Welcome back to the Happy Half Hour! This week, we chat with Starr Edwards, founder of Bitchin’ Sauce, a popular almond dip that is vegan-friendly. You may have it seen at local farmers’ markets (and mistaken it for hummus) or at the grocery store. The company started in Carlsbad and is still headquartered there, but has increased distribution to nearly 7,000 stores nationwide, including Costco, Target, and Whole Foods. In episode 210, William Bradley, executive chef at Michelin-starred restaurant Addison, said that Bitchin’s chipotle flavor is one of his favorite things to eat. Starr explained that the almond dip started with three flavors and is now available in 13; she highly recommends trying it as a sauce on fish tacos.
Starr moved to San Diego from Oregon with her family when she was 15, and her parents were hippies—there were always ingredients like Bragg’s liquid aminos and almonds in the kitchen, at a time when they weren’t mainstream. She graduated high school early; at 16 she started working at a mortgage company and took night classes at a local college—that same year she came up with the recipe for Bitchin’ Sauce.
Years later, when Starr met her husband, musician L. A. Edwards, got married, and had their first child, Skip, she went into business as a personal chef and promoted it with a stand at a local farmers’ market. She used Bitchin’ Sauce to attract visitors to the stand—and the sauce became so popular she decided to rethink her business plan. She says with just $200 and a blender, she started making more of it to sell at the farmers’ markets, and the company grew to the point where she needed to secure a commercial kitchen. A buyer for Costco discovered the brand, which opened the door for national distribution.
Starr says ramping up production for Bitchin’ Sauce to this level meant she had to figure out a new world of regulations for packaging, labeling, and UPCs, and she credits local stores Cardiff Seaside Market and Cream of the Crop for helping her. We also learned who inspired the logo, how she grew the company to nearly 80 exployees, and most importantly, how she came up with the name—listen to find out!
To this day, the company hasn’t received any outside funding, and during the pandemic, they launched a music label and a charity. They even have the Bitchin’ Beach Club at Carlsbad Lagoon. The company doesn’t ship their sauce directly, but it’s available through Amazon Fresh.
In Hot Plates, we talked about Governor Newsom lifting the regional stay-home order and returning all counties in California to the colored tier system, allowing for outdoor dining at restaurants. Puesto, which temporarily had to close all of their restaurants last week and furlough a majority of their staff, announced their plans to reopen soon. More details are in about celebrity chef Richard Blais’s new restaurant, Ember & Rye, that will open at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad. We end on some good news: A new Italian restaurant, Allegro, will open in Little Italy, where Indigo Grill had been for more than 20 years before closing last year.
In Two People for Takeout / Two People for $50, Starr’s pick is Sushi Ota in Mission Bay, which was also the Readers’ Choice in our 2020 Best Restaurants feature. Troy’s pick is the Vaquero hot dog from Barrio Dogg in Barrio Logan, and David likes the cold vegetable sandwich from Clem’s Bottle House in Kensington. My pick is the chicken-fried steak biscuit at Sonnyboy Biscuit Co. in University Heights.
Thank you for listening and starting the new year with us! As always, we want to hear from our listeners. Do you have a question for Troy? Need a recommendation for takeout? Is there a guest you want us to book on the show? Let us know! You can call us at 619-744-0535 and leave a voicemail, or if you’re too shy, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!