Bravado Spice Co., the Houston-based hot sauce company that just celebrated its two-year anniversary, is heating up Texas with a new ghost pepper and blueberry sauce that won first-place at the recent Houston Hot Sauce Festival. Alongside fan favorite pineapple and habanero—which also won first place in its category—these fresh, fiery flavors are giving young entrepreneurs James Nelson and Jeremiah Tallerine a big, bold name in the Texas hot sauce scene—but Nelson and Tallerine aren't resting on their laurels.

"I can’t tell you exactly what we have planned," said Tallerine, who grew up in North West Houston, "but we have a lot of great things coming."

Prior to becoming culinary capsaicin pros and entrepreneurs, childhood friends Tallerine and Nelson were deep into the Houston metal scene where Nelson was the lead vocalist in a band called The Kill Artists. Though the closest he ever came to the kitchen was bartending, Nelson always loved experimenting with different ingredients to bring the same kind of zest to his food that he brought to his music. Experimenting with ingredients over a bottle of whiskey one night, the two friends stirred-up their first batch of pineapple and habanero hot sauce and the idea for Bravado Spice Co. was born.

Ryan Harcourt and James Nelson at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival.

After sharing the sauce with friends and coworkers, "you can only be told so many times how great something is before you have to make it a business," says Tallerine. When the time came to start that business—the very day of Bravado’s launch party—Nelson received a call from the producers of MasterChef. Nelson had applied for the Fox show, which takes home cooks and pits them against one another in a professional competition, a few months prior. On that phone call, the Fox network informed Nelson he'd made first-round cuts for a spot on the show, and before long he was off,  shooting the cooking competition in the MasterChef warehouse in LA. When asked how difficult it was running shop while Nelson was gone, Tallerine only laughs, saying Nelson’s performance on the show—where he made it to the final five—definitely validated their work with Bravado.

With their recent success, the two have become kill artists of a different kind with their hellish and healthy, organic recipes. The duo currently plans to expand their product reach, which is currently just under a hundred stores, by rallying their loyal fan-base to win the Chase Small Business Loan competition, which would grant them $150,000 to expand their business. After receiving over 250 votes, they’re racing towards round two, and we wish them the best of luck there.

For now, you can find Bravado's hot sauce around Houston in stores such as Whole Foods, Phoenicia Specialty Foods, Revival Market, and other locations. To add a little heat to your Halloween, we suggest trying Bravado's pineapple and habanero cupcake recipe, adding a little orange food coloring for the holiday aesthetic. Even adding a little blueberry and ghost pepper sauce to a blueberry muffin mix and topping it with berry frosting, works great for a spicy boo-berry treat.

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