by Jess LaVopa
As Mark Perkins unloaded his sauces from a brown paper bag, he explained how all of them were from his own personal collection. Pointing to a row of six small bottles, he claimed that these were the special ones. The flavors, all habanero pepper based, included smoked habanero, regular pepper sauce, orange pulp, nopal green and Belizean heat.
“My girlfriend is on vacation in Belize right now and sent these to me,” said Perkins. “I didn’t know much about hot sauce when I started but now I try to feel it in my mouth, understand the flavor.”
Hot Lovers is a club dedicated to firing up your taste buds and getting students familiar with the world of spices. With sauces such as El Yucateco, which varies in flavor; Dare’s Gourmet Ghost Pepper, labeled “so hot it’s spooky,” and Ninja Squirrel Sriracha — a Whole Foods take on the rooster-bearing, green-capped sriracha most are familiar with — there’s something for everyone, even people who don’t enjoy spicy things.
The club was started last semester by the spicy duo, Perkins and Ryder Iwata, who had plans to share their love of hot foods with students and faculty. One of their main goals: turning “hot haters” into “hot lovers.”
“Mark’s a dreamer and I’m a dream maker,” said Iwata. “ One day we were walking along and Mark said he wanted to start a hot sauce club. I was already on board.”
If you’re passing a Hot Lovers meeting you might be drawn in by Perkins daring you to live a little or by Iwata tempting you with free french fries and fried potato balls. The relaxed air of their meetings are matched by the founders’ funny and spontaneous attitudes making students take a second look at their selection.
Alex Palermo, a sophomore Cinema Studies major and Film minor, wouldn’t go near hot sauce unless it involved putting Cholula in her fondue. “I’m not a hot sauce person but I’ll try them,” said Palermo. “It was a mind opening experience.”
Another student, Evan Rosen, a junior Biology major, took less convincing. “My mom buys a lot of habanero peppers but then she ruins it with sweet peppers,” said Rosen. “I love spicy food, especially Ethiopian food.”
Right now, the club is exclusively hot sauce, but according to Iwata that wasn’t how it was meant to be. “We didn’t originally want it to be hot sauce, we wanted spicy foods too,” said Iwata. “But it’s like the school has something against the Scoville scale.”
According to Perkins, they would like to open up the club to Nigerian, Indian or Vietnamese food in the future.
“My favorite hot sauce is Cholula — not to sound like a basic bitch — but it just has great flavor,” said Perkins while he wipes a ball of sweat away from his forehead. “I want to order more sauces from Hot Ones, the YouTube channel.”
Iwata and Perkins claim that having spicy food is almost like going to the gym, you build muscle memory. According to Perkins his tolerance level for spice has gone up since he started the club.
“It’s like muscle building,” said Iwata. “If you do it every week it just gets easier.”
The Hot Lovers Club meets Fridays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the commuters lounge in Campus Center North.