What do a painting and a marinade have in common? Just ask Chris Wallace and he’ll tell you that creativity plays an integral role in both. Whether he is layering color or layering flavors, Wallace looks for the proper balance to render a pleasing result.
Wallace has always liked to create. His artistic bent has played out on paper, in the layout of a room and now in bottles of marinade and barbecue sauce. The first product, Drunkin’ Priest Dipping Sauce, offers a tasty blend of teriyaki-style flavors in an all-natural sauce.
As a partner in Sauce Gods, the southern California company behind Drunkin’ Priest Dipping Sauce, Wallace and his partner wanted a name that was “in your face” and would demand notice. The partner remembered seeing a drunken priest when he served as an altar boy, and the name was born. The image on the bottle shows Wallace in a clerical collar being taken away by the law — definitely an image that’s difficult to pass by without a second look.
The two perfected the recipe for the sauce from a base of soy sauce, ginger and garlic. What began as a marinade has become an all-purpose product, suitable for a wide variety of uses. A spicy version recently joined the original recipe in the Sauce Gods online store.
“My whole goal for all this was to create something delicious, entertaining and healthy. Food should be fun and shared. People gather around for food,” says Wallace.
The road to sauce success hasn’t been a smooth one. A company in North Carolina bottled the first batch in 2008 because Wallace had trouble finding a local company to handle the small run. The cost of shipping the product back to California ate into the proceeds. Later, they found a family-run company in Westminster, CA to handle the bottling chores.
Wallace makes a point of being present when the sauce is bottled, ensuring that each batch meets his specifications. A typical run constitutes 1000 bottles, a two to three month supply for the businessmen.
A new product, Skiny’s Pomegranate BBQ Sauce, joined Wallace’s line-up this year. Subtitled “Southern Style BBQ meets Southern California,” the sauce uses a pomegranate base for a sweetness and tang and all-natural ingredients. Wallace aimed for a healthier barbecue sauce that would appeal to health-conscious customers. The recipe is gluten-free. Wallace hopes the sauce will appeal to a even more people and reach a client base that might not be interested in the teriyaki sauce
Marketing receives a personal touch. Wallace makes appearances at farmers’ markets and swap meets across the state. Events like Girls’ Night Out at El Dorado County’s David Girard Vineyard take him into Wine Country. All along the way, he stops at mom-and-pop stores to offer his product. He likes the freedom of dealing with independent shops, feeling that they can make purchasing decisions on whether or not they like the product.
While the company hasn’t made a profit yet, it is close to breaking even with anything over costs going back into marketing. His near-term goal is to become self-sustaining so that he can work with the sauce full time. Longer term, he would like to have a chain of eat-in restaurants featuring his products. The legacy he wants to leave is a simple one.
“Don’t cut corners and don’t cheapen your products. I want even big companies to see that people’s health is at stake. I want to have a business that’s profitable even though it’s healthy,” says Wallace. With his attitude and dedication, he just might make that mark.