Local chef balances heat with flavor with his line of Red Canyon Spice sauces and rubs
“IT’S EUPHORIC TO PUSH THE HEAT LEVEL, BUT SIMPLY RAMPING UP THE HEAT ISN’T MY GOAL.”
While a knee injury might seem like the ultimate downer for anyone who aims to enjoy the mountain lifestyle all year long, Chef Michael Connolly found a surprising upside in his life after a knee surgery grounded him: spare time, lots of it. And with that spare time, he got innovative in the kitchen, creating the sauces that eventually inspired him to launch Red Canyon Spice, a Vail Valley-based company that’s dedicated to “putting the wild back into flavor.”
Chef Connolly has been creating sauces for more than two decades, and he’s been cooking in restaurants since he was 13. He’s no stranger to the Vail area’s fine dining scene, having opened the restaurant at Adam’s Rib Ranch and worked in the kitchens of other notables including Beaver Creek’s Grouse Mountain Grill and Cordillera’s Picasso, Timber Hearth, and Chaparral restaurants. But it wasn’t until he was on crutches one winter with a house full of hungry roommates that he felt compelled to take his culinary skills in a new direction.
Since its establishment in 2008, Red Canyon Spice has been steadily growing an exciting product line that includes spices and sauces, from its original Kowboy Ketchup, to spice rubs and blends, to hot sauces that can add a little pizazz to almost anything you’d want to pile on your plate including steak, eggs, seafood and soups.
“I’m a chile head,” admits Connolly. “It’s euphoric to push the heat level, but simply ramping up the heat isn’t my goal. Red Canyon Spice balances heat with flavor to complement meals and not overpower them in the process.”
Most Red Canyon Spice products have names that pay homage to Western heritage, such as the Raptor Original, which is a thick and chunky medium heat hot sauce, or the soaring hot Screaming Eagle Ghost Chili Sauce, which has hints of citrus and a smoky flavor that comes from ghost chilies.
All of the Red Canyon Spice rubs and seasonings are made with high-quality ingredients and lack MSG or nitrates. And with at least nine varieties to choose from, you’ll find a rub or seasoning for any purpose, whether you’re sprinkling Citrus Chipotle Seasoning on fish for grilling or adding the Adobo BBQ and Grill Rub to a rack of ribs. And as the holiday season approaches, you just might find that Red Canyon Spice gift packs are the perfect treat for the grill master in your family.
Red Canyon Spice products are available at locations throughout
the Vail Valley, including Kitchen Collage in Edwards, the Lionshead General Store in Vail, the Eagle Visitors Center and at redcanyonspice.com.