Stuart Forster talks with Dwayne Thompson, the Alabama-based chef who established Big Daddy Sauces in 2015.
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“I’m a chef from New Orleans looking to become a household name one house at a time,” says Dwayne as we chat outside of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
As well as being the proprietor of Big Daddy Sauces, Dwayne operates a food truck in Birmingham. Pulled pork and pulled chicken are two of the succulent Southern dishes that he serves.
“I have a private, organic group of followers. They’re called ‘Bomblievers’ – believers in the bomb. So, like Beyonce and Justin Bieber, I have a core group of people,” he explains of his private Facebook group. Head to the Bomblievers group to request membership.
“Bomblievers are the first to receive all information about locations and deals on the internet,” explains Dwayne of the benefits of joining the Facebook group. “I hold special raffles for them and giveaways.”
Moving to Alabama
Dwayne has lived in Alabama since 2005 and established Big Daddy Sauces a decade later. His product line includes Big Daddy Bomb BBQ Sauce plus the Shake and Rub all-purpose seasoning.
He arrived in the state following Hurricane Katrina. His ex-wife had been to Alabama previously, for training, and her best friend was already in the state.
“Me and my family stayed in New Orleans three days after Katrina. So we were there for the storm and after. We travelled to eight different cities within about a month-and-a-half timespan,” says Dwayne.
“We’ve been here ever since. I actually stayed because of the schooling my children got,” he explains.
Founding Big Daddy Sauces
Dwayne founded Big Daddy Sauces following encouragement from customers.
“I was cooking part-time but I didn’t have a full business. I was looking for a second job. One night I was cooking outside of a club and a guy said ‘you’ve gotta put this sauce in a bottle’. And I said ‘yeah, whatever’,” recalls Dwayne.
“The next week I was cooking and another guy told me ‘put the sauce in a bottle’. So I began to do research. To manufacture sauce you have to be a certified food manufacturer in the state of Alabama, so I went to class,” he says of his first steps to setting up his business.
Catering in Birmingham
During 2020, the first year of the pandemic, Dwayne opened his catering division.
“It picked up pretty well because people couldn’t get out. So, having a mobile catering service, I was able to go and visit people in neighbourhoods and subdivisions. It actually worked out really well throughout the pandemic because restaurants hadn’t figured out delivery services, parking and calling. So we were ahead of the game,” he explains.
Dwayne started selling his sauce and seasoning at markets and places locally. That resulted in him being noticed and picked up by the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain, whose outlets are primarily in the south-eastern USA.
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Big Daddy BBQ Sauce
“I went to New Orleans and Big Daddy Sauce was picked up by several stores there. It kind of outgrew me a little bit too fast, so I had to scale it back some – so I could keep an eye on it,” he says of responding to one of the challenges brought by rapidly scaling up the business.
“It’s no use being in a store and being a one hit wonder if you can’t promote it. Just because you’re on the shelf doesn’t mean you’re moving it off the shelf. You can be in the big chains but you’ve got to have the ability to market it and let people know it’s in there,” he says about his brand.
In Piggly Wiggly stores
“It’s a gourmet, universal sauce, not just a barbecue sauce. You can put it on anything and use it in anything. I like to explain that myself to people and let them have a little taste,” says Dwayne. It’s currently available in some Piggly Wigglys but not all of the stores.
The Bomb Sauce is something that he has been making for years. “For my family functions, it’s a sauce I always created. The hardest part was breaking down all of the ingredients to make it perfect. When you’re making at home you can add a bit of this and add a bit of that to get it just right,” says Dwayne of an issue that will be familiar to everyone who enjoys cooking.
“The seasoning can be used as a dry rub or as a seasoning to sprinkle on food. That’s why I call it a shake and rub. It’s low in sodium, so it doesn’t make your food salty. It just adds to the flavour. So goes on meats and vegetables and in soups and salads. It’s a real all-purpose seasoning,” he adds.
Over time Dwayne wants to launch other sauces. He acknowledges that each product requires a budget for manufacturing and advertising. For that reason, he isn’t rushing things.
“I think the sauce and seasoning complement each other. That’s why they sell so well together,” says Dwayne.
Dwayne’s Big Daddy Bomb BBQ Sauce and Shake and Rub all-purpose seasoning are available via the Big Daddy Sauces website. The products are available for shipping worldwide.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this interview with Alabama-based chef Dwayne Thompson of Big Daddy Sauces. Enjoy reading insights from chefs? Take a look at Go Eat Do’s interviews with Belgian chef Lieven Lootens and Rocky Mountaineer Executive Chef Jean Pierre Guerin.
This interview was carried out by Stuart Forster, an award-winning travel writer from North East England.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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