Burn Baby: A Conversation with Amanda Pargh

By: Rachel Bubis

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We’re hot sauce fanatics at Congress Club, and long-time friends with Amanda. We wanted to connect with her to hear why she started Burn, how she went from fashion major to hot sauce purveyor, and what it was like moving from Nashville to Santa Cruz.

Tell us a little bit about your background. What inspired you to move to California and start Burn?

I grew up in Nashville and went to college for fashion design. I loved feeding my friends and reading cookbooks. After watching a bunch of Iron Chef, I decided to write chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo about a summer internship. I moved out to California, spent three months in the kitchen at Animal and fell in love with it. It made me so happy to create beautiful dishes for other people.

After college I spent some time on an organic farm in South America then moved to Los Angeles to find kitchen work. I landed a job at Lucques, where I spent two years making some of the most delicious food I’ve even tasted and meanwhile met Chase, the love of my life, in a drum circle on the beach. It was such a good time in Venice Beach. We moved up to Sonoma and finally had a chance to start our own garden. I started cooking at Ad Hoc and Chase was working on all types of farms and gardens, but when we were at home together we were cooking from our garden, foraging and fermenting all kinds of yummy things.

Not long after, we moved to Santa Cruz for work. Chase was working at a pepper farm and I was cooking at Manresa. One day Chase brought home a boatload of peppers and I started fermenting hot sauce. Months later we blended it, bottled it and gave it to friends. It was so good that you could just see the light bulb go on above Chase’s head. That night we talked about our hot sauce dreams and purchased burnhotsauce.com. The rest is history!  

Can you tell me about what it was like transitioning from working in the kitchen to having your own food business? Why did you make this decision?

We started burn while we were both working other jobs. I was working the line at Manresa and Chase was working at Mountain Feed and Farm. Chase loved my hot sauce and we just kinda started the business one step at a time. We were both working other jobs, but this fermented hot sauce idea just kept us fired up! We would get home and talk about it and it became this cool thing that we did together. After we did our first food expo, we knew we were onto something, so we started selling at the Santa Cruz farmers markets and left our jobs. It was so exciting working together that it all just happened naturally.

What's it like having a business with your partner (and soon to be husband!)?

Chase is an amazing business partner. He saw the magic in something I made and helped turn it into a real business. We support each other in our different roles in and also allow each other to shine in our respective positions. It also taught me the importance of communication- now that we’ve started a business we can do ANYTHING!

What was the most interesting thing you learned working at Ad Hoc and French Laundry?

After working in the kitchen at Ad Hoc I got a job in the French Laundry garden. I helped with weeding, watering, harvesting and planting and it opened my eyes to so many different types of edible flowers, shoots, stems and leaves that you can eat during the life cycle of a plant. After 5 years of kitchen work, it was nice to stop and appreciate where the food comes from.

Did you serve any celebrities while you were there?

Haha no, but last week I gave a hot sauce tasting to Don Cheadle at a Farmshop in Los Angeles!

What would your last meal be?

Bacon, eggs, challah French toast, real maple syrup.

Have you ever noticed any food/culture similarities or differences between Santa Cruz and Nashville?

Definitely that both cities love to eat! Nashville has its BBQ joints and biscuits and Santa Cruz has its farmers markets. There is definitely a time and place for both, and I hope to see more cross over in the future.

What’s your favorite Nashville restaurant?

City House.

Where can you sample or purchase Burn products in TN? What’s next for you and Burn?

So far we are carried at Eio and the Hive and are looking to expand in towards other markets. Just let us know where y’all want Burn and we will make it spicy!

You can follow Burn online and purchase their products at www.burnhotsauce.com