Wining & Dining
Tabasco: A Simple Recipe with a Long Local History
3/7/2016 9:24:24 AM

Tabasco is a simple product with a long Louisiana history. The Avery Island brand—one of Louisiana’s most recognizable—has just three ingredients: peppers, vinegar, and salt. But each year, McIlhenny Co. welcomes hundreds of tourists to its factory each year. The McIlhenny name is now synonymous with Tabasco, but for many, it’s also synonymous with a deep and genuine respect for Louisiana. The family has led sustainability and conservation efforts in Louisiana for more than 100 years. E.A. McIlhenny lobbied to make the snowy egret one of the first-ever federally protected wildlife species.

The family has a longtime history of commitment to both the conservation of and education around Louisiana’s wetlands and even encourages students from around the state to come and plant marsh grass.

"Our family has been on Avery Island since 1818,” says Tony Simmons, President and CEO of the McIlhenny Company and great-great-grandson of Edmund McIlhenny, founder. Simmons says they strive to be "good stewards of the land.”

Tabasco remains committed to bringing its vision—both culinary and philanthropic—further into the 21st century.

"Our goal is simple: to make people’s food taste better,” Simmons says. "We currently ship to 187 countries around the world, and we get visitors from all over the world. We do a good bit of social media; we promote Tabasco with a very strong corporate budget, and we even make some products you’d be surprised to see, like Tabasco mayonnaise, olives, spicy beans, and spicy okra. We’ve even got Tabasco teriyaki and soy sauce to try and expand the use of the product.”

Simmons credits the widespread use of Tabasco in ever more modern, unconventional dishes, to a newfound interest in global cuisine, one that has made America, and the world, much more interested in trying Louisiana flavors. That newfound interest really pays off, especially when new audiences realize that Tabasco can add flavor without heat.

"We’re seeing is a real change in food culture, and Louisiana is a beneficiary of that change,” Simmons says. "What we see going on around the world is that people are much more open to experimenting than they used to be whether its with Cajun cuisine, Thai, or Vietnamese. We sell more Tabasco to the food service industry than we do to grocery stores, and most of that is being used in the kitchen, where chefs use it because the flavor lasts, if not the heat.”

And while Tabasco might always have a reputation as a spicy afterthought to the casual diner, Simmons is okay with that too. "You can use it as a condiment. It adds layers of flavor.”

Another place layers are being added is the Avery Island facility.

As tourists continue to pour into Avery Island, Simmons says the company has invested more than $5 million to modernize the visitor tours fondly remembered by many generations of Louisiana school children.

The old-school, 15-minute looping videos at the back of the gift shop are a thing of the past. Instead, they’re being replaced by a much more immersive experience, including an updated museum with family artifacts dating back hundreds of years, new factory tour and a brand new restaurant.

"We spent $5.5 million doing the upgrades to our visitor experience at Avery Island,” Simmons says. "And we’ve now officially opened the new visitor experience for Tabasco, in addition to making a much more interactive experience for visitors, like our new museum with artifacts for people to see. For example, our second president, John McIlhenny, resigned from the company to join Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders,” Simmons says. "And now we’ve got his uniform and boots on display.”

Simmons says the new visitor experience will give tour groups a more complete history of the company and the family itself.

Tabasco is a simple product with a long Louisiana history. The Avery Island brand—one of Louisiana’s most recognizable—has just three ingredients: peppers, vinegar, and salt. But each year, McIlhenny Co. welcomes hundreds of tourists to its factory each year. The McIlhenny name is now synonymous with Tabasco, but for many, it’s also synonymous with a deep and genuine respect for Louisiana. The family has led sustainability and conservation efforts in Louisiana for more than 100 years. E.A. McIlhenny lobbied to make the snowy egret one of the first-ever federally protected wildlife species.

The family has a longtime history of commitment to both the conservation of and education around Louisiana’s wetlands and even encourages students from around the state to come and plant marsh grass.

"Our family has been on Avery Island since 1818,” says Tony Simmons, President and CEO of the McIlhenny Company and great-great-grandson of Edmund McIlhenny, founder. Simmons says they strive to be "good stewards of the land.”

Tabasco remains committed to bringing its vision—both culinary and philanthropic—further into the 21st century.

"Our goal is simple: to make people’s food taste better,” Simmons says. "We currently ship to 187 countries around the world, and we get visitors from all over the world. We do a good bit of social media; we promote Tabasco with a very strong corporate budget, and we even make some products you’d be surprised to see, like Tabasco mayonnaise, olives, spicy beans, and spicy okra. We’ve even got Tabasco teriyaki and soy sauce to try and expand the use of the product.”

Simmons credits the widespread use of Tabasco in ever more modern, unconventional dishes, to a newfound interest in global cuisine, one that has made America, and the world, much more interested in trying Louisiana flavors. That newfound interest really pays off, especially when new audiences realize that Tabasco can add flavor without heat.

"We’re seeing is a real change in food culture, and Louisiana is a beneficiary of that change,” Simmons says. "What we see going on around the world is that people are much more open to experimenting than they used to be whether its with Cajun cuisine, Thai, or Vietnamese. We sell more Tabasco to the food service industry than we do to grocery stores, and most of that is being used in the kitchen, where chefs use it because the flavor lasts, if not the heat.”

And while Tabasco might always have a reputation as a spicy afterthought to the casual diner, Simmons is okay with that too. "You can use it as a condiment. It adds layers of flavor.”

Another place layers are being added is the Avery Island facility.

As tourists continue to pour into Avery Island, Simmons says the company has invested more than $5 million to modernize the visitor tours fondly remembered by many generations of Louisiana school children.

The old-school, 15-minute looping videos at the back of the gift shop are a thing of the past. Instead, they’re being replaced by a much more immersive experience, including an updated museum with family artifacts dating back hundreds of years, new factory tour and a brand new restaurant.

"We spent $5.5 million doing the upgrades to our visitor experience at Avery Island,” Simmons says. "And we’ve now officially opened the new visitor experience for Tabasco, in addition to making a much more interactive experience for visitors, like our new museum with artifacts for people to see. For example, our second president, John McIlhenny, resigned from the company to join Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders,” Simmons says. "And now we’ve got his uniform and boots on display.”

Simmons says the new visitor experience will give tour groups a more complete history of the company and the family itself.


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