There It Is: Natchez native debuts new sauce
Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, November 17, 2021
NATCHEZ — Even though Natchez native Mike Smith left the Miss-Lou in 1996, he made a promise to debut his latest sauce – There It Is Sauce – in Natchez.
“Natchez is home, I wanted to pay homage to what made me who I am,” said Smith, who is CEO of Creative Condiments Group LLC in Duncanville, Texas. “It was an inspiration mixed with a personal vendetta. I just wanted to say I did something. Growing up in this town, before life got different, people would limit you. I told myself I would have no limitations.”
Smith is a graduate of North Natchez and Jackson State University, and he’s already brought the sauce to Passbach Meats in Natchez. He’ll also serve it during a tailgate before the Alcorn State vs. Jackson State game.
Developing a sauce
For three years, Smith developed his sauce as a complement to garlic sausage. Ignorance had kept him eating garlic sausage with mayonnaise, but he decided one day to try something different.
Something different was a mustard sauce. Using a variety of mustards and sugars, he finally locked in a flavor profile which moves from sweet, savory to spicy like a sip of bourbon would.
His brother owns a food truck and tried the sauce on turkey legs. It is then Smith said he discovered it would taste on not just garlic sausage, but other foods.
Chef Ida Carthage did offer some consulting when he first started.
“I helped put him in touch with several people who could help him with the labeling, the packaging and the co-packing,” Carthage said. “I helped him with the recipe to find a co-packer and get the recipe to a large scale. It is challenging to get the co-packer recipe to have the right viscosity and flavor. You have to multiply proportions and give it to them in your presentation.”
Smith was determined to figure out the best way to scale his products. He said if the manufacturer did not follow the directions then the product would come out horrible. His challenges did not stop with figuring out the right way to scale his recipes.
His first manufacturer in Dallas did not believe in the product and messed up the product three times, he said. His heart was broken, but he is a huge believer that when God closes a window he opens another one.
“I found another manufacturer (called Creative Food Works) 30 minutes away. They tasted it and loved it and got the sauce right the first time,” Smith said. “They are invested in me. When the company was sold they made sure I was grandfathered in so I could receive a better deal. They took their time to work with me and even now, they make concessions to make sure I’m successful as well.”
Always a visionary
Last Friday, he met with the Markets to try and get his product in their stores. His hope is to start in Natchez and then launch the product nationally in January by targeting chain stores like H.E.B. in Texas.
He would like to expand his sauce line with a bourbon sauce named after his father Leon. Ranch and barbecue would be other additions to his sauce lineup, but the mustard is the flagship.
His mom Marry Smith said him coming back home to launch it is special.
“It is like life is coming full circle,” Smith said. “It is nice to know that good things can come out of Natchez. I’m happy he can showcase what he can do. Ever since he was little he would try to create. Usually he makes a mess, but this one tasted good.”
Mary Smith said her son’s creativity started with borrowing his sister’s easy bake oven to make cakes. A visionary, he wanted to make Natchez wireless when he was 28 by building towers, he said. His greatest fear is to be nothing so he has always worked to be something.
With the sauce, his goal is bigger than himself.
“I want to create a workforce which does agricultural science and food here in Natchez,” Smith said. “Hopefully the next generation can dream big and not live down to people’s limitations.”
Getting a little saucey
On Saturday, the sauce will be available for people at the Jackson State and Alcorn State gameday tailgate..
The sauce’s bottle is marketed with the taglines “Sinfully Delicious,” and “We dare you to find something it don’t go on.” The latter people have taken to heart, he said. People have tried the sauce with catfish and salad.
“We dare people to find something it doesn’t taste good on,” Smith said. “We are hoping to change foods one flavor at a time.”