GATLINBURG - A couple who used to work at the top of Mount LeConte running the lodge has settled at a lower elevation in Gatlinburg to pursue a new business.
Chris and Allyson Virden may have moved off the top of the mountain, but they still have a lot of spice in their lives.
"That generic jar of crushed red peppers is in a million restaurants in every pizza place you can think of and you never see a different jar," Chris Virden observed.
He couldn't find a better version so he decided to make one.
Allyson Virden embraced the idea.
"And out of his million ideas I decided that this one was actually a good one to pursue," she said.
"There was a pause and she was like yeah that's not totally crazy. You should do it," he said.
And so he did, about two years ago.
"Bought every pepper I could find in Knoxville and dried them all up and I called a friend and we got a six-pack of beer and a pizza and started trying them out," Chris said.
They experimented with five different recipes and came up with results that were too hot, not hot enough and just right.
They finally perfected the recipe for Olde Virden's Red Hot Sprinkle, which they make next to their house in Gatlinburg.
"I am also the labeler. He calls me the Allyson 5000," Allyson said. "I label all the bottles by hand. We are truly a mom and pop shop as far as the two of us doing all the work."
It is all dried peppers. Nothing else.
"We don't any salt, any preservatives, any sugar or all of that. And by drying the pepper you're keeping all the natural flavor in the pepper," Chris said.
Allyson said, "It's great on pizza. It's the best thing there is and the healthiest condiment."
Its use is not limited to pizza.
"I've heard people have put it on cantaloupe and watermelon, you name it," she said. "We have it in fudge, we make cheese straws with it, I've played around with ice cream with it and chocolate ice cream. it's really good."
The Virdens are confident if you try their product, you will like it.
"It's all sweet when you first taste it and then people are like 'That's not spicy,' and then a couple seconds later you can taste this nice mellow burn at the end and it's fabulous," Chris said.
They sell it in 16 different East Tennessee locations, online and at the Market Square Farmers Market.
(© 2016 WBIR)