Richmond Hill resident John Bennett was told by many who have visited his barbecue booth during the last five years at the Seafood Festival that he should bottle and sell his unique barbecue sauce. After years of contemplating just that, he has finally taken that step.
John, after employing the aid of his family and going through an arduous production process, received his first bulk shipment of his own recipe sauce last week and has already distributed it for sale to many establishments throughout Richmond Hill.
"I’m really proud of him to get this far," said his brother, Gene Bennett, who was there to help receive the shipment and plans to help distribute the sauce. "It’s one thing to say you’re going to market your own sauce, it’s another thing to actually do it. John is very determined to make this a successful venture and I plan to help him realize his dream."
John’s dream entails the sauce being a mere stepping stone to his ultimate goal of opening his own restaurant in Richmond Hill with a railroad theme in mind. He also has a wing glaze he’d like to eventually market. The railroad theme can be traced back to when John first dreamed up this whole thing.
John, who is a locomotive engineer with CSX and has been for the past nine years, says he is often riding the rails for hours at a time which is an "ideal setting for coming up with ideas like this."
The name of the sauce is derived from a railroad term. "There are eight throttle positions on a train with 8 being the fastest gear," explains John. "It’s not just the name of the sauce; it’s a metaphor for the full throttle taste that you get from it."
"A lot of this comes from his being in the Marines," said Gene. "Not just his drive and diligence, but they stuck him with being the cook. He learned a lot about food during that time."
John said a friend handed him an original recipe years ago and told him to "make a million dollars with it." John tweaked it a bit to make it what it is today, and received instant popularity from those who tried it. He spoke of many people who visited his booths during some of the numerous city festivals who insisted on having him consistently send his sauce to.
"During the recent Duke’s Fest, Enos (actor Sonny Shroyer) went nuts for it, saying it was the best sauce he ever had," said John. "I’ve been mailing him bottles ever since. I have several others out of state regulars as well."
He detailed some of the steps he recently took as he began to go commercial with his unique blend. This includes sending a sample to the state food science department who came back with information such as how many carbs, sugar and a shelf life. From there, he sent his recipe to Golding Farms in North Carolina where a food scientist matched up his sample to get him ready for mass production.
"Then came designing the label," said John. "It was about a six-month process between sending the sauce to Golding and receiving my first shipment of 20,000 bottles."
John said the whole experience is a lot of fun and he’s "not in a hurry to make a million bucks." He has already placed bottles at stores in "Jacksonville, Waycross, Columbia – all the places I make stops at with the railroad. All my co-workers at CSX have been real supportive as well. They’re some of my best customers too."
Locally, Notch-8 Barbecue Sauce is available for purchase at Richmond Hill Pharmacy, Cadre Gifts, Dregger’s Produce next to Ella’s, the Pecan Shop next to the Shell station on 17 and 95, Page Printing, Milan Salon and several places in Savannah. You can also purchase it through John’s new website by logging on to www.notch8bbq.com.