Robert Boyland went from sampling the Tijuana Flats sauce bar to building a business based on crafting sauces from scratch. He has big plans.
Growing up, Robert Boyland spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his mom.
With four kids and two parents in the house, Boyland says his mom had to cook big meals on a budget and wanted to involve him in the process.
“For myself, leading into this business, one of the most important things that was taught to me is, 'Don't be afraid of the kitchen,'” Boyland says. “The worst thing that will happen is something will taste terrible. I've made my share of terrible things. It gets better.”
The creator of Sarasota-based Boyland Sauce Co. first got a taste for sauce when he was a line cook at Tex-Mex restaurant Tijuana Flats. He sampled the hot sauces there and decided to do some experimenting on his own. He went to the grocery store, got some ingredients and went to work. “The first batch was pretty terrible,” he says.
Nevertheless, he persisted.
When the batches got better, he bottled his sauce in 8-ounce Mason jars and sold them at a bar in Orlando, where he went to college. He brought in chips and gave potential customers samples of the sauce right off the corner of the bar.
Then he moved to Colorado, where he developed his Wake 'N' Bake Chipotle sauce, now his bestseller. It's a sauce he says he had in his head for a couple of years. “I had an idea of what I wanted the flavor profile to be,” Boyland says.
The next step? Boyland sought a place to source supplies for his business, such as glass bottles. But he was still small, and there were minimum order requirements, so he got crafty. “Restaurants would give me old Cholula and Tabasco bottles,” he says.
Five years ago, he moved back to Florida. In Sarasota, in addition to running Boyland Sauce Co., he's the general manager of Cask and Ale downtown. Boyland, who says his sauce is in the Bloody Mary recipe at Cask and Ale, has been bartending for about nine years, another skill that's played a hand in his sauce making. “Whatever aspect of the business you focus on — behind the bar or in the kitchen — you get a better idea of what mixes with what.”
Boyland's sauces can be found at other area eateries, too, including Made Restaurant and Walt's Fish Market Restaurant.
Boyland says he's sold 1,000 bottles of his Wake 'N' Bake sauce in 2017. He also makes small batches of some of his other sauces, like his “really hot” Instant Beard sauce. The bottles retail for $8 each.
A couple years ago, Boyland started contracting with Sarasota-based Best Brand Bottlers to produce Wake 'N' Bake. He'd like to use the company to produce some of his other sauces, too.
Boyland Sauce Co. has grown organically so far, he says, through word of mouth and by building local support. Boyland eventually would like to see his sauces in more restaurants and retail locations in Sarasota. He also says he's begun the process of getting his products into Whole Foods.
At the same time, he's wary of an entrepreneurial pitfall: expanding too quickly. He doesn't want a growth spurt to dampen the quality of his products.
Boyland has a dozen sauce recipes he's solidified, and he's working on new recipes. “Flavor is the top priority,” he says. “If it doesn't contribute something to food, I have no interest in it.”
Boyland says he reads about the chemistry behind his business on the internet and in books. What he reads is just a starting point, though. “The info out there is to produce something that's already been made, and that's not what I want to do,” he says.
So Boyland takes what he learns, experiments and develops his own creations. There's a reason his sauces have plain brown, understated labels. “I want the sauce to speak for itself,” he says, “and I think it does.”