For years, Hollister resident Michelle Doty and her daughter Audra set up their Spice of Life Catering food booth at special events and outdoor markets, selling hot dogs, sausages, fries and nachos. They quickly noticed the garlic sauce they served as a condiment was perhaps even more popular than the rest of the food they served.
According to Audra, the sauce was “an old family recipe that we discovered the right formula for, through many trials and errors” and it proved to be very versatile.
“We started using it on our garlic fries,” said Michelle. “When we stopped using it on the fries, we started putting it on everything else we sold. Our customers would come and ask, ‘What is that stuff? What is that garlic stuff?’ It was kind of a joke.”
After being pestered for three years by their regular customers, who would bring their own containers and beg the Dotys to sell some of the sauce, Michelle and Audra decided to start bottling it eight years ago.
They first started selling That Garlic Stuff at farmers markets and events. After three years, the business grew to the point where they were able to start approaching retailers. Audra handles the backend of the business, and together have been able to get That Garlic Stuff into over 20 stores in the region, making up around 80% of their sales.
The sauce is made by Michelle’s son, Nick Doty, from garlic sourced from Gilroy’s Christopher Ranch and is produced at the El Pajaro Community Development Corporation incubator kitchen in Watsonville, a nonprofit shared-use facility used by over 30 small businesses.
“When we decided to expand into making the sauce commercially, we needed to go more by the books,” Michelle said. “I had heard about the CDC kitchen for years and it turned out to be a perfect fit. They handle all the rules and regulations and you know if the state health department is going to come in, everything is taken care of.”
Though the bulk of their sales come from retail stores, Michelle prefers the direct contact with customers that she gets by going to fairs and farmers markets.
“I like to be out in the field doing the physical selling,” she said. “I love the excitement when they try our sauce for the first time. If I can’t give out samples, I am not selling—that is the No. 1 thing with our products. People have to taste it.”
Surprisingly, young people are one of the biggest fan bases.
“We had this one kid try it and say ‘you have to introduce this to the whole world!’” she said. “Even little kids love this product. They will taste it and be tugging at their parents to get it or using their allowance to buy a bottle. And we get parents coming back to tell us that their children now eat their veggies because the sauce makes them taste good. They’ll say ‘thank you for getting my kid to eat broccoli!’”
One of the hallmarks of That Garlic Stuff is that it makes pretty much everything taste good. It’s a reliable addition to any meal.
“The sauce is very versatile,” Michelle said. “Kids like it on popcorn and pasta. I love it on white rice with a little teriyaki sauce and I use it on pizza when I reheat it. We get a lot of suggestions from our customers and in our marketing, we suggest it over seafood and chicken as well as a salad dressing. But really, your imagination is the only limit.”
Now that the farmers markets are open again, the Dotys are looking to expand their presence and Michelle in particular is looking forward to seeing her regulars again.
“It has been really exciting from the very beginning and the customers have been wonderful,” she said. “We did not know what we were on to and it just took off. Once people taste it, they just can’t get enough of it.”
That Garlic Stuff: Original and Spicy (suggested retail 16 oz. $16.00, 8 oz. $10.99)
That Garlic Stuff Original The sauce has the consistency of salad dressing and is both gluten and dairy free. The garlic flavor is strong, but not overpowering and without any sharpness or bite. The ingredients, including mayonnaise, give the sauce a buttery texture that helps it to cling to whatever it’s poured on. Tasting it, you can’t help thinking about ways of using it, from putting it on eggs in the morning to salads for lunch or slathered on grilled meats for dinner.
That Garlic Stuff Spicy “All we did was add sriracha to our original recipe,” said Michelle. “That was the only change we made and we were surprised at how different it tasted.” The spicy version has the same buttery texture and the same garlic up front, with the sriracha coming in slowly in the middle and ending with a warmth to the back of the throat at the end. The garlic remains the dominant taste and the sriracha gives it a modest bit of heat without being oppressive.
That Garlic Stuff is available online and at local markets including Windmill Market in San Juan Bautista and Bertuccio’s in Hollister, as well as at local outdoor events including the Hollister Farmers Market.
BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.