chili oil will be felt first, and then a subtle heat begins to creep into the taste buds.
While visiting Giselle’s family in Mexico years ago, the McClures discovered chili oil. They could not find any product like it in Salt Lake City, so they decided to make it themselves as amateur chefs. After seven months of constant trial and error, and a multitude of coughs and sneezes, they created the perfect mixture.
They considered it better than the recipe they tried in Mexico because of an added smoky flavor. The smokiness is created with a lack of sugar and ginger. This was something different that needed to be experienced by people of the United States. Even Giselle’s family in Mexico was requesting that they have their own to share with their friends and family.
“This would be more than just a food company,” Jason said. “This would be a people company. As a company it is about family and community. We want to bring people together and have fun with it.”
Food connects people, creates conversation and promotes new communities. Giselle explains, “If I can share food with somebody, I am happier.”
Only having started their business in August 2014, Chili Beak has expanded tremendously through word of mouth and social media. A Facebook, Twitter and even an Instagram page have been created to promote the business. The McClures wanted to create a responsive community in which people get involved with Chili Beak digitally. This is what began the creatively catchy “Let me Spoon You” campaign, which is named after the unique way to prepare chili oil.
Through social media, and using the hashtag SpoonYourFriends, families are showing how they are using and preparing Chili Beak in their foods. This creates an interactive experience in which creative ideas to use chili oil are shared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It was through this that the ingenious idea of using chili oil on top of vanilla ice cream was discovered by a customer.
For Valentine’s Day, the #SpoonYourValentine campaign was created to share how people were preparing meals for their loved ones with Chili Beak. Chili Beak has created a community for all to get involved with, and has inspired the McClures to want to create a chili oil recipe book based on the inventive recipes customers have shared.
All ingredients that are used to make the chili oil that Chili Beak produces are bought from local businesses within Utah. For example, the salt used within the oil is bought from Utah’s Redmond Real Salt. Local businesses are their own community, and they do whatever it takes to help each other out.
Kristen Lavelett, executive director of Local First Utah, explains that “locally-owned business create personal stability because of the relationships we build with people. It’s another way to love your neighbors.”
While sampling Chili Beak at farmers markets in the area, the McClures use locally-produced chips and chocolate from Hatch Family Chocolates. The chili oil is added to things like hummus and ranch dressing for people to taste. It’s a challenge when people ask about the hummus and ranch, and not the chili oil itself. The chili oil is what creates the unique spicy flavor to the condiments. But, the McClures enjoy promoting a product that is different to a local community. It is a matter of experimentation to truly discover the one-of-a-kind flavor chili oil produces.
“We love doing this because we truly enjoy it,” Giselle said. “We committed ourselves to something different. We want to inspire people to do more with chili oil. If we can have fun with it and get the community involved, that is a plus.”