HEAVENLY DEVIL’S SAUCE
Getting spicy with Salsa del Diablo
By Ted Scheffler
I admit it. I am a slave to salsa. In my opinion, there aren’t many foods that aren’t enlivened by a hard hit of salsa. And when the salsa is of superior quality like that from Salsa del Diablo, good foods can be made truly great.
It’s a story that we hear a lot at Made in Utah: a couple of “civilians” - in this case Daniel Benites and Jennifer Lehmbeck - start making artisan products for themselves, their friend, and their families. And before you can say “Salsa del Diablo,” they’ve got a flush-fledged business on their hands.
“We started our business 15 years ago because so many people who tried our salsas absolutely love them,” says Daniel Benites. “My wife was the person who said we should try to sell our salsa instead of just giving it away to friends and family.”
And while diablo means “devil” in Spanish, only angelic ingredients go into the making of Salsa del Diablo products with spice levels ranging from mild to extra-hot. Says Benites, “We make small batch craft salsas, pestos and cashew sauce. Our salsa style is Mexico City meets California salsa.” As for this picky food writer, I can’t get enough of their restaurant-style salsa called Special Reserve, made with roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, and three kinds of peppers.
The couple says they pride themselves in “using as many local Utah ingredients (80% in the summer) as possible and we use local honey, tomatoes and peppers all year long. We source our ingredients from local farms that range from Layton to Orem,” adding “We use healthy ingredients such as local produce, organic pumpkin seeds and vegetable broth.”
Benites credits his wife, Jennifer, for helping him through the pain and challenges of starting a salsa business. “She has always been right there with me through good and bad,” he says. In five years they hope to be in even more grocery stores and to “share our delicious and unique flavors with this great Utah community.”
Currently, you can find Salsa del Diablo products at Macey’s Holladay, Murray and Draper, as well as “The Store” in Holladay, Pirate O’s in Draper, Peterson Farm in Riverton, Jade Market in SLC, Lee’s Market North Salt Lake, Fresh Market Jeremy Ranch and Park City, and The Market in Park City, as well as at The Downtown Winter & Summer Farmer’s Market.
The advice that Daniel Benites doles out to those thinking about pursuing a venture similar to Salsa del Diablo is a bit of a daunting reality check: “Do your research! Small businesses are a ton of work, so you need to be fully prepared to work 80+ hours a week, with no weekends off, and little pay.”
Find out more about Salsa del Diablo at SalsadelDiabloSLC.com.