Jason Cummings is cooking up a name for himself in the cultish world of hot sauce. His secret recipe? A niche market of Mediterranean-inspired spice and flavor all bottled up into an artisanal sauce line, Opera Sauce.
Along with his wife and business partner Elizabeth Cummings, the two are setting taste buds ablaze at tables across the state. The line, developed by their parent company Supertasterz, is professionally manufactured in northwest Arkansas and can be found locally at restaurants and on store shelves.
Minimal in its packaging and design, the Opera Sauce label depicts an aerial perspective of the Mediterranean Sea that Jason designed with local artist and longtime friend Bryan Frazier. The vibrant blue represents deep water while the teal represents the shallow waters of the shore. Together the colors draw your attention upward to the deep red sauce that awaits your plate and palate.
Opera Sauce is packed with spicy red chilis, lemon juice, garlic, onion and a hint of porcini mushrooms. The consistency is thick, with bits of peppers. The spicy heat, flavorful acidity, bold aromatics and hint of umami make Opera Sauce seem like a full Mediterranean pantry in a bottle. Originally crafted for pizza, Jason says customers especially love Opera Sauce on eggs, although any type of Mediterranean dish will benefit from a dab of this versatile sauce.
“When I originally had the idea for this sauce, I imagined not only what it should taste like, but how it should make you feel,” Jason says. “It should be an experience. Opera Sauce should transport you to the Mediterranean. Imagine you are standing in a market or spice bazaar in the summer. You would feel the warm intensity of the heat rising. You would smell lemon from the lemon trees blowing in the breeze, and the market’s air would be perfumed with the intoxicating aroma of spices. This essence is what makes Opera Sauce Mediterranean Hot Sauce a unique pantry staple.”
If you prefer a more simple, vinegar-based hot sauce in the style of Louisiana or Crystal, Supertasterz has a vial for you, too. Enter Arkansas Diamond Fire Champagne Pepper Sauce. The new sauce was released earlier this year and was intentionally crafted for Arkansans’ favorite foods. A careful harmony of heat, salt and vinegar form the foundation, while a touch of champagne helps balance the spice and acidity and serves as a toast to Arkansas’ heritage.
Arkansas Diamond Fire is best enjoyed with the richness of Southern cuisine. Dab (or douse) your catfish, fried chicken, hushpuppies, braised greens, cornbread, mac and cheese, smoked meats, beans, anything mayonnaise-based, eggs and bloody marys. Its flavor profile is simple, yet elevated with salt-fermented cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar and a generous splash of fine French Champagne.
“Opera Sauce and Arkansas Diamond Fire each represent part of who I am, Mediterranean and Southern,” Jason says, “but they are polar opposites. Opera Sauce is thicker with a more complex flavor profile. Arkansas Diamond Fire is more traditional and was created for Southern dishes. I think we ate chicken tenders and catfish from every food service establishment in the state while testing this hot sauce.”
The pair co-owns Supertasterz, a food and beverage development company based in Little Rock, where Jason serves as chief flavor officer and Elizabeth is the general counsel. They first met in Hot Springs, where they attended high school. Elizabeth went on to law school at the University of Arkansas and now works full-time as an attorney at Windstream. She works for Supertasterz during her spare time, primarily handling legal, accounting and other administrative functions, but is an avid taste-tester and sauce whisperer. Jason grew up in Hot Springs, where his Greek great-grandparents settled in the 1920s and owned a cafe.
“I’ve been passionate about food since I was a kid,” Jason says. “I have fond memories of watching my dad cook fish, wild game and pimento cheese eggs, swiping pie crust off my grandmother’s kitchen table and having Sunday lunch at the Greek Orthodox Church in Hot Springs.”
In his early 20s, Jason and three friends opened a pasta company in the River Market, Grassroots Pasta Co., and ran that for a few years before eventually selling it. Jason attended culinary school for a year before receiving his master’s degree in marketing and then went to work as a food service broker for 10 years, where he developed recipes for some of the largest food manufacturers in the world.
This year, Opera Sauce was awarded a platinum medal in the hot sauce category at the sixth annual Drunken Tomato Awards, an international bloody mary competition held in San Diego that utilizes blind taste-testing to judge bloody mary mixes and trappings.
“The restaurant industry is wildly competitive,” Jason says. “Customers will seek out restaurants that have hot sauces on par with the hot sauces they have in their homes. If you’re a restaurant, your beer, wine and spirits program is important to you. Your hot sauce offering should also be important. Hot sauce is often the final ingredient the customer uses before they put the food in their mouth. If it’s not a great hot sauce on that bite of food, you’ve voided the effort and quality put into your dish.
“Besides, it’s hospitality, and customers notice.”
Opera Sauce is hot stuff in more ways than one, earning praise from restaurant owners, hot sauce enthusiasts and local foodies. Hungry heat lovers can find it on shelves and tables from coast to coast, and here's where to find Opera Sauce and Arkansas Diamond Fire locally:
- Boulevard Bread Co. (all locations)
- Bray Gourmet
- City Silo Table + Pantry
- The Pantry (both locations)
- The Pizzeria
- The Root Cafe
- Sterling Market
- Box Turtle
- Colonial Wine & Spirits
- Eggshells Kitchen Co.
- Fennel & Fire
- The Filling Station
- HAM Market
- Legacy Wine & Spirits
- The Nurserie Farm & Garden Market
- Stratton’s Market
Visit supertasterz.com to learn more and find a location near you.