Scott Norton + Mark Ramadan
Busting onto the scene in 2008 as a challenger to the American institution of Heinz Ketchup, Sir Kensington has issued a declaration that condiments are as worthy of being a part of the food revolution as anything else. And revolutionize the condiment industry they have! Paving the way for countless artisans and food entrepreneurs to actualize their dreams, Sir Kensington is a shining example of what following your passion can produce.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
Back in 2008 we had this realization that food in America was changing for the better, but condiments were being left behind. People everywhere were starting to become interested on where their food came from, how it was being made, and who was making it. Famously, there was little choice in ketchup, and so we set out to see if we could create ketchup that was in line with the way we wanted to eat and satisfied the specific flavor balance that people look for when they reach for a bottle of it. It began as an experiment to try something new and create something people liked, and back then did I never imagine that we’d now be making ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise that’s enjoyed throughout the country.
Tell us about your products.
Sir Kensington’s makes condiments with character. This means applying culinary creativity and challenging industry conventions, all in service of taste. Our set of principles guide us to the highest quality ingredients, which of course underpin taste. Aside from taste and ingredient quality, our condiments were designed to be paired with other dishes. In this way, Sir Kensington’s enables anyone to make the food they love even better.
We see condiments occupying a special place in food at the intersection of cooking and eating. Adding condiments to food at the table is a form of universally accessible cooking. It allows even a two year old to add flavor to what they’re about to eat. Getting people to consider food differently now that they’ve experienced a better version of something they always took for granted encourages to people to ask more questions, educate themselves, get into the kitchen, and go a level deeper into the passion and curiosity about food that motivates us.
What Does Being A Small-Batch “Artisan” Mean To You?
At Sir Kensington’s, our mission is to bring integrity and charm to ordinary and overlooked food. This means honoring food and treating it as something special, not just an industrial product to be sold. It means being a steward of the connection that food creates between nature and culture.
What is your favorite small-batch treat?
“Treat” makes me think of something indulgent. I like to snack on Taza’s stone-ground Mexican chocolate, and am a particular fan of croissants, either at Tartine on the West Coast or Bien Cuit in New York.
What Drew You To Food?
I’ve always been very needy when it comes to sensory stimulation, and I think food connects that to comfort and emotion in a personal way. Cooking also became a creative outlet that was social, and provided an infinite outlet to my curiosity. One thing I like about food is how there is always more to learn and more to know, and the further you get in understanding, the more of an effect it has on what you can cook for other people. It was also a way of gaining a porthole into the world’s many cultures, both while traveling, and while being lucky to live in such diverse city as New York that features food from everywhere.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
Personally, inspiration comes from any place where I will let it come from. Food52 is in a league of its own. Cookbooks are an interesting reference to get the mind going, with Mission Chinese, Hawksmoor at Home, Gjelina, and Momofuku being regular standbys. Eating at restaurants also serves as a good way to look at different approaches to dishes and ingredients, especially when it comes to plating and display.
For Sir Kensington’s, a lot of our inspiration comes from looking at what American food culture really is, in its highbrow ideals, it’s lowbrow indulgences, and its constant state of change. We also look everywhere for both education and inspiration when considering what to create.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
We like to keep things a surprise for when they do launch, and we’ve got some projects deep in the test kitchen as well as some tweaks and evolutions we’re making to what’s already been launched. For instance, we’ve been asking how to make our Sriracha mayonnaise taste even more like Sriracha.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
Of our own making? Our new organic mayonnaise really suits my palate, but our classic ketchup has a special place in my heart. Given that we make condiments, my favorites are really dependent on what I’m eating it with.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
Squid ink, aquafaba, chicken skin, kombu seaweed, miso paste - so many.
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Broccolini with crisped garlic, chili and olive oil, sauteéd and broiled. Fusilli bucatini pasta Primavera and Kale Ceaser salad. Extra salt.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
This is such a difficult question, because there are so many perspectives I’d love to solicit and so many people I’d love to treat with a taste. My paternal grandfather passed away before we started making condiments, and I think we’d both get great joy from his tasting them.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Artisans?
Focus on the people who make up your team and enabling them. Recognizing that what we’re doing requires a collective energy, coordination, and opportunity for human growth rather than just sheer willpower towards an enshrined idea of success is a turning point for many businesses, ours included.
To other artisans, I recommend self study and to ask yourself “what do I really want” before charging forward. That, and to communicate from a position of your own motivations and sense of purpose, rather than what you think the market wants to hear about your product.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
There are so many. Sfoglini Pasta, Dang chips, WTRMLN WTR, Red Boat Fish Sauce, Sun Noodles, Hodo Soy. All great people, great products, and growing brands. The list of chefs is too long to even start, but I like people who help you think about where the food comes from when you’re eating it - culturally and biologically. Dan Barber, Dan Kluger, Enrique Olvera, Jason Debriere, Francis Mallmann, Fredrik Berselius, Nick Anderer, Hiroshi Seki in DC...the list goes on.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
Pizza. And a negroni.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
Anotherimpossible question. Perhaps either Matthew Accarrino’s SPQR in San Francisco, Gunnar Gíslason’s Dill in Reykjavík, or Fredrik Berselius’ Aska in Brooklyn. Or maybe it was roasting a porchetta for my friends at a ranch near California’s Mendocino state forest last year.
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
Riding my bicycle is a source of infinite joy. It’s a way of exercising, moving from destination to destination, and allows you to see the world at the perfect pace. I also like to walk, hike, and spend time learning from and teaching other entrepreneurs and creatives.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
Fela Kuti, and Afrobeat in general. Good energy for both cooking and having a spirited dinner party.
What is your favorite recipe to make with your Chipotle Mayo?
The Chipotle Mayo is a really versatile condiment. It can be featured in a tuna salad, or simply swiped over bread for an added kick of heat to your favorite sandwich.