LocationAlhambra , CA
Zin and Andrew Lee began their garlicky chili oil journey one year ago, when Andrew set on a mission to make the perfect spicy condiment for Zin.
The Zin’s family is from Myanmar. “They love spice,” Andrew said. “We tried different chilis from around the area and ordered chili but nothing really satisfies her.”
“Then it was my goal to come up with something to make her happy. We came up with this recipe and gave it to some friends. Then more people started asking me for it,” Andrew said.
The husband-wife duo created an Instagram account for the garlic chili oil, called ZinDrew Chili, and got a food handler card. On July 27, 2019 the first photos announced the venture and the milestone of the first 100 preorders.
The couple said they were happy when they filled their first 100 orders, but now their business has grown past their friends and family.
They make roughly 400 jars of chili oil per week, which takes them about nine hours at Andrew’s parent’s house in Monterey Park, and then they take the oil home to Whittier to label and seal it. Andrew delivers all the local orders too.
At the moment, there is a two week wait for orders placed.
On Tuesday, ZinDrew Chili transitioned to a commercial kitchen in El Monte.
With a kitchen producing the chili oil, Andrew says they can now use the production day to concentrate on increasing business. He thinks the move to the kitchen could enable them to produce 2000 jars per month.
“I don’t want to grow too fast. It took us about a year to get to this point,” he said.
Andrew is a retired professional golfer, now teaching golf. When the county announced the stay-at-home orders golf courses were ordered closed and like many others, Andrew was without work. Zin is a respiratory therapist at Kaiser Permanente.
“I was sitting at home. We were making chili and selling, but not at this level. I had to make a choice: am I going to sit on my butt and not do anything or get working?”
He has his sights set on getting the cost of production down so ZinDrew Chili can be sold wholesale to restaurants or a local market.
The crunchy, garlicky chili oil comes in two varieties: “OG” and “Suicide Batch.”
In popular culture, O.G. means original, co-opted from the abbreviation of “original gangster.”
Andrew explained the extra spicy Suicide Batch origins.
“When I made the first batch I taste tested it and was dying for over 30 minutes, I thought, ‘eat this if you want to kill yourself,’ so that’s where Suicide Batch came about.”
ZinDrew Chili sells roughly equal amounts of each batch. They have repeat customers that buy multiple jars per month.
Today, ZinDrew Chili sells 9 and 16 ounce jars, and occasionally, a travel size jar.
“No other chili out there really tastes like ours. We’ve felt very lucky to have supporters,” Andrew said.