The Dunnes Stores Simply Better range has a well-deserved reputation for award-winning food and drink. Behind the scenes it also champions small Irish producers, helping them to grow while doing what they do best.
This month we spoke to Mic Wejchert of Mic’s Chilli about his new range of hot sauces for the Simply Better Collection. The story began in the early 1990s when a young Mic went to Belize to visit his sister and discovered the flavour-filled world of hot sauce.
“There were so few chilli products and hot sauces in Ireland at the time but in Belize they had hot sauce on every table,” Mic explains. “I fell head over heels in love with hot sauce, it just made good food better. It became a passion and I started making hot sauce at home.”
It remained a hobby until the recession hit and Mic, who had been working as a structural engineer, saw construction work dry up. So in 2010 he decided to try to turn his hobby and passion into a business. Since then the Wicklow-based brand has grown to become a byword for hot sauce in Ireland and is stocked in countries all over the world. Early last year the Dunnes Stores Simply Better team reached out to Mic and his team. “Dunnes were looking for a premium hot sauce line for the Simply Better collection,” he explains. “They approached us and we developed recipes that would suit their market. We’ve got the Simply Better Hot Chilli Sauce, Simply Better Hot BBQ Sauce and the Simply Better Hot Wing Sauce.”
The Hot Chilli Sauce features habanero chillies blended with peppers, onions, carrots and Mexican spices. “It’s a perfectly balanced hot sauce,” Mic says. “The Hot BBQ Sauce is a rich, glossy barbecue sauce with habanero chillies and smokey chipotle and the Hot Wing Sauce is made with red jalapeños, habanero chillis, tangy pineapple and lemon juice.”
Mic does the recipe development himself and he loves the process of uncovering the perfect flavour profile. “You can have one recipe and it’s okay but then you tweak one ingredient up 10 or 20 per cent and move another one down 10 ten percent and suddenly it just ‘sings’,” he says. “It’s about finding that perfect balance - that’s where the magic happens.”
As Mic explains the Simply Better sauces are extremely versatile and if you’re new to the world of hot sauce there are great ways to try the hit of flavour they can bring to all sorts of dishes. “Our motto is sauces make good food tastes better,” he says. “It’s not about blowing your head off with heat. Rather than overtaking the flavour of what you’re eating a good sauce lifts everything and elevates the other flavours.”
Mic recommends trying the sauces in a stir fry or over pizza. “The wing sauce is unbelievable drizzled over a pizza and I use it as a salad dressing too,” he says. Try the barbecue sauce instead of tomato sauce on a cooked breakfast or add a little to pep up a humble chicken wrap. “The sauces are also great with Mexican food like burritos or tacos or drizzled over a poached egg,” Mic adds.
The Simply Better hot sauces hit shelves in February and Mic is delighted with how things are going. “There’s been a great response so far,” he says. He’s enjoying working with the Simply Better team too. “They’re such high quality it has lifted us even further in terms of our own quality assurance, food safety and how we operate,” he explains. “We’re very proud to work with Dunnes and maybe we’re reaching a new customer that we wouldn’t have reached before.”
In the end, it does come back to the customer and for Mic and his team knowing they can bring a bit of joy to people’s day makes all the hard work worthwhile. “We make a simple product, it’s just hot sauce in a bottle, but it genuinely brings people so much pleasure. I love the thought that someone’s day has been lifted because they have a bit of hot sauce in their sandwich for lunch or whatever it is. That’s how I was when I fell in love with hot sauce, it just brings that extra bit of joy. So knowing we do that for other people is wonderful.”
Brought to you in association with Dunnes Stores Simply Better