Interview: Filmmaker Focuses on Sriracha, the Condiment with a Cult Following
Update: Kickstarter Video released with footage from the documentary.
David Tran founded Huy Fong Foods in 1980 and since then his version of the Thai hot sauce Sriracha has gone from being a cult favorite to superstar status in Western homes and restaurants, having found its way into a variety of interesting recipes and even being named Ingredient of the Year 2010 by Bon Appetit magazine.
If you're a fan of Asian cuisine, chances are that you've stumbled across the bright red bottle with a green cap and a white rooster emblazoned on the front. You might put it on your burgers, mix it into ranch dressing, or squeeze it into your mac and cheese. If you are one of these people (or if you have even more daring recipes that you'd like to share with us below), then Griffin Hammond's upcoming film is perfect for you.
Hammond is a video producer at YouTube Next Lab, where he manages Indy Mogul, a YouTube channel that teaches low-budget filmmaking techniques to over 500,000 subscribers. He studied film at New York University, earned his Masters in Communication from Illinois State University, and previously worked at State Farm, where he produced a short film starring William Shatner that won a Silver Anvil award from the Public Relations Society of America. Scheduled to be released in September of this year, Hammond's next big project is a documentary depicting the creation of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce. You can follow production at the Facebook page or website for Sriracha—a documentary film by Griffin Hammond.
Sriracha is becoming a household name in America. What is your personal relationship with the condiment? Why do you think Sriracha has become so popular in the U.S.?
I've been enjoying Sriracha for about 10 years, in everything from macaroni and cheese to Bloody Marys. I love spicy, but Sriracha also brings a rich, natural flavor that pairs well with many cuisines. I'm so passionate about the flavor, that it seemed like an obvious topic for a film, and when I started researching, I realized that there's a lot of great Sriracha stories to be told. I believe Sriracha is popular in the U.S. because many Americans have a desire to taste exotic flavors and liven up their usual meals. Sriracha's bottle — filled with red jalapeños, plastered with several different languages and a rooster, and that iconic green cap — just screams, "You gotta try this!"
What is one of the most surprising things you learned about this beloved hot sauce during your research and production?
I'm making this film because even though it says "Huy Fong Foods" on the bottle, I'm betting most Sriracha lovers aren't familiar with the company or its founder, David Tran. Very few know Sriracha is made in California, or that all of their red jalapeños come from Underwood Family Farms, less than an hour away from the factory. But the most surprising thing is seeing hundreds of thousands of barrels of ground jalapeños in their massive new factory. You'll have to see the film to understand how incredible it is.
Have you faced any obstacles so far in producing the documentary?
Sure, documentary production is all about overcoming obstacles. It takes a lot of e-mails — a mountain of planning and convincing — before getting to the creative parts.
The Facebook page for the film already has over 1,500 likes! Can you tell us a little more about what the public reaction has been like in response to news of this upcoming documentary?
I'm lucky to have a great group of supporters, and it's awesome to know there's an audience for the film while I'm still shooting it. And it's been incredible to receive so much press already. Normally, "Illinois filmmaker begins production on a documentary" is not a news story. If this film wasn't about Sriracha, there wouldn't be this much anticipation.
What are your top five Sriracha-incorporated recipes?
It's simple, but mac and cheese is incredible with Sriracha. I also love to mix Sriracha and ranch dressing for a spicy dip. At the L.A. restaurant Plan Check, ask for "Sriracha leather" on one of chef Ernesto Uchimura's awesome burgers. From Randy Clemens's Sriracha Cookbook — so many great recipes — I love Sriracha Ceviche. And I've never had them, but Sriracha ice cream sandwiches with Thai basil ice cream look amazing!