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Meet HEATONIST Founder & CEO Noah Chaimberg

Noah Chaimberg, HEATONIST Founder
About Noah Chaimberg, Hot Sauce Expert & Founder of HEATONIST

Noah’s love of hot sauce began well before he founded HEATONIST and became our original hot sauce sommelier. In fact, he’s loved spicy food for as long as he can remember. Growing up, Noah’s family joked that he got his love of spicy food from his mom’s mom. The family lived in Austin, Texas in the 50s and legend tells about a time his grandmother went to buy a garland of dried chilis for cooking. The grocer tried to talk her out of it, saying they were too hot for her, but she told him she knew what she was doing. He said if she ate one of the hot peppers right then and there, he'd pay for her whole basket of groceries. Groceries were on him that week! She and Noah are the only members of the family with red hair, and the only two to love spicy food. Coincidence, or connection? 

As he grew older, Noah found he enjoyed cooking after experimenting with his first grill. At 17, he interviewed for a job at an Outback Steakhouse that opened in his town of South Burlington, Vermont. Most his friends interviewing were made dishwashers or busboys, but somehow Noah was put on the line cooking. He loved the heat of it, and ended up working in kitchens for the next seven years. While studying at Concordia University in Montreal, Noah had the chance to open his first food business: a healthy breakfast and lunch counter inside an MMA training facility. It developed a real following with the trainers and their athlete clients (a fun preview to making hot sauces with Dustin Poirier!). Noah then moved to New York City after graduation to put his business degree to use working in digital marketing.

After working in marketing and advertising for years, Noah began sharing his passion for natural hot sauces with coworkers and friends, and the rest is history. While the hot sauce industry at that time was crazed chasing extreme heat with little regard to flavor, Noah realized small batch hot sauce makers around the United States and the world were making great sauce with unique flavors (mustard! honey! tropical fruit!) and the highest quality ingredients. All it took was one taste for people to fall in love!

He returned to his entrepreneurial and food-focused roots, starting with a hot sauce pushcart that sold a curated selection of sauces at Brooklyn markets and pop ups. Becoming the first hot sauce sommelier, Noah pulled in his friend and current HEATONIST COO Tyler McKusick to join the team. In 2015 they opened New York City's only hot sauce store and tasting room on Wythe Avenue in Brooklyn, sourcing the best hot sauce from small batch makers all over the United States and the world (from the United Kingdom to Japan, New Zealand and beyond). Since then, the team has opened a second hot sauce shop - HEATONIST outpost in Chelsea Market - and become the world's #1 website for hot sauce. 

Today, Noah splits time between Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Livingston Manor, NY, where he is working to establish the HEATONIST Catskills Chili Farm. Stay tuned for HEATONIST Catskills, coming soon!

Q&A with Noah Chaimberg, Hot Sauce Expert

HEATONIST founder Noah Chaimberg answers AMA questions from Reddit fans:

How did your love of hot sauce develop?

I've always loved spicy food, but I really started to dive into the world of hot sauce after sampling sauces in person at local farmers markets. Wherever I traveled, I realized there were amazing, craft hot sauces being made with really high-quality and unique ingredients by badass small business owners. The hot sauce community is filled with incredible people and it really pulls you in!

How is HEATONIST related to Hot Ones?

We are Hot Ones' official hot sauce partner, so we work together closely to curate the Hot Ones lineup for each season and to craft official Hot Ones sauces like Los Calientes, The Last Dab and the Hot Ones Jr. line. We started working together seven years ago (wow), when the show was just getting off the ground. We had just opened our first shop, and the team called up looking for some hot sauces. The rest was history! Since then we've partnered closely with creator Chris Schonberger, producer Sarah Honda, and host Sean Evans to launch over a dozen official Hot Ones hot sauces and deliver amazing experiences for this dedicated community. We've grown side by side and it's been an amazing journey.

How do you see the future of the hot sauce sector?

Thinking about the future of hot sauce gets me really excited. More people than ever are making hot sauce at home before turning it into a business (in part because people needed a pandemic hobby), so there is so much potential and creativity just waiting to be brought to the table right now. The sky's the limit! Take our HEATONIST anniversary sauces, which we make in partnership with our small batch makers, for example. They always feature ingredients you wouldn't think should work in hot sauce. Lion's Mane mushrooms? Cardamom? Beets? Why not!? Our most recent anniversary sauce, HEATONIST No. 7, changed the maker's mind about beets. He likes them now! When you mix them with pomegranate, pistachio, lemon and just-right serrano pepper heat, what's not to like? Walk down the condiment aisle in your grocery store and see what has the shelf space. What are people buying right now? Should that be hot? Could that be made into a hot sauce? The best is yet to come!

 What are the three essential hot sauces everyone should have?

There's no one-size-fits all for hot sauces, because everyone has personal tastes and their own heat tolerance. But there are definitely certain kinds of sauce that all hot sauce lovers should have in their hot sauce collection.

The first is a decent hot honey. Hot honey is so versatile - you can cook with it, use it to top snacks, put it in tea, put it in cocktails, put it on desserts... Hot honey goes where other hot sauces can't. Plus it's an easy entry way into the world of spice. Check out Hot Ones Nugget Honey for one that actually has some heat, but isn't too intense. 

The second type of sauce I'd recommend having in your pantry is a super versatile vinegar-forward hot sauce, like a Louisiana style. Think Tabasco, Crystal or our hand crafted sauce we make with UFC fighter Dustin Poirier: Poirier's Louisiana Style hot sauce. Those sauces go with everything so they're handy to have in a pinch. 

Finally, I'd suggest finding a sauce that goes with your favorite food. If you eat tacos every single week, find a sauce you love with your tacos! If you are the Taco Tuesday type, be sure to check out Keith's Taco Sauce.

 How do I get a hot sauce brand into your establishment?

When we consider new hot sauces, we take a few things into consideration:

  1. We only carry all-natural hot sauces. So no artificial preservatives or thickeners, no gums, and no extracts. We care about what we put in our bodies and this hasn't steered us wrong so far!
  2. We love trying new hot sauces that are totally new and original. Get creative, try something original, like an ingredient that hasn't been used before!
  3. What is the person making the sauce like? What's their story, why do they make it, how passionate are they about the sauce itself? Often times the story about what lit someone's fire is what makes a sauce so interesting.
  4. The look of the label. The design represents what one person wants their sauce to say to the world, and we love to see labels that are made with care and aren't just a gimmick. Oh and stick to normal 5oz woozy bottles! They're the modern industry standard.

If you think your hot sauce is up to snuff we'd love to try it! Shoot us a note at ilovehotsauce@heatonist.com with all the details.

 What type of hot sauces go best with what cuisines?

That's a tough question. There are so many amazing cuisines out there and some hot sauces pair with multiple different types. If I'm trying to find the right sauce for a regional cuisine, I always try to look at the ingredients and spices that are local and beloved in that region. For example, if I was eating a schnitzel sandwich I might look for a hot sauce with dill (yes, it exists).

If you ever need a pairing recommendation, chat with one of our hot sauce sommeliers! Thinking up cool new ways to use hot sauce is what we're here for and what gets us out of bed in the morning. At the end of the day, as long as you're having fun and enjoying great hot sauce, you're doing it right.

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