Pork project: Radio host goes into tasty barbecue sauce sideline

Monday, October 29, 2007
Local radio personality Kent Crider held bottles of barbecue sauce Friday at JW's Drive-In in East Cape Girardeau. After much experimentation, Crider came up with his own line of sauce, which is sold at the drive-in.

Longtime radio host Kent Crider loves a good barbecue. In his online bio for K103, the country music station where he's the morning host, he lists "hickory smoke" ahead of "my wife's perfume" as his favorite smell.

Now he's offering the world his own secret sauce, something sweet with "a little bit of an afterburn."

Crider's been working on the recipe for 10 years, he said, trying different ingredients until he was satisfied.

"I wanted something good, but that didn't taste like something on store shelves," Crider said.

Bottles of the new Kent Crider BBQ Sauce bear his likeness on the label. (Kit Doyle)

There's only one place to get a taste of the sauce: JW's Drive-In, a recently opened sandwich stand at the Guetterman Boys East Cape Sales lot on Highway 146 in East Cape Girardeau. John Guetterman, one the owners, said he and Crider have been friends for more than a decade, with finding good barbecue just one of their shared interests.

When Guetterman opened the stand as a way to increase traffic on the used car lot, adding his friend's new sauce -- and an Ole Hickory Pits smoker to cook the pork butt for sandwiches -- was an easy decision, he said.

"I don't think it was an accident that it turned into something pretty good," Guetterman said. "The demand was there, and we made the investment."

Crider has been in radio for 28 years, more than half of that time in Cape Girardeau. He traces the effort to develop the perfect barbecue sauce to boredom. "It actually started back in the late '80s. I had a big interest in chili, making it and serving it to my friends. Chili and barbecue are my two favorite foods," he said as he patted his belly to emphasize the point. "I was getting bored with chili. And I learned early on that if you ask anyone what they put in their barbecue sauce, they will tell you it is a secret."

So, starting with ketchup, vinegar and mustard, Crider said he began experimenting. Various dry spices, a little more or a little less each time, until he said to himself: "Finally, I think this is it."

Everything in the sauce is a "pantry ingredient," he said. There's nobody else's sauce, such as a hot pepper sauce or Worcestershire, included, he said.

After satisfying his own taste, Crider said, he went shopping for someone to bottle it. He contracted with a Blytheville, Ark., bottler, but the initial job -- he was hoping to make 250 to 300 bottles -- was so small that the contractor kept putting off the production run.

So now at JW's, the sauce is made a gallon at a time and bottled for use on the sandwiches and for sale to the public. Because of restrictions on the sale of food products, it can only be sold at the drive-in.

But Crider and Guetterman have big plans. Guetterman is sure his customers like it -- they sell at least a bottle every day at the six-day a week stand that's open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"We'll just see what happens, see if it mushrooms or blossoms," Guetterman said. "It will not be a flop."

The sauce could be the start of something big, Crider said. "I am going to be 50 on my next birthday," he said. "I want to add something to my portfolio. I want to do radio as long as I can, but I am not putting all my eggs in one basket."

If the sauce takes off, he said he'll again look for a contract bottler who will do the government-required nutritional analysis, obtain a bar code registration and fulfill other requirements for wider retail distribution.

"I don't want people to think this has taken place of my job," he said. "It is merely at this point a sideline that is keeping me busy."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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