Back in the 1930s, women were homemakers and men were breadwinners. But for one enterprising woman in Kansas, dreams of entrepreneurship filled her days and nights. And so is the story of Grandma Izetta and her zesty Kansas Roadhouse Barbecue Sauce.
The year was 1938, and Izetta's daydreams of owning her own business were awakened by opportunity. Betty's Place, a popular local roadhouse located just off Highway 40 in Russell, Kansas, hit the market. This was it. She left her husband and her days of homemaking and bought the successful eatery with money lent to her by her mother. It was hers. The signature barbecue recipe, though, was not.
Famous among townies and travelers alike, the secret sauce recipe cost an extra $150, and Izetta knew it was all or nothing. She put up her prized china set for collateral, then hopped to work in the kitchen with the original cook. The restaurant, of which Izetta never changed the name, filled bellies into the 50s, until the introduction of Interstate 70 left the once bustling Highway 40 lonely and hushed. Yet its shuttering did not lay the recipe to rest. It, along with other secret recipes from the restaurant, were bequeathed to Izetta's daughter, Hathalie, and once again to Hathalie's son, Jonathan Monfort—a Northern California native and longtime resident of Huntington Beach who grew up drowning his meals in the famous sauce.
Hathalie passed away two years ago at 81 after battling a chronic illness, but before she left, Jonathan inquired about the recipes. He grew up on the tangy sauce, but Hathalie kept her promise to Izetta and never shared the recipes with anyone. A frail Hathalie replied to her son, "Well, I would give them to someone if they'd do something with them," according to Lindsley Monfort, Jonathan's wife and publicist for Grandma Izetta's. He vowed to do so, and just like that, she pulled the recipes from her office and handed them to him. Stained and weathered with time and culinary adventure, the original recipes, handwritten decades prior, now rested in his hands.
Producing Grandma Izetta's barbecue sauce for sale today isn't quite as easy as it might've been in the late 30s. The couple have invested the last two years of their lives and a considerable amount of money nailing the recipe and creating variations of it while adhering to strict food industry regulations. Laughing, Lindsley says, "It truly is a labor of love, sweat, tears—and add money onto that."
Barbecue sauce may be one of the most saturated condiments on the market, but what sets Grandma Izetta's apart and above is its thin consistency, squeezable and recyclable plastic bottle, low sugar content and all-natural, gluten-free ingredients. All pronounceable, all familiar, the ingredients list starts with tomatoes and ends with spices. It serves as not only a killer marinade, but also as a zippy, portable condiment.
"It's the real deal," says Lindsley. "It's a real Kansas barbecue sauce." And it's all done right here in Southern California, by a HB-based company and a manufacturer located less than 20 miles away in Fullerton.
Jonathan, who works in telecommunications, and Lindsley, a public relations consultant, are confident they've done the recipe justice. Reactions to both the classic Kansas Roadhouse Barbecue Sauce and the new Mule Kick Spicy Barbecue Sauce at the Taste of HB in April confirmed their assertion. These sauces rock socks off. As does the heat thermometer on the side of the Mule Kick bottle, which starts with a "meh" and ends with an "ouch!" One taste, and tongues will surely say, "We're not in Kansas anymore." Its slow build and bite won't "kill your tastebuds," promises Lindsley.
Currently, the sauces aren't stocked on any local shelves, but that soon may change with a promising Whole Foods partnership. "It was easier for me to get into a store on the East Coast than it was to get into our own backyard," says Lindsley, a Boston native who used her connections back home to land a handful of accounts in states like Maine and Massachusetts. The sauces are available on the company website, and they're also soon hitting our Made In HB Marketplace.
"In a perfect world we would love this to become a really amazing brand and for this to be our sole business, but it is a build," explains Lindsley, adding how slow the complicated process has been. "We're not quitting our day jobs anytime soon," she adds. A self-proclaimed foodie and seasoned cook, she shares some of her own favorite recipes using the sauces on the company website.
In case you were wondering, yes, Grandma Izetta won her china set back, and its new owners in HB consider it one of their most prized possessions, in addition to the family's saucy legacy. Izetta's spirit lives on in the sauces so much so that her face graces each and every bottle.
Jonathan, Lindsley, Hathalie and Izetta all want you to "get your grub on," so procure your finest rack of ribs, juiciest burger, favorite veggie burger, pile of shrimp, slice of salmon, heap of veggies or Bloody Mary fixin's and get squeezin' and slatherin'!
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