Notes from a ‘chilihead;’ Nancy Kam’s spicy condiment available in local grocery stores
KAM’S KETTLE COOKED FOODS
Location: Sauce is made in Gilroy, California
More info: www.kamskettlecooked.com
Editor’s note: If you’re part of Tahoe’s burgeoning food scene and want to talk shop, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy Kam, formerly of South Lake Tahoe, likes simple flavor — and lots of it. That’s why the Northern Californian served up her family chili sauce to area grocery stores.
“I managed the Inn at Heavenly, Fireside Lodge and Lake Village Resort for 12 years and still manage a beautiful cabin in Zephyr Cove,” Kam said. “Of course, I still have my season pass, I can’t imagine not visiting Tahoe regularly.”
Now she’s a condiment enthusiast with her own brand, Kam’s Sweet & Spicy Chili Sauce, in local stores.
Learn more about Kam’s love of hot sauce and her Tahoe history:
What is your connection to Tahoe’s South Shore?
I moved to Tahoe in 1996 to start Digital Media Group, an ad agency founded by my sister, Linda, that had relocated to Tahoe from Los Angeles.
Who or what sparked your culinary interest?
Chili sauce is a comfort food that brings me back to my childhood, harvest season, and the aroma of tomatoes and chilies cooking in a stove-top kettle. My chili sauce started out exactly where it all began at home, in my family’s kitchen in New York. And now, 50 years later, our recipe is exactly the same. I will never forget helping my mom and dad craft chili sauce every summer. When I moved to Tahoe, I sourced the tomatoes at the farmers market in late summer and ordered the closest peppers I could find from Ron at Bonanza Produce. I love to cook, and as my mother always did when I grew up — with fresh ingredients. We also had a second home on Hilton Head Island, so using the sauce for local-caught shrimp and oysters was the best.
Is there an ingredient or particular flavor that you disliked as a child that you love cooking with now?
I did not like sunny side-up eggs (or even scrambled). Now, every weekend I must have a sunny-side up egg atop a piece of wheat toast, with a scoop of chili sauce.
What is the driving force behind your kitchen?
My culinary roots come from my mother — she is an incredible chef and loved to entertain. For now, it has been my sister Linda — she is a graphic artist and chef. I have been fortunate enough to have her culinary expertise handle all of the promotional food preparations, styling and photography. She lives on the South Carolina coast, so she is influenced by fresh seafood, low-country and Cajun cooking.
What’s your favorite ingredient/flavor this season?
I’m a chilihead, so I am always looking at that next pepper-based condiment. I like to find unique hot mustards, especially from the Caribbean.
How many years have you operated your business?
We launched at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in 2014, but really got traction when we rolled out in more than 1,400 Kroger stores nationally in June of 2015.
Where can your food products be purchased locally?
You can get some at all Safeways in Northern California, particularly in South Lake Tahoe or Round Hill stores. We are in select Whole Foods as well.
What do you love about food?
It gives me a purpose aside from my daily grind, especially after a hard day’s work. Crafting delicious foods is relaxing and fun. I love to cook foods from around the world and, of course, with wine; sometimes I even put it in the food. I live in Fair Play wine country and have a little B&B cottage, where guests get all the farm-fresh eggs and chili sauce they can eat.