Are you a fan of spicy foods and sassy sauces? Then you're going to love the Saucy Queen and her Intensity Academy.
I met Michele Northrup (aka The Saucy Queen) during a food and wine conference in Orlando. She was wearing a bold fascinator made of feathers and hot peppers in her hair, but her quick wit and bright smile is what really drew the attention of the crowd.
As a Mompreneur pursuing the American dream, she has quite the inspiring story. Her Tampa-based company creates all natural gourmet sauces that have won 53 National awards within the past five years. From tart and tangy tea-infused sauces to veggie-based hot sauces, she's got just the right combination of flavors to make any dish pop.
Since we're now Twitter BFFs, I sent her a note to see if I could interview her, and she happily played along and answered my questions. Read on to learn more about the Saucy Queen.
Q. What inspired you to make hot sauces? How did you get started?
I was working in the garden at my sons’ school. The vegetable of the week was carrots. We all brought a basket of them home to experiment and come up with something completely unique that the students had not tried before. I thought the natural sweetness of the carrots would balance the heat of some peppers I had. I made a few varieties of a carrot-based hot sauce and created dips, nachos, etc. for the students to try. The feedback from the students, staff, my friends and family was amazing! I went to the local grocery store looking up and down the shelves and saw there was not anything similar to this sauce. I really jumped right into it without looking back. I figured worst-case scenario everyone I knew would get hot sauce for Christmas! That was six years ago, as of today we have won over 50 National awards and have been featured on Yahoo TV.
Q. Tell me about the ingredients you use. Are any of them sourced locally?
All of our ingredients are sourced fresh from Florida with local and fresh being our focus. My passion is supporting local. That even includes our labels, bottles & bottling facility.
Q. Which sauce flavor combination are you most proud of and why?
We were the first sauce company to use organic teas as infusions in our products. My favorite is our Chai Thai Teriyaki. It is an amazing marinade, roasting or grilling sauce for meats and veggies.
Q. When you're not cooking at home, what is your favorite restaurant to go to in Tampa?
I love Thai Sweet Basil in Carrollwood and the Refinery in Seminole Heights.
Q. Any unique or funny stories about hot-sauce-making that you'd like to share?
We have been blessed with winning many awards, but I think my favorite award was our first. We were at the esteemed "Golden Chile" ceremony in Texas. Our company was only a few months old. I was so excited to be there, and was overflowing with Saucy excitement in anticipation for the awards. I was telling our friends at the table that I couldn't wait to go up and accept our award. One of the attendees who has been in the industry for a while said to me that folks have been in the sauce business for years and have not won this award. Everyone at the table agreed that they would stay after the ceremony so I could walk up on stage. I didn't understand what they meant, I was certain I was going to win that night! When they called out my company's name, "Intensity Academy," I was so excited, I jumped over my Father in Law and did a little dance on the way up to the stage. It was that moment that I knew this was the life for me!
Q. Where can people find your sauces?
We are at local farmers markets as well as eight locations in the Tampa Bay area. Check out our complete schedule and list of stores at: Intensityacademy.com