Read more: Why the SGV loves Sriracha 'rooster sauce'
The famous "rooster sauce" has been the star of a hockey bet between Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Lay's chips flavor competition and the plates of many Asian-food lovers across the San Gabriel Valley.
But this fall Sriracha sauce will have its best role yet as the star of its very own documentary.
Griffin Hammond, a video producer for YouTube based in Illinois, said he has always had an affinity for the chili sauce - which originated in Si Racha, Thailand - and wanted to learn more about it. So he decided to use his video skills to make his own documentary.
Last month Hammond traveled to the San Gabriel Valley, met with David Tran, founder of Huy Fong Foods, and toured the Rosemead factory and the brand new facility in Irwindale with his camera crew.
On his trip, Hammond said he learned to appreciate Tran's rags- to-riches immigrant story and the complexity and thoughtfulness of Tran's chili sauce empire.
"My first question was, is anyone else making a documentary about this? And I was surprised that no one has," said Hammond, 28. "Sriracha is so popular but no one thinks about it too much, I wanted to make a film about those passionate people that love it - but also for those passionate people, so they can actually learn something about it."
Tran, 68, who opened his first factory in Los Angeles in 1980 after emigrating from Vietnam, said he is excited about the documentary and hopes his many fans will enjoy it. Since he has never advertised Sriracha, he said he owes its success to his loyal fans.
"This documentary serves as a way of thanking them for their loyalty by giving them a little glimpse into where the product they love is made," Tran said through his assistant in an email.
He added that he is "proud" his product is made in the San Gabriel Valley and hopes people will learn from the documentary that Sriracha is not imported, but "made in America, with California chili grown under the California sun."
During his visit to the Huy Fong factories last month, Hammond said he learned a lot about Sriracha he didn't know before, especially about the process of growing, harvesting and bottling the chilies.
He visited Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, Calif., where all the Sriracha jalapenos are grown, and learned the chilies are harvested only once a year.
The farm, run by owner Craig Underwood, harvests 100 million pounds of red jalapenos each year from 1,750 acres of farmland, Hammond said.
"The thing that impressed me from talking to Craig was that for 25 years or so Huy Fong Foods has only gotten their jalapenos from Underwood Farms," Hammond said. "We passed lots of fields, they've just been expanding. Every time Huy Fong wants to sell more, Underwood goes out and finds more farmland," Hammond said. "They have this relationship for the past 25 years of working together and I think it gives Huy Fong just complete control over the quality."
Randy Clemens, author of "The Sriracha Cookbook" and the "The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook" coming out next month, said the sauce has a unique flavor that has inspired many chefs from all genres.
"After I had my first taste of it, the clouds parted and the sun shone through and I was hooked," said Clemens, of Glendale, who is featured in the documentary.
Clemens said he is glad someone is finally telling the story behind Huy Fong Foods, and that the documentary also gives a window into the other versions of the sauce made across the nation and the globe, including a Thai-style sauce many know as Sriracha in Asia.
Hammond's documentary is due out this fall and will be about 30 minutes long, he said, and he is hoping to show it in film festivals. He plans to start a Kickstarter campaign this month to raise production funds, he said, and contributors to will have a special opportunity to view the film on its release.
"I feel like there is enough story there that if I wanted to make a feature I could," Hammond said. "I've learned so much being in the factory and learning from all these people I talked to I could probably talk about it for a year. I'm hoping the film kind of inspires you to go out and learn more and it will touch on a lot of interesting factoids."
For more information, visit www.srirachamovie.com.
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