D’Evereux Foods aims to bring heat, class with saucePublished 12:05am Sunday, August 31, 2014
Take a 5-year-old boy, add a rainy day and throw in a 5-gallon bucket of Cayenne peppers.
That was the recipe that launched D’Evereux Foods, the Natchez-based pepper sauce company that’s aiming to bring a little more class — and a lot more flavor — into the hot sauce world.
D’Evereux Foods recently opened a processing facility in the former High Cotton building on Main Street, but the cottage industry turned small-scale industrial production facility really did start out in a cottage.
It began when a friend of Courtney Aldridge — Ashleigh’s father — gave him a bucket of peppers. Not long after, a rainy day had Courtney and his son Lennon trapped inside the house.
“I decided to take those peppers and make a pepper sauce with them,” Courtney said. “It seemed like a good thing that an older dad could do with a younger son on a rainy day when we had to stay inside.”
Sauce making, it turned out, was fun for the Aldridge men, but it didn’t take many batches for banishment from the kitchen at D’Evereux — the historic home where the Aldridges live and from whence the company draws its name — to follow.
“We had to move it to the second story of the carriage house out back because my wife didn’t like the smell,” Courtney said.
Courtney started sharing the sauce with the family’s friends. The friends, in turn, kept coming back and asking for more.
Courtney brought in his daughter Ashleigh Aldridge — a marketing consultant — and family friend Mandy Bartlett Brown, to run the business.
They started stocking the sauces they made in local restaurants and letting the word of mouth do the marketing for them.
“We have found that if it is in front of people and they try it, and it’s available, they’re going to buy it,” Ashleigh said.
They’ve also been pushing the sauce at industry trade shows.
“We went to the Fancy Foods show in New York to see if we could hang with the big dogs, and we found out we can,” Brown said.
The two flavors the purveyors of pepper evangelism have been pushing were Rouge and Fermenté. Ashleigh described Rouge as “bold and spicy” while the Fermenté is “fermented and twangy.”
A third sauce, Phantomé, has recently been developed using the Ghost Pepper — considered the second hottest pepper in the world. Courtney said he has plans for approximately 25 different sauces.
But while the sauce is without a doubt a hot sauce, Brown said the goal of their product is not to make people sweat over their plates.
“It is not about the burn,” she said. “Our sauce is all about the flavor experience of the food.”
And part of that experience can mean bringing an attitude of gentility to a side of the food industry that sometimes tells people its products will make them slap their mothers or feel like they’ve been kicked in the mouth by a donkey, Brown said.
“There’s no reason why your food can’t have a little heat to it and be sophisticated, too,” she said.
While D’Evereux Foods is growing, every 5,000-bottle batch of pepper sauce is still handcrafted by the owners in Natchez. Courtney, Ashleigh, Lennon, Brown and her children all work at bottling and labeling the products after a batch is completed.
They’ll need more employees as the company grows, but Courtney said they’re going to continue the owner-led handcrafting tradition at home in Natchez.
“We’re not going to give our recipe to some food packer who is going to put it together for us,” he said. “I’m not going to do that. We all enjoy doing this, and we are going to keep doing it ourselves.”
The Main Street location will eventually house retail space and a demonstration kitchen, Ashleigh said.
When the demonstration kitchen opens later this fall, Ashleigh said she’ll keep the doors open so passers-by can smell the cooking, stop in and see the different kinds of dishes in which the pepper sauces can be used.
She said she’ll likely cook gumbo as the kitchen’s debut dish during the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race.
D’Evereux Foods is located at 312 Main St.
The sauces can be purchased at Darby’s, Natchez Coffee Company, Pig Out Inn, Town and Country Home and Hardware and the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, among other places.
For a full list of locations selling the sauce and other information, visit devereuxfoods.com or call 601-301-5522.