How Tim Parsons went from designing graphics in Oregon to creating one of the industry’s most popular hot sauces in Hawaii.
By Kelli Gratz | Images by John Hook
On a cool spring afternoon, Tim Parsons, owner of Adoboloco Hot Sauce, leads me to the back of his property in Kihei, on the southern shores of Maui, where a humble pepper farm is revealed. Amidst strewn gardening tools, recycled crates filled with budding greens, and a brick oven and smoker, there’s his family. His wife, Summer, their three kids, Scarlet, Harrison, and Xander, and their family’s pets, bacak-ing, woofing, and bleating nearby.
Everyone seems to have their own responsibilities, their own roles to play, and when seen together, it appears effortless. Even the animals are necessary to the organic synergy of their farm, and ultimately, the end product.
“The chickens provide great fertilizer for the garden and the peppers,” Tim says as we walk opposite the chicken coop. “Everything is produced organically with no pesticides right here on our farm or up at the Kula location.”
Parsons perfected his hot-sauce craft at home in Maui after returning from working as a graphic designer for 20 years in Oregon, but it was his Filipino heritage and love for chicken adobo that really propelled him toward this venture.
When I was a little kid, my favorite thing to eat was chicken adobo. I always bugged my mother to make it until she finally taught me the recipe.
Inspired by Heat
“When I was a little kid, my favorite thing to eat was chicken adobo,” he says. “I always bugged my mother to make it until she finally taught me the recipe. When we lived on the mainland, there were no Filipino places to get local food, so I started cooking more, developing styles and recipes, and created a blog called Adoboloco.”
This love for Filipino food paired with a strong entrepreneurial spirit kick-started the project in 2010, which emerged as the perfect teaching platform for their children.
“When we decided to home school the kids, we figured a garden would be the perfect way to teach them about math, science, and other core subjects,” says Summer. “The peppers are what really took off, so we started creating things, taking them to farmers markets and giving it out to friends, and thought, ‘Wow, we can teach our kids about running a business and what it would take to manage it.’”
Running a successful business means learning and farming on weekdays and working weekends in a rented commercial kitchen in Kula to produce 100 pounds of hot sauce that will be bottled, labeled, and shipped to stores nationwide. He cites his delight in the strength and versatility of peppers—qualities that make their products widely accessible over long periods of time.
“After we extract the seeds, we save the peppers and let them dry,” he says. “We use those for cooking and they’ll last almost forever as long as they don’t get wet or moisture in the container. The peppers’ flavor will change at different stages of its life cycle, but the spice will last and last.”
Since exploding on the scene, Adoboloco has become a hot commodity, acquiring national distributors like Tommy Bahama and Crate and Barrel.
It’s so exciting because both companies had no idea how to get products out of Hawai‘i, because they’ve never ordered a product from here,” says Tim. “They ended up having us figure out the shipping logistics. It was really cool to have a product from Hawai‘i be shipped out to people who have never ordered products from here, and even better that the products were ours.”
When seen on the shelf in glass bottles, the hot sauce has no smell, no flavor, no texture, so it would be easy to glaze over all the dedication, passion, and hard work of the Parsons family.
But the vinegary-garlicky goodness in each sauce, when paired with a sandwich or burrito, is impossible to ignore once experienced.
We want the flavor of the pepper to shine. It’s about enhancing the flavor of the food, not masking it.
The bright, colorful, and creamy flavors of jalapeño, pineapple habanero, and smoked bhut jolokia (more commonly known as ghost pepper) make for bold marinades, and their Maui No Ka Oi sauce, made with Trinidad Maruga Scorpio peppers, is always in great demand (be wary of watery tear ducts and rolling sweat), blending the perfect amount of sweet and spicy.
A world bursting with life and color is released and mere table food is given the opportunity to be something so much more.
“Similar to varietals of grapes in wine, there are endless flavors in peppers and so many different ways of using them,” Tim says. “For us though, we want the flavor of the pepper to shine. It’s about enhancing the flavor of the food, not masking it.”
With the Parsons’ hot sauces drawing a large and loyal following at more than 100 stores nationwide, the family is eager to introduce the Adoboloco zing to new concepts.
“We have other products we are thinking of and working on that are different from hot sauce,” says Tim. “We’ve been fine-tuning it on and off for a year now, but through this whole process we’ve learned it’s not about growing beyond what we can do. We started with nothing. There was no capital, but when there’s growth, we try to meet it.”
For the full list of locations where you can find Adoboloco sauces, or to order online, visit adoboloco.com.
1. Pa‘i‘ai patty: Undiluted poi and grated steamed taro (make it at home or pick up freshly pounded Mana Ai pa‘ia‘i at Whole Foods)
2. Portuguese sausage patty: I make mine with an even mix of wild Maui venison and pork; an alternative is store-bought Portuguese sausage
3. 4 eggs
4. Dry dill or finely chopped chives and paprika
Loco hollandaise sauce:
1. Blend or whisk the egg yolks and Adoboloco sauce together in a bowl until thickened and doubled in volume.
2. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing slightly steaming water (or use a double boiler). The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly to prevent the eggs from overheating, or they’ll harden and create lumps.
3. Slowly pour in the melted butter and continue to mix until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat, cover, and place in a warm area.
1. Hand-form pa‘i‘ai patties and press in grated taro for texture. Season with a little sea salt and pepper, and fry until browned on both sides. Set aside.
2. Fry the sausage patties and set aside in a warm area.
3. Traditionally, eggs Benedict is served with poached eggs. No one in our family really likes them poached, so I fry the eggs easy, sunny-side up.
Assemble everything in this order: pa‘i‘ai patty, sausage patty, fried egg, Loco hollandaise sauce. Garnish with dill or finely chopped chives and paprika. Serve warm.
Serves four. Traditionally this would only serve two people, but taro is a whole food and will fill you up better than the token English muffin and Canadian bacon.
** Bottoms up! The AdobolOkole en Fuego! cocktail, developed by Jimmy Shoemaker of Dazoo Maui and made with okolehao and Adoboloco pineapple sauce, goes great with the Adoboloco eggs benedict. See below for recipe.
________________________ ADOBOLOKOLE EN FUEGO!
By Jimmy Shoemaker, Bartender at DAZOO Paia Maui
1. 1.5 oz. Okolehao
2. 3-4 chunks (1 inch) fresh pineapple
3. 1 oz grilled lemon juice*
4. Small bunch of Cilantro
5. 1/2 oz. fresh egg white**
6. 1-2 bar spoons Adoboloco Pineapple sauce
1. Combine egg white with Adoboloco Pineapple sauce in a pint glass and dry-shake vigorously with no ice.
2. Add pineapple chunks and cilantro and muddle into a paste with a muddling bat (or wooden spoon).
3. Add ice and all remaining ingredients and shake-shake-shake.
4. Strain and pour over ice in a margarita glass. Garnish with lemon wheel or cilantro sprig.
*Grilled lemon juice: Cut lemons in half and grill till almost burnt, juice lemons and mix with juice of un-grilled lemons evenly (ie. 2 grilled lemons / 2 fresh lemons)
*Fresh egg white: Crack egg with a knife and separate the yolk from the white, this egg white should be about an ounce so 1 egg white will make 2 cocktails