After rotting garlic left a bad taste in his mouth, Vincent Verret decided to grow his own in the backyard. Before he knew it, he had started a garden full of garlic, peppers and tomatoes. Then he did what any backyard farmer with a bouquet of flavors would do: make some chili sauce.

Since then, Verret started Oso Pepper Company and is working to get his line of Cry Out sauces into the mainstream grocery chains. We talked to Verret about why he loves San Jose, and what gave him the idea to start creating his sauces. What brought you to San Jose?

I moved down here from San Francisco in 1976, and after receiving an education elsewhere and the Air Force, I came back to San Jose around 1986 and never left.

What do you love most about San Jose?

The weather.

Where would you have your last meal on earth?

I would have had it Strata’s, but they closed down. It was a wonderful steakhouse and a had a great vodka bar.

Where do you go for your steak now?

My kitchen (laughs).

Where’s a cool place to take an out of towner in San Jose?

The Tech Museum, my family really enjoys that place. As far as food goes, Back A Yard is really good. I was turned on to them after discovering their original location in Menlo Park.

What’s your favorite San Jose event?

The San Jose Jazz Festival is one of my favorites, but the Almaden Art and Wine festival is always a good time as well.

What inspired you to start OSO Pepper Company?

Bad Chinese garlic.

You’re going to have to explain that one.

We live 30 miles north of Gilroy which is the “garlic capital of the world” and for some strange reason we import garlic from China. We would buy garlic in bulk and get too many rotting pieces. My wife got tired of throwing so much garlic away, so we started growing it in the back yard. Eventually we started growing peppers as well.

What inspired you to make chili sauce?

We ended up with pounds and pounds of peppers. We didn’t know what else to do with them. I talked with my mother-in-law about how we could preserve this stuff, and she helped me start canning and blending it to make sauce. We made sauce out of the house for about five years.

Why is it called Oso Pepper Company?

We wanted to incorporate the bear from the California flag because we thought it would be a strong image, but we couldn’t make sense of a bear and peppers together, so we just took the created the name Oso, which means bear in Spanish. We have people coming up to us and saying the sauce is “oso” good, and we have to explain to them it means bear.

Does the bottle say cry out on it because it’s extremely hot?

Actually, that one came from a gentleman in Willow Glen who cuts me and my wife’s hair. We went in one day for haircuts and he told us “your Surf Sauce makes me want to cry out for more,” and that stuck.  Cry Out is our line of products and we have two BBQ sauces, pickled asparagus, pickled green beans, pickled spears, a chili sauce, a roasted garlic salsa and a surf sauce. We’re also in the process of making a dry rub.

What’s in the chili sauce?

Habanero, jalapeño, serano, red bell pepper and chipotle peppers. We believe that we found a nice balance of medium heat and a ton of flavor with the chili sauce.

What’s in the Surf Sauce?

Our surf sauce consists of mango, habanero and pineapple. My wife loves to take the Surf Sauce and pour it on top of vanilla ice cream. It’s actually pretty good. You get the sweet of the ice cream, a little heat and more sweetness from  all the fruit.

Where can people buy your products?

Right now, it’s all based online, and you can buy the entire cry out line at Our sauces are available at Heat Hot Sauce Shop in Berkley, but we are also working on getting into some of the larger chain grocery stores.