Updated: Oct 21, 2021
It's the spookiest time of the year! It's October and the nights are drawing in. The days are getting colder. And the ghosts and ghouls are coming out to play.
What better way to celebrate Halloween than by chatting to the spookiest hot sauce company around. Dean of the Dead Horror Hot Sauces is based in Enfield, North London. And they produce a wide range of horror film inspired hot sauces.
We chatted to Dean (yes the Dean from the name) and got to know more about him and his company. Check out the full interview below.
Why did you start a hot sauce company?
Knowing that I was an avid lover of all things volcanic in the culinary department, a friend of mine gave me the heads up on a local chilli festival way back in 2017.
I went along to see what it was all about and was blown away by not only the different tastes and variety of all these artisan hot sauce related products, but also by each different producers creativity in their branding and label art.
I decided there and then I wanted to have a go at doing the same… and then some!! I wanted to really stand out, but had to come up with the right concept that was different and unique to what everyone else was doing.
Your brand and marketing is amazing! How did you come up with the concept for horror hot sauces?
Whilst trying to brainstorm different ideas I came up with the title ‘Jeepers Reapers’, and literally had that EUREKA moment!!
I realised I could blend my passion for hot sauce and my lifelong passion for horror movies together and come up with some sort of crazy Dean of the Dead universe - I literally wanted to see how far I could go with the idea - and I still do - so far it’s led me to some pretty bizarre places, and all in the name of horror hot sauce!!
I realised with this kind of branding I could also trade at all the horror/comic cons - an area which no other hot sauce producer seemed to have tapped in to, which meant zero competition.
Most importantly I thought I’d get to hang out in environments that I love with hordes of like minded geeks like me!
I saw you have recently been included in a comic book and a film. How did these cool projects come about?
The movie in question is in fact the new Jeepers Creepers Reboot movie, titled ‘Jeepers Creepers Reborn’ - due for release anytime soon actually. It just so happened that a friend of mine was the casting director for the movie.
He reached out to me and asked if I’d like to be involved in the opening scene which was set at a fictional horror festival called ‘Horror Hound’. They needed various different horror themed stall set ups to be included on the set, and he said mine was the perfect fit. Whether it will make the final edit or not remains to be seen, so fingers crossed!!
The movie was set in Louisiana during the summertime - although this particular scene was shot in Hampshire in November - all outdoor night shoots, so it was f***ing freezing!! I think one night it actually started to snow!!
Some of the extras that dressed in cosplay for the scene were wearing very little and in-between takes had to be wrapped in that silver foil stuff to keep them warm - but as soon as the assistant director yelled action, that all had to come off!!! Those poor guys really suffered for their art!!
What do you think has been the best thing about making your sauces?
The thing I love the most about Dean of the Dead is that it’s all mine, I get to call the shots on everything I do, I’m not partnered up with anyone who can tell me yes or no.
Creatively I always work best alone.
The sauces themselves - when I started out some people thought they would be a bit gimmicky - but a few years down the line, with no unhappy customers (apart from a few late orders getting sent out) and a couple of Great Taste Awards under my belt, people start to take you a bit more seriously!
How long has it taken you to get to this point, and what was the biggest challenge along the way?
I started out with the idea in 2017. It took me a couple of years to perfect my recipes and get my first generation branding up to scratch.
By 2019 I had a website designed and was ready to go live to the public. That was also the first year I started trading on the road - my first outing being at a HorrorCon in Sheffield. I remember rocking up thinking that people must be thinking wtf is the hot sauce guy doing here - but it was a success, I almost sold out of everything that weekend.
I knew from that moment on I was on to something good - That weekend in Sheffield still remains one of the best events I’ve done to date - as a trader and as a fanboy!
The biggest challenge has definitely been the monetary side of things, and recently trying to manage my time.
I self fund everything, which means I have to work my ass off in the daytime - as the business has grown in popularity I still have to work all week, but now I also have to juggle orders, fix up my calendar, get back to messages, order labels, make the sauces, label everything up - sometimes it’s hard to get all that done when you’re stuck up the top of some scaffolding haha - but somehow I manage, even if it does take me a bit longer!
What inspires your sauce names and flavours?
