I'm just going to come out and say it—I have a serious girl crush on Molly Fienning. Not only does she love hot sauce as much as I do, she's just the kind of fun, easygoing, badass woman you want in your circle.
I met Molly this summer in Charleston on The "After" Party Tour and it was clear from the get-go that I needed to know more about the co-founder and CEO of Red Clay, including what she stocks her pantry with. Read on to get to know Molly and stay till the end for the pantry-friendly dish recipe she cooks on repeat...
What's the story of how Red Clay came to be?
No joke, Red Clay made me a hot sauce convert and is the reason I ended up launching this Southern company with my partner, Chef Geoff Rhyne. He worked at one of the best restaurants in Charleston, where he crafted a hot sauce honoring the beautiful, local Fresno peppers. I was a regular at the restaurant (still am!) and fell in love with the sauce the first time I tried it.
The sauce offered a complex balance of flavor notes (sweet, salty, acid, umami, heat) and didn’t taste like any hot sauce I had tried before, so I wanted to help him bring it to market and share the deliciousness!
Geoff and I partnered in 2014 to launch Red Clay Hot Sauce. In 2018, I stepped in as CEO to scale it nationally, rolling out to Whole Foods Market, Food52, Publix and The Fresh Market. Since then, our company has grown 300% YOY for three years straight. Food and Wine Magazine named us "Tabasco for the 21st Century" and The New York Times called us a "hot honey to elevate your meal". It's been such a fun ride.
What item(s) is your pantry incomplete without?
Being in the food space, I’ve made some wonderful friends who are change-making female CEOs (just like Social Studies’ Jess!). So, I always love supporting them. My friend Aishwarya’s Brightland oils and vinegars sourced in California and Christa’s El Guapo cocktail bitters made in New Orleans are two examples. The El Guapo flavors to try are Christa’s Chicory Pecan (perfect for a modern, complex Old-Fashioned) and Polynesian Kiss (which goes in all island-inspired drinks—I love a Rum Sizzle).
What’s your pantry organization (or disorganization!) method?
I have many strengths, and organization at home is not one of them. I rely on my friend Margaret, who owns the organization company Sunday Plans. She visits a few times a year and sets me (and my pantry) straight. It’s beautiful, and I tear up each time I see my kitchen after she’s done.
So… what’s a party like at your place?
I typically host two kinds of parties. One is a group of rockstar female entrepreneurs enjoying a conversation and delicious dinner on my porch, where we chat about how we can support and learn from one another. The second is a fun group date night with a good DJ (we love Charleston-based DJ Moo Moo!) and late night dancing. My husband Ted and I both love a great dance party.
If your best friend opened your pantry, how would they know it’s yours?
Big, bold, jammy (and currently untrendy… why!?) Cabernet from California. Also, lots of Red Clay bottles.
What's your favorite after party snack?
Lindt milk chocolate (the one with the yellow wrapper that has corn flakes in it—yum!) or Yogi ginger tea, depending on how many cocktails I have had.
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If fresh local eggs or Chobani strawberry yogurt is running low, I'm stressing. Yogurt with granola on top is my boys’ favorite breakfast and eggs are mine (besides pancakes, obviously, which we make together as a treat on weekends).
I am single-handedly keeping our amazing, local Charleston CSA, Community Supported Grocery in business. We all need to keep our local food ecosystems humming.
If I’m feeling bougie, I'm eating the “caviar” presentation at my favorite Charleston restaurant, The Ordinary. It can’t technically be called caviar since it is sourced from local NC fish, but I argue that it’s even better, and a better price point.
For the fall, I love making pureed veggie soups, and this Fall Potage Soup, chock full of yummy butternut squash and root vegetables, is cozy and nourishing as the weather gets colder. I serve it with a fresh green salad dressed in balsamic vinegar, oil, salt. Recipe below!