By Léo Azambuja
Dustin Stonner grew up in Kansas City, Mo., home of the American Royal World Series of Barbeque, one of the country’s biggest barbeque celebrations and arguably the largest barbeque competition in the world.
“Barbeque is very much culture where I grew up,” said Dustin, who also worked alongside internationally trained chefs.
This lucky combination resulted in Uncle D’s BBQ, a line of tasty barbeque sauces that Dustin started a year-and-a-half ago, and has since grown exponentially.
In a commercial kitchen in Wailua, Dustin makes his magical recipes that produce two barbeque sauces — the Original and the Hot & Spicy — that he sells in 15 stores islandwide. He also makes three seasonal sauces that can only be purchased online or at the Kukui‘ula Farmers Market in Po‘ipu on Wednesday. Starting this month, he’ll also sell his sauces at Kaua‘i Community College Farmers Market on Saturday.
“I’m really stoked about KCC market, ‘cause I’ll be able to prepare food there,” he said.
In the KCC market, besides the barbeque sauces, Dustin will sell his Uncle D’s vegan wraps and hummus that are already a big hit at Hoku Foods Natural Market in Kapa‘a. He may also sell sliders and rice bowls at the market.
Most of his ingredients are organic and, whenever possible, locally grown. Dustin likes to visit farms he deals with, to check out how they grow their produce. He likes to make sure he’s getting food produced sustainably, with fair trade, organically or with best practices. Basically, he wants to deal with farmers who are not abusing workers and harming the Earth.
The catalyst for Uncle D’s BBQ was Dustin’s circle of friends. Once they found out about Dustin’s talents, usually over a barbeque, they would ask him for a bottle of his magical concoction.
From a couple friends, the demand grew to 10. Then 20. Soon, Dustin was spending some $400 a month just to keep his friends’ taste buds happy. So he told his friends he had to charge for his sauces. To Dustin’s surprise, his friends had no objection.
Seeing the business potential, Dustin approached the owners of Hoku Foods, who told him they would be willing to try it out, as long as he produced his sauce in a commercial kitchen and got proper permits from the State Department of Health.
From then on, the business just kept increasing. Two months after opening, Uncle D’s BBQ got certified by the Kaua‘i Made program.
Initially producing just the Original sauce, Dustin added a spicier version due to popular demand.
“The Hot & Spicy has more kick, I actually put ghost peppers in it,” said Dustin, only to reveal, with a mischievous smile, that he has another hot sauce that he sells only at the farmers markets, and is appropriately named Pele’s Revenge.
“I use six different types of pepper there, it definitely has a way better kick,” he said of the Pele’s Revenge.
However, he said despite the “better kick,” the sauce is well balanced.
“I wanted to make a sauce that was spicy but wasn’t just going to melt your face off,” he said.
Dustin said he will likely add a third sauce to the roster of year-round sauces selling in stores on Kaua‘i. A barbeque sauce with pineapple may be next in line to be sold alongside the Original and the Hot & Spicy in the stores.
Selling at the markets twice a week is something that Dustin really values. It’s where he is able to get one-on-one feedback from customers.
“It gives me a chance to listen to what people are saying and adjust the recipe or not,” he said.
Ultimately, he said, he has to trust himself, after all, his face is on the bottle.
“I’m backing it. I don’t want anything that I don’t think is worthwhile,” he said. My last batch of mole took me three weeks to get it to that point, altering, tweaking here and there.”
For his sauces, he uses mostly organic ingredients, and locally grown produce whenever it’s available. His latest sauce is a mole made with Kaua‘i chocolate from Moloa‘a and Molokai coffee.
Dustin said it’s really satisfying to be able to see something through, from beginning to end. And what really stokes him to hear from people that love his sauces.
You’ll find Uncle D’s BBQ in every health food store and at select shops on Kaua‘i. You can also purchase it at www.kauaibbq.com, where besides year-round and seasonal sauces, you’ll find a barbeque rub and some cool koozies to keep your beer cold.