Food News

Local hot sauce company Ricky’s Hot Stuff wins Brewing the American Dream grant

Co-owner Ricardo Monroy wants his sauces to "honor the multifaceted culinary contributions to American culture."

Ricky's Hot Stuff owners Ricardo Monroy and Kamala Loscocco
Ricky's Hot Stuff owners Ricardo Monroy and Kamala Loscocco. Tory Preston-Djamboe for CommonWealth Kitchen

Over the past year and a half, “pivoting” has become part of the zeitgeist for those working in the restaurant industry. Some chefs began operating ghost kitchens. Others launched subscription food services

Ricardo Monroy got into hot sauce. 

During the pandemic, the chef lost his job as a coordinator and chef instructor for Take Back the Kitchen, a non-profit that teaches youth in Roxbury and surrounding communities how to cook. Monroy’s grandfather, a father figure and lover of hot sauces, had recently passed away. So in the summer of 2020, he teamed up with his wife, Kamala Loscocco, to form Ricky’s Hot Stuff, a company that they hoped would pay tribute to his grandfather and draw from Monroy’s own experiences working as an immigrant chef in America.

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“As a Guatemalan immigrant, it was almost impossible for me to find jobs outside of a restaurant, and it seemed my only option was to be a line cook again,” Monroy told Boston.com in an email. “However, the working conditions in some restaurants for immigrants, especially during the pandemic, are unfair and usually poorly compensated. So my wife and I decided to take our fate into our own hands and start our own company.”

On August 12, Ricky’s Hot Stuff won the latest Brewing the American Dream pitch contest from Samuel Adams, an annual event that supports food and beverage entrepreneurs across the country with access to capital, mentorship, business coaching, and networking. This year’s local pitch concept was held in partnership with Commonwealth Kitchen’s Ready to Launch program, a 15-week course that helps burgeoning businesses obtain a health permit from the City of Boston and kick off operations. Ready to Launch participants were invited to present their two-minute pitches in front of Brewing the American Dream judges, and after sharing their story, products, and business plan, Ricky’s Hot Stuff came out on top. The prize: a $10,000 grant, plus coaching and mentoring.

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“We loved the story about how the business had started,” said Jennifer Glanville, Samuel Adams brewer and director of partnerships at The Boston Beer Company. “We also felt that while the hot sauce market is very competitive, this was really different. The passion around the flavors resonated with me as a brewer — we brew beer based on flavor and ingredients, and so just hearing him talk about that and really being that passionate and being able to taste that in the sauce, he was the winner. He just knocked everything out of the park.”

Monroy, who has worked in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years, said he gained a reputation in the kitchen for making sauces on the fly. He has since developed two signature Ricky’s Hot Stuff products: salsa verde and salsa roja. 

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“The salsa verde is a Guatemalan-Latinx-inspired hot sauce that is bright and versatile, made with jalapeño and serrano peppers,” he shared. “The salsa roja is made with Thai chilis, garlic, and fish sauce, and it’s an ode to my love of fish sauce and my experience working with Filipinx food. The fruitiness of the chili and the umami from the fish sauce create a unique, complex, and funky flavor that compliments any dish.”

Both sauces are available for pre-order, and an additional line of spicy products and other condiments are on the horizon. Monroy and Loscocco are also working on co-branding partnerships with restaurants to distribute their products, and hope to have Ricky’s Hot Stuff on shelves in local grocery stores or specialty stores in the near future.

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As for what they’ll do with the Brewing the American Dream funds, Monroy said they’re hoping to ​​purchase either a new bottling machine and packaging system or work with a consultant to create a custom bottle so that Ricky’s Hot Stuff can stand out among all the other hot sauces on the shelf. Coaching and mentoring from the Brewing the American Dream team will be more long-term.

“We’ll be able to support them whether it’s events-specific or project-specific, but also we can help them with financial management and what’s best for their business,” Glanville said. “For these small businesses, a big issue is how they are invoicing and receiving their money and how they have to pay out their money. And so really just helping to make sure they have all that insight and can really succeed and build the best business that they can.”

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Ricky’s Hot Stuff isn’t the only project keeping its founders busy. Monroy has two additional part-time jobs: chef coordinator at Project Soup and the Somerville Security Coalition, and line cook, dishwasher, and prep-cook at Tanám, a Filipinx American restaurant at Somerville’s Bow Market and the first restaurant working with them on a co-branding partnership. Loscocco is a lead product designer at Toast. But Ricky’s Hot Stuff is their passion project, and a way to showcase Monroy’s learned experiences.

“With our products, we would like to create awareness of the importance of Latinx and other immigrants working in this industry and honor the multifaceted culinary contributions to American culture,” Monroy said.

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