Kenmore man hopes his business goes Plum Crazy
July 5, 2010 · 2:34 PM
Cousins Tim and Duncan Starostka share what might seem a somewhat different passion considering they are young gentlemen, ages 12 and 14, respectively.
The two love to watch the Food Network, said Tom Starostka, Tim’s dad and Duncan’s uncle. The pair’s interest in cooking led to cooking contests at Tom Starostka’s Kenmore home.
Apparently, Tim and Duncan are pretty good culinary students, as Tom said he simply got tired of losing to the two. He decided each contest needed a theme, and one week he picked salsa.
As it happened, this was a week Duncan simply couldn’t make it to his uncle’s home. Tom Starostka decided to perfect his creation and, ultimately, a business (not to mention a condiment) was born.
According to Starostka, Plum Crazy Orchard Chili Spread is a chutney type spread made with plums, apples, onions, red bell peppers and, probably most importantly, the so-called ghost pepper, the inspiration for the “crazy” part of the product’s name.
Guinness World Records lists the ghost pepper — technically known as bhut jolikia — as the hottest pepper known, reaching about 1 million Scoville Units, a commonly used measurement of pepper heat. Starostka described the pepper as more than twice as hot as the hottest habanero. Guinness describes it as 400 times hotter than Tabasco Sauce. In its native India, legend has it raw ghost peppers were smeared on fences to keep wild elephants at bay.
“That’s why we used plums,” Starostka said, adding the sweetness of the fruit cuts down greatly on the heat of the pepper.
“Most products with the ghost pepper are formulated to be hotter than hot, which is too bad, because the flavor of this pepper is amazingly good,” Starostka said.
Plum Crazy has some zip, but just enough that Starostka said the spread has the taste of the pepper without the potentially tongue-numbing heat.
According to Starostka, Plum Crazy can be combined with cream cheese and placed on crackers for a great appetizer. You can dip your chips into it, as well. Starostka claims it works as a glaze or garnish on meat and fish or straight out of the jar.
Starostka naturally hopes his still young business grows, and as it does, he also hopes cooks will find more and more uses for Plum Crazy and what will soon be its sister products.
An Oregon food distributor produced the first 1,100 bottles of Plum Crazy in April. This month, a producer in Gold Bar will release the first bottles of Plum Crazy Orchard Chili Relish and Plum Crazier Orchard Chili Spicy Relish.
Starostka also has plans for a barbecue sauce, as well as a Plum Crazy sauce with some hardcore heat, already dubbed “Elephant Repellant.”
For now, Plum Crazy is a thoroughly family based business. Including Starostka’s wife and daughter, the whole clan turned out recently to man a booth at a weekly farmers market in Bellevue. Daughter Lindsay, 15, came up with the Plum Crazy slogan, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost pepper.”
“I think it’s great because Tom is having so much fun,” said wife, Bronwyn Starostka, of the family’s new venture.
“There was a couple of things that kind of came together for us and made it possible for us to do this ... and we took the plunge,” Tom Starostka said.
While he feels selling at farmers markets is important, Starostka said he believes the real future for his company is getting his product into local stores. Among numerous other area shops, Plum Crazy is on the shelves at the Yakima Fruit Market, D&D Meats in Mountlake Terrace and soon, the Thriftway store in West Seattle.
“Every week we get one or two people to take the product on,” said Starostka, who later added he doesn’t expect his family to become something like the next Heinz dynasty.
“But we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
For more information, go to www.crazyrelish.com.