Restaurant News

Meet the Melbourne man whose hot sauce shop is causing heat waves

Some like it hot. And they should be getting their fix from Mat Garthwaite’s sauce shop.

Mat's Hot Shop in Collingwood. Photo: supplied
Condiments have long inspired fierce allegiance and debate (just ask anyone what they think of Vegemite), but it's the humble hot sauce that captured the devoted gaze of Mat Garthwaite. Tired of working in the music industry, he made a quick-fire exit and launched Mat's Hot Shop, which had its beginnings in markets and online, before its Collingwood shop cropped up late last year in Melbourne.
The saucy shop pulls together fiery condiments from across the globe including oils, sauces and chutneys, with a focus on naturally made, Australian numbers. "At first, I struggled to find 10 local makers doing all-natural hot sauces when we launched – now we stock around 55," says Garthwaite. He also hopes to introduce people to sauces whether they seek heat or not. "People have really bad experiences with hot sauce. There's this extreme side to it and the challenge side – that's the last thing I want people to worry about with what we do," he says. "The priority is the flavour, and it's not a competition. I want to find you something you can enjoy and use on a day-to-day basis to make your food better."
Prepping a hot sauce tasting. Photo: supplied
This speaks to the broader trend afoot within the hot sauce-making community, which Garthwaite refers to as the "third wave" of hot sauce. Phase one was the initial introduction of hot sauces to tables ("Think Tabasco, high vinegar – simple table sauces to add more spice.") followed by phase two, aka the death era. ("This was when flavour went out the window, because it was about extreme heat. They pushed it to fulfil thrillseekers.") Finally, the third phase, or present wave, favours natural and craft sauces. "I want that to be natural – people spend so much money on organic groceries or making an organic meal, and then they'll put sauce on top of it filled with additives, preservatives and junk."
The range at Mat's Hot Shop. Photo: supplied
To ensure they are bringing punters along for the ride – no matter their spice threshold – Mat's Hot Shop offers tastings of the 170-odd sauces on the shelves. "We chat to customers about what they are after: the heat level they are comfortable with, and the flavours they enjoy." From there they narrow it down to five or so choices from their selection of all things fermented, funky, fruity, briney, umami-spiked and pickled.
"They are generally surprised by the flavours and the fact hot sauce isn't just the red sauce you find on the table any more. There's so many crazy different flavours. We always break it down to smoky, sweet, savoury and sour – and then we can point you in any direction." So when it comes to condiments, the world really can be your oyster, with a good glug of natural hot sauce on it.
Mat's Hot Shop
204A Wellington St, Collingwood, Vic
matshotshop.com