Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:
Sriracha sauce is a crown jewel of Southern California foodie culture.
You’ve seen the plastic bottles. They’re filled with bright red sauce, emblazoned with a rooster, stamped with text in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese, and topped by a green squirt cap. For many, this blazing hot chili product is a staple condiment.
Enter David Tran, CEO and founder of Huy Fong Foods. In 1979, Tran fled communist Vietnam on a Taiwanese freighter named Huey Fong. “I didn’t have a plan,” he says. He came to the U.S. because we were the only place that would have him. He ended up naming his Sriracha empire after that boat.
He washed up in the LA area and decided to try his hand at hot sauce.
He was born in 1945, the Year of the Rooster. So he bought a blue Chevy van, stenciled his own rooster logo on the side, and drove his first bottles to Asian restaurants and markets around town.
Over time he grew his company from a 5,000-square-foot facility in Chinatown (1980), to a 68,000-square-foot facility in Rosemead (1987), to its current state-of-the-art 650,000-square-foot compound in Irwindale (2010).