Fire & Spice
By Sally Deering
After telling his buddies the hot sauce on his
wings wasn’t making him sweat, Tony Alexander’s friends told him if he didn’t think the sauce was hot enough, he should make his own.
And that’s exactly what Alexander did.
That challenge happened a few years back and now Tony Alexander goes by the nickname Uncle Bud, chief cook and bottle washer for his own brand of sauces guaranteed to bedazzle any dish, even two fried eggs. Alexander sells his sauces at the Riveview Farmers’ Markets on Sundays in the Heights (May-November) and at the Grove Street Plaza for Groove on Grove on Thursdays. Currently, he’s in the process of getting his sauces into a big box store that sells whole foods.
Being an entrepreneur may not be an easy road to success, but Alexander works hard to achieve his goals. With an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts, he’s a full-time cook at Steven’s Institute in Hoboken; he caters small parties and special events; and in his spare times he makes sauces, rubs and a seasoning he calls Love Dust with his own secret ingredients. In the few years he’s been in business, Alexander has gone from making one hot sauce to 20 sauces that can be used as marinades, glazes and flavor-enhancers.
Alexander says he has a basic foundation sauce in all his sauces, and they’re all vegan and gluten-free, but that’s where the similarity ends. Uncle Bud’s Sauces include Spicy Garlic, Bubblin’ Brown BBQ, Chipotle BBQ, Sweet Potato BBQ, Teriyaki, Orange Ginger Garlic, and Garlic Parmesan. His Hot Sauces are EZ on the Cheeks (mild) and Butt Burnin’ (wing sauce). He also sells Uncle Bud’s I Got Nuttin’ but Love for You Peanut Butter Sauce and Kiss Me Garlic Sauce.
“My Garlic Sauce is a life-changing sauce,” Alexander says, taking a coffee break at Mod Cup in the Heights. “There’s nothing like it.”
And right then and there, a customer walks up to Alexander to tell him she ran out of her 10 oz. bottle of Spicy Garlic Sauce and asks when and where she can purchase more.
“I got the big bottle at the farmer’s market and now I’m scraping the bottom of the bottle,” Stephanie Huang of Jersey City says. “I love it. It goes with barbecue. I put it on my homemade pizza, and fried eggs in the morning. I put it on everything.”
Alexander thanked her and suggested next time to mix the sauce into the homemade pizza dough. Huang said she would try it and placed an order for two more 10-ounce bottles.
“She’s a good customer,” Alexander says. “When she stopped to tell me she enjoyed my product it made me feel like I’m doing something right. Accolades do help.”
Alexander first received compliments for his cooking from his family, when at age 6, he tried cooking eggs for his dad, James. The first try was a disaster, he says, but instead of scolding him, his dad took the rest of the eggs, put them on the counter and told the youngster to keep trying. He did and on the third try, Alexander succeeded.
After considering careers as an electronics tech, a police officer and salesman, Alexander found his calling in food, he says, and went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts at the Art Institute in New York. He started making hot sauce by trial and error.
“In the beginning I was making a hot mess in the kitchen,” Alexander laughs. “Splatter, burns and singes – I had hot sauce on the ceiling, the wall. It was literally a hot mess.”
Along with creating his line of sauces and rubs, and a full-time job cooking, Alexander finds time to do private catering for big and small events.
While at Mod Cup, several customers recognize Alexander as his alter-ego, Uncle Bud. One of them, Beverly Brown-Ruggia serves on the Board of Directors for the River View Farmers’ Market. She says several entrepreneurs like Alexander have gone from selling their wares at the market to opening their own businesses or having their products sold in stores.
“The farmers’ market, which begins this year on Sunday, May 3rd, is a community gathering and for entrepreneurs, a good way to connect with community, build relationships and test your product,” Brown-Ruggia says. “A few of the new businesses here in the Heights started at the River View Farmers’ Market, like Mod Cup and Yoga in the Heights. We like entrepreneurs like Uncle Bud.”
Alexander wrote a book about his sauces which he’s wrapping up. He’s also getting his website up so he can start filling orders online. And when asked, what makes his sauces stand out from the rest, Alexander says: “Love is the key. My motto ‘Put a little stank on it’ means put some love in it.” One of his products, a flavor-enhancer he calls Love Dust is seasoned salt that can be used on meat, poultry, fish – you name it.
And how did he get the nickname Uncle Bud?
“My father’s friend was named Bud, and my oldest brother started calling me Bud and it took,” Alexander say. “With six kids in the family, we gave each other crazy nicknames. I was Bud, and now Uncle Bud is who I am.”
Follow Tony Alexander (Uncle Bud) on Twitter: @UncleBud5
To place orders, visit his Facebook page: Uncle Bud Catering
For more info: Unclebud5.email@example.com