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A Saucy Business

The Sauce Queen: Local woman turns her father's food legacy into a tasty business with national visions

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Big Al's gourmet Canjun sauce seasoning February 2014 shrimp
Making Big Al’s barbecue shrimp couldn’t be easier. Just add the concentrate and butter to a saucepan, add shrimp and sauté until done. Courtesy photo
Big Al's sauce seasoning Cajun jars
Now a booming business, Big Al’s Gourmet Seasoning Concentrate is available at the main Spec’s and select H-E-B stores. Photo courtesy of Tony Mandola's
Big Al's gourmet Canjun sauce seasoning February 2014 fish
Big Al's makes it easy to whip up a great Cajun meal. Courtesy photo
Big Al's gourmet Canjun sauce seasoning February 2014 pasta
Kim Gross has recipes on her website for blackened fish, chicken, pork tenderloin, steaks and pasta. Courtesy photo
Big Al's gourmet Canjun sauce seasoning February 2014 shrimp
Big Al's sauce seasoning Cajun jars
Big Al's gourmet Canjun sauce seasoning February 2014 fish
Big Al's gourmet Canjun sauce seasoning February 2014 pasta
News_Marene Gustin_columnist_mug_head shot

Got a family recipe that everyone loves? Think you could bottle it and make some money?

Yeah, probably not.

But I know one woman who did.

Meet Pearland’s Kim Gross. A New Orleans native who grew up eating her father’s (Big Al Bach) and grandfather’s Big Al’s BBQ shrimp.

The duo worked in a small commercial kitchen making their BBQ sauce and shrimp and packaging it for local restaurants. After they both passed away, Gross thought the recipe was lost forever. That was until she stumbled across a written list of ingredients.

 "I started out doing it as a tribute to my dad. Food was his passion and I wanted to keep his legacy alive." 

“It wasn’t a recipe,” she says, “no measurements, just a list of ingredients.” But from there, through trial and error, she was able to recreate the flavor of her childhood.

“I didn’t want to mess with the shrimp, I just wanted to make the sauce so I could use it to quickly whip up some shrimp or chicken with it,” she explains. “So I wound up turning it into a concentrate.”

Gross started putting it into jars and giving it to friends and family members, who loved it.

“I started out doing it as a tribute to my dad,” she says. “Food was his passion and I wanted to keep his legacy alive. I had no idea it would turn out like this! I think Dad would be so proud.”

“This” is now a booming business. Big Al’s Gourmet Seasoning Concentrate, available in three flavors including the original BBQ shrimp, is now available at the main Spec’s and select H-E-B stores.

Making Big Al’s BBQ shrimp couldn’t be easier. Just add the concentrate and butter to a saucepan, add shrimp and saute until done.

“I tell people the only way it would be easier is if I came over to their house and made it for them myself," Gross says.

If you have leftovers, stuff it into a crusty baguette and you’ve got a great BBQ shrimp po’ boy.

The Texas A&M Connection

But that’s just for starters. You can use the concentrate on every kind of protein. Gross has recipes on her website for blackened fish, chicken, pork tenderloin, pasta and steaks. You can also use it to make salad dressings and sandwich spreads. I can also add that it also works as a spicy salsa for empanadas.

“I have friends in Hawaii that use it for grilling vegetables,” Gross says and then adds that it makes wonderful crock-pot meals.

 Just hide the jar and your family will think you’ve spent hours in the kitchen. 

Gross thinks the product is so good, so easy to use and versatile that it will become a kitchen staple and plans on taking in nationwide.

So if you still think you want to bottle and sell grandma’s salad dressing, Gross has some advice.

“You have to have a lot of perseverance,” she says. “I did a lot of recipe development, not all recipes can be done in big batches. Plus you have to find the right producer who will make it exactly like you make it in your own kitchen.”

Gross had no food or marketing background so she did a lot of research before Big Al’s hit the shelves. Including having a lab at Texas A&M University test the product and determine that it had a shelf life of two years, without any additives or preservatives. Big Al’s uses the highest quality spices, seasonings and herbs with low sodium and no MSG or trans fats.

And it really is that easy to whip up a great Cajun meal. Right now I’m spreading it on a chicken breast that I’ll throw into the toaster oven for a quick and easy dinner.

Just hide the jar and your family will think you’ve spent hours in the kitchen.

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