Adam Wright grew up in a family of avid cooks, so the seeds of his own culinary interests were planted early – with an Easy-Bake Oven and cooking lessons from his mother and grandmother.
For as long as he can remember, Wright says, he has enjoyed cooking for others and experimenting in the kitchen, but he never pursued his culinary hobbies professionally.
That could soon change. The 33-year-old debt collector’s recipe for barbecue sauce has landed him on a new Lifetime show called “Supermarket Superstar,” a reality competition series that gives talented home cooks the opportunity to pitch products to industry experts in the hope of getting them onto store shelves. His episode airs Thursday at 10:30 p.m.
If he wins the competition and gets his barbecue sauce into stores, Wright’s dabbling in the kitchen will morph into something much more than a hobby.
Wright says his family and friends in Wake Forest are incredibly excited that he made it on the show and arewaiting “on pins and needles” to see how he does. In fact, the Fire Pit, a Wake Forest restaurant that supplies the bacon Wright uses in his sauce, will host a viewing party Thursday at 8 p.m. to give people a chance to sample the recipe.
Whatever the outcome, Wright says the process of filming the show and receiving advice from industry legends like Debbie Fields of Mrs. Fields Famous Brands has been valuable.
“It’s been a tremendous opportunity,” he said. “I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting the entire experience has been.”
Bacon makes it better
The barbecue sauce that will compete for a spot on store shelves is dubbed the Wright Sauce, and it’s based on a family recipe traditionally served over rice and meatballs.
Wright says he was barbecuing one day and, bored by the sauces on his shelf, decided to put some of the leftover meatball sauce on his pork. The combination worked.
“Ever since then, I’d make it for parties,” Wright said. “People would always come up and say, ‘Man, you’ve got to get this in stores – it’s the best sauce I’ve ever had.’”
Bolstered by the positive reactions, Wright began to tweak the family recipe. Turned off by the artificial quality of the smoky flavors in many barbecue sauces, Wright decided to incorporate smoked bacon.
“That was just a hit from the get-go,” he said. “Bacon makes everything better.”
Lifetime’s “Supermarket Superstar” will feature Wright’s Honey Habanero Bacon Sauce. He has also created a Honey Apple Bacon Sauce, as well as a version called Flaming Bacon that offers a little more heat. Wright sells the sauces online ( thewrightsauce.com).
Wright concedes that the barbecue sauce market is oversaturated, but despite the many brands and varieties out there, he believes most sauces rarely set themselves apart.
“The problem isn’t really a lack of flavor; it’s more that the different sauces all tend to taste the same,” he said.
From the family kitchen
Presenting his sauce to judges and a huge audience of television viewers marks a sharp break from his previously more intimate, familiar culinary platforms – cooking for his family. He cooks beef curry every Sunday night and says he also loves to perfect recipes for classic Southern dishes like biscuits and gravy.
Wright’s mother and his grandmother influenced him the most as far as cooking goes, though he also has his father’s killer chili recipe in his back pocket.
“Growing up, I was always in the kitchen,” Wright said. “I really associate food with the comfort of family.”
Wright enjoyed the adventure of his brief foray into show business, but above all, he says, he’s excited by the chance to share his culinary creation with others – and to show that barbecue sauce doesn’t have to be a “cookie-cutter thing.”