Food News

Chef Goes From Sandwiches to Hot Sauce With Cooper's Small Batch

Cooper's Small Batch Hot Sauce is the work of John and Michelle Davidson.
Cooper's Small Batch Hot Sauce is the work of John and Michelle Davidson. Mark Antonation
Old South Pearl Street's restaurant scene is undergoing an upheaval, with Chook, Hoja and Tokyo Premium Bakery all opening this fall and Makan Malaysian Cafe being replaced with Quiero Arepas in the spring. Platt Park residents with longer memories may recall other changes, too. In 2012 a favorite neighborhood sandwich shop called the Crushery closed at 1759 South Pearl and the space became Sexy Pizza. The combination of craveable pressed sandwiches and liquid nitrogen ice cream made for a memorable lunch experience that many neighbors were sad to see go.

The Crushery was owned by chef John Davidson and his wife, Michelle. While the sandwich shop was still open, John created a line of hot sauces to complement his food, and Michelle sold the sauces at farmers' markets. But while the Crushery is long gone, the sauce lives on: John and Michelle rebranded their sauces this year and launched Cooper's Small Batch Hot Sauce, a Denver company with six different flavors, some of which are unique on the market.

"All the hot sauces are designed to pair with food," John explains. "We definitely stay away from heat that will destroy the palate. I'm a chef, and I want people to be able to taste the food."

One of the original sauces that the Davidsons served at the Crushery is called the Grundle Thumper (featuring an elephant riding a bicycle on the label), made with arbol and habanero chiles with a little garlic. That and Smokin' Hot Date, made with chipotles, are the two most standard sauces — the kind of all-purpose condiments you might put on your eggs at breakfast and on tacos or burritos at lunch or dinner.

But for something really different, John came up with Leche Diablesa, a white sauce made with coconut milk, lime, two kinds of chiles and a few other spices. It's both creamy and bright, but without the heaviness of mayo-based sauces. "Coconut milk carries flavor well and adds richness," John says. He recommends the sauce for fish tacos, seafood in general, steaks and even popcorn.

Other unusual flavors include Jerk My Chain, a Caribbean-inspired sauce that works well on beans and chicken, and Thai Me Up, which uses curry leaf to add a mysterious note behind bold Thai chiles, lime and garlic.

Cooper's Small Batch currently offers six flavors, but John says he'll be turning out two new products in the spring and plans to grow the company into a full line of "chef-inspired preserved foods."

All flavors can be purchased on the Cooper's Small Batch website, and John adds that the sauces are also sold at more than forty Colorado specialty shops and markets
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation