BY BLAKE HANNON CONTRIBUTING WRITERJULY 09, 2020 06:00 AM
In 2017, Stacy Hicks retired as a security guard from Rupp Arena … at the age of 50 … because of hot sauce.
Wait. Hot sauce? This story is a subscriber exclusive
You read that right. More specifically, the long-time foodie became a local culinary entrepreneur – or as he describes it, the owner, manager and the “guy who sweeps up” for Back Porch Hot Sauce.
The condiment was something the Winchester native concocted to bring something distinct and local to the increasingly popular hot sauce market.
Growing up, Hicks remembers his late mother, Carol Simmons, used to grow peppers at their house, despite her inability to tolerate spicy food.
“Mom couldn’t take the heat at all,” he recalls.
Apparently, some of his former co-workers could. He remembers conversations with them talking about hot peppers and was given some extra spicy ghost pepper plants to plant at his house.
“When they came in, buddy, they came in,” he said. “I had so many peppers I didn’t know what to do with them all.”
One of his work friends suggested he turn them into a hot sauce so he could enjoy them year-round. Next thing you know, he’s ordering bottles online, trying out recipes and bringing them into work for employees to try. It led to requests to purchase bottles, eventually selling 100 of to friends and co-workers.
“A light kind of went off in my head,” Hicks said. “I just thought it would be something kind of as a sideline, something to do in my free time.”
Living in his subdivision in Winchester, his backyard soon became overgrown with hot peppers to the point where a friend of his loaned part of his farm in Clark County to grow more. Multiple freezers in his two-car garage to hold his fresh-picked supply.
He and his mother came up with the brand name Back Porch Hot Sauce inspired by the pepper plants she grew there. She also drew the label’s artwork.
His first official bottles of Back Porch Hot Sauce made their debut in 2013 at Lexington’s Incredible Food Show at Rupp Arena, the first of many food events, conventions and festivals Hicks set up throughout the year. There, he picked up a couple of contracts with retail stores and found a distributor out of Louisville, which eventually led to the hot sauce being available in more than 50 retail outlets in Kentucky, Ohio and North Carolina.
In creating the signature elements of Back Porch Hot Sauce, Hicks said he wanted to avoid common characteristics of other brands.
“I don’t like the mainstream stuff you get in the store. It’s almost all heat and vinegar. There’s hardly any flavor,” he said. “I actually wanted something that tasted like the peppers themselves. You get past the heat, there’s something really enjoyable about a hot pepper to where they have really good flavor.”
Back Porch Hot Sauce uses a vinegar and tomato base, a bit of water and xanthan gum.
Different types of peppers are the star of each of the brand’s five hot sauce offerings at $6.25 per bottle: Mild Heat (jalapeno), Medium Heat (habanero, jalapeno and Thai chiles), Extreme Heat (ghost, fatalii, habanero, jalapeno and Thai chiles), Hot Banana Pepper (Hungarian wax peppers) and its newest offering Bee Sting (habanero and honey).
He also has created special yearly offerings, like Shotgun made with scorpion peppers or Gone Fishing made with fish peppers, that sell out quickly.
Back Porch Hot Sauce’s slogan is based on one of the brand’s most commonly uttered compliments: “The Hot Sauce With Taste!” For Hicks, this unexpected success dabbling with heat has turned out pretty sweet.
“If it continues to grow and I spread out to more states, fine. If I stay right where I’m at, I’m comfortable with that,” he said. “If you do something you really like, it’s really not work, right?”
For more information on Back Porch Hot Sauce, or to purchase it online, visit backporchhotsauce.com.