The sauce names are all inspired by different classic horror movies and different chilli peppers - mixing the two together to come up with some clever witty puns. I can’t take credit for all the titles I have in the range, but between myself and some friends we brainstorm lots of different names , then I just pick the ones that roll best of the tongue!
You have some pretty crazy horror inspired photos on Instagram. Is this an important part of your sauces and brand?
The horror inspired promo shots came around purely by accident. Kylan who is a bandmate and photographer friend of mine wanted to do a different take on the Grimm fairytales for a shoot, where instead of the masked killer killing a couple of helpless innocent princesses, the princesses turn it around and set upon the killer.
Kylan said he already had the two models lined up for the shoot and needed someone to play the killer and asked would I be interested.
Naturally being the sick twisted individual that I am, I agreed to do it, and as payment for my time Kylan suggested I bring some sauces along and chuck them in a few shots to use as promo. The shots were such a success with my followers we now do regular shoots using different models, picking two classic horror movies per-shoot and doing our own take on it.
This is one of the many things that sets DOTD apart from other producers, so it is definitely an important part of the brand.
I can see from your Instagram that you have over 6000 followers! How did you achieve this and do you think it helps with your sales?
I'm actually now at nearly 8.5K followers which is mental!!
I’m aiming for 10K by the end of the year. I think these kind of numbers have come around from travelling up and down the country trading at different events and also from constantly posting cool new pics to the Instagram page and keeping it fresh. Some people are only there for the models, they don’t care about the sauces, I’m sure of it haha!
What tips have you got for helping people build their social media following?
Keep it colourful, keep it creative, do your own thing - come up with a great idea then just run with it - and keep running until you see those numbers start to bump up!
You’ve got to keep working it, it’s a job in itself… Sometimes I’m replying to people from up the top of that scaffolding, although I imagine they might think I’m sitting in a swivel chair smoking a cigar and stroking a cat like some sort of bond villain!
How has Covid and the lockdowns affected your business?
My main aim for 2020 was to hit the road and do as many events as possible, and then get myself sorted out with a premises as the business has now outgrown my home - we’re tripping over boxes left right and centre. With all the events coming to a halt at the beginning of 2020, we’ve only really got back to doing them mid-way through this year 2021, so I’m still tripping over those boxes…
As it seems we are over the worst of it now. Can you see any positives that came out of the lockdowns?
The lockdowns were a great time for people to get creative and come up with new ideas.
One of my ideas I managed to get off the ground during the lockdown was my tattoo artist T-Shirt collaborations where I commissioned different artists around the country to knock up a horror/hotsauce themed design for a tee.
I know so many creative people that wasted that down-time and just drank the whole way though it - so all they’ve come out of the lockdown with is no money and one almighty whacking great hangover!!
If you could give advice to someone starting their own artisan food business what would it be?
I guess it depends on what you’re going for. If it’s something niche like what I’m doing then be original, stay creative, be bold and push boundaries.
What can we expect from Dean of the Dead Hot Sauces in 2021 and beyond?
Oh man so many things!! I’ve got so many different ideas and I don’t want to give them all away, but lets just say I’ve got the next few years ahead covered.
In the immediate future I’m working with the band Eagles of Death Metal on a collaboration sauce for their UK and European tour.
I’m also working on my first collaboration with a brewery based in Leeds to produce the first in the range of Dean of the Dead Craft Beers called ‘Ales From The Crypt’ hopefully due out in time for Christmas!
What would you like to see from Sen5es in the future?
Hmmm good question - I’m not sure, I think you guys have it all covered… Maybe throw a big Sen5es Christmas party for all your customers, then we can all meet up and get mangled together!!
That sounds like a great idea!
Lastly what do you think of our products and services? How would you rate us as a supplier?
Top notch!! Great guys, super helpful and accommodating. Communication is on point, and orders are delivered to my door almost immediately!! Sen5es, WE LOVE YOU!!
How was that for a spoooooky customer spotlight?
Thank you so much to Dean from Dean of The Dead Hot Sauce for chatting with us. What an awesome guy. So many projects on the go and working as a scaffolder! How does he find the time??
Thank you so much for reading another of our customer spotlights. Where we get to chat to one of our amazing customers and highlight the incredible work they are doing.
All the best
The Team at Sen5es