By Michelle Mazurek
Attention all Mexican and spicy food lovers. Are you looking for an alternative to the same boring sauce or salsa? Want to add a kick to you meal that will make you say Wow? Well, look no further than our own backyard folks!
El Gringo Loco Mexican Fusion is the new wave of Mexican sauces and salsas. This creative and innovative line of Mexican products is created right here in Warrenville by Rick Kazdan and Sharon Pelecki.
Some of you may know Rick and Sharon from various farmers markets in the area. You may have also seen their five signature products at a number of gourmet and specialty food markets such as Wheaton Meat Company, Casey’s Foods in Naperville and Nuts about Nuts in Geneva to name a few.
But, in case you don’t already know about the masterminds behind El Gringo Loco and its entertaining and fun products, allow me to give you an introductory course in El Gringo Loco 101.
The name El Gringo Loco means “crazy American” in Spanish. Kazdan, who has 27 years in the culinary field, was labeled El Gringo Loco years ago by his Hispanic employees. The bilingual Kazdan has always had a burning desire for the Mexican industry as he described creating different and unique Mexican recipes as “in my blood.”
Kazdan has spent countless hours in the kitchen in search for the right flavors and ingredients. Pelecki is first in line to taste and if it is unsatisfactory to her liking, Kazdan will keep plugging away until the formula meets their expectations.
Once the duo creates the winning invention, the formula is created and packaged in a factory, while being closely monitored by Kazdan as he makes sure everything is absolutely perfect before the products go out on the market.
“Our goal is to enlighten the masses and bring creative products to the dinner table,” said Kazdan. “We create recipes that people are amazed by. We use cooking styles no one else uses. We focus on freshness and quality. We are not your ordinary sauce.”
Kazdan and Pelecki have an artist who designs all of the labels on their products. All products contain an animated character of Kazdan, aka El Gringo Loco. El Gringo Loco is a stout man sporting a colorful sombrero, blue eyes, goatee and gigantic grin.
All the backgrounds on the labels have a theme that correlates with that particular sauce or salsa. Ingredients, nutritional information and an El Gringo Loco story are all included on the label. All products contain no preservatives and are fat free.
While Kazdan is burning the midnight oil in the kitchen creating the next mouth watering salsa, Pelecki plays a key role handling the business aspect of things. Holding a double masters degree in Marketing and Finance, Pelecki oversees product management while also having a hand in El Gringo Loco’s marvelous creations.
In September, Kazdan and Pelecki took a huge step in their business as El Gringo Logo went mainstream. The online store features 60 different Mexican products, gift baskets and novelties at www.elgringoloco.net.
The couple has come a long way since they met on Match.com four years ago.
“I never would have thought we would have created this incredible business four years ago,” said Pelecki. “I always wanted to open up our own store. We are really looking forward to opening our own store.”
Pelecki, referring to their future plans of opening up an actual store in area. Pelecki says the plan is to stay local and find property off Route 59.
The couple also envisions a section of the store to be a chip and salsa bar. This is where customers will be able to sample all the different salsas and sauces. However, the twosome is no hurry to rush things.
“We are taking it step by step and bottle by bottle,” Pelecki said.
Recently I had the great honor of sampling El Gringo Loco products and it was like no other sauce and salsa I’ve had before. In a word, WOW!
Keep in mind, I am a hot and spicy enthusiast! I carve the sizzle and zing. It takes a lot to impress me and I walked away more than impressed.
The recipe that Kazdan has had in his back pocket for many years is the Heat ‘n Honey Mexican Barbeque Fusion. This was my first sampling. The Mexican Barbeque Fusion has the common American essentials; tomato, brown sugar and molasses as one would find in most BBQ sauces. However, that is where the common trend stops. Throw in smoky chipotle peppers, cilantro, real chopped garlic and a Mexican fruit called Tamarind. Top it off with real honey, orange and pineapple and my mouth was in heaven!
Apparently, I’m not the only one that fell in love with this mother of all BBQ sauces. The Heat ‘n Honey Mexican Barbeque Fusion took home the 2007 Fiery Food Challenge Award. The competition was no slouch as this sauce came out victorious out of 600 entries. Between now and the end of next year, all Mexican Barbeque Fusion bottles will have a sticker with the achievement of 2007 Fiery Food Winner.
My next sampling was the Sweet Island Heat. Just when I think nothing can match the explosion of the Mexican Barbeque Fusion, comes this exotic and fruity Caribbean flavored sauce. This sauce contains Mangos, Oranges and Pineapples blended in with real ginger, real garlic and a touch of habanero peppers.
After divulging into this tantalizing sauce, I was ready to board a plane and head to the sandy beaches of a tropical island in the Caribbean.
The third sampling was the very first product from El Gringo Loco’s Micro Salsaria. What exactly is a Micro Salsaria?
“What Micro Breweries are to the world of beer, we are to the world of salsas,” said Kazdan. “Our salsas are unique and made in small batches using only the finest ingredients and innovation.”
Salsa Chikagwana, pronounced Chee-Ka-Go-Wana is a rare blend of fresh carrots, great northern beans, fresh onions, tomatoes, cilantro and a four chile pepper blend including fresh jalapenos and smoky chipotle.
I have to admit the thought of carrots in salsa didn’t really excite me too much, but it was totally not what I expected. The carrots and the great northern beans is what makes this salsa so unique and very delicious as well.
Chikagwana is a fusion word. In Spanish, Chicago is pronounced Chee-Ka-Go. Kazdan and Pelecki gave the salsa a Chicago spin since it was invented here. Pay close attention to the background of the label as it possess a graphic of the Chicago skyline. Fitting for the “Chicago salsa.”
Lastly, the Nacho Mama’s Cheezy Mac I prepared for dinner last week. If you love macaroni and cheese and spicy foods, you can have the two of them together in this amazing pasta delight.
The only pasta dish from El Gringo Loco contains Italian veggie radiatore pasta noodles while the sauce mix is made with real cheddar cheese, Jalapenos and a hint of tomato and spices. Think mac & cheese with one serious kick!
The fifth and final product is the Sizzling Shrimp & Fish Rub. The rub consists of five different chile peppers; chile ancho, chile pasilla, chile jalapeno, chile habanero and chile de arbol. The chilies are blended together with herbs, spices, brown sugar and a hint of citrus.
You can use the Sizzling Shrimp & Fish Rub on chicken, steak, pork, potatoes and veggies. As a matter of fact, you can use all of the above five signature products on really anything you want.
Set to debut in the upcoming weeks are two new tantalizing salsas; Burn Uranus Hot Sauce and Corn Utopia. These two salsas are the first two of 10 new salsas that are on the horizon.
To simply put it, I’m in awe of El Gringo Loco’s amazing products. I will be purchasing their unique creations for years to come and I anxiously await the much anticipated future salsas down the road. El Gringo Loco products are five star quality all the way!
El Gringo Loco’s products would make great Christmas gifts for those friends and love ones who cherish innovative and quality Mexican products.
Checkout their colorful and spunky web site at www.elgringoloco.net. Don’t forget to sign their guestbook and give them your thoughts on their products and their site.
Kazdan and Pelecki are down to earth fun people that are living the American dream. It is absolutely wonderful to see people right here in our hometown doing what they love and are very successful at it.