Does this face look familiar? It’s not just you. Loyal readers may recognize Lori Sandoval as one-third of the WomenMadeLA team we spotlighted back in December last year. For those who aren’t already in the know, Lori recently teamed up with fellow makers Sashee Chandran and Debbie Mullin, both of whom sell their wares here at UncommonGoods, to form a collective of lady entrepreneurs taking the City of Angels by storm. And now it’s her turn to take a dip in the limelight.
Like Debbie and Sashee, Lori’s creations are edible—sauces inspired by the diverse culinary landscape of Mexico, her parents’ home country, and ever-so-aptly dubbed “Mexican Cooking Sauces.” We’ll let you in on a secret here… they’re amazing. Like, “Where have you been all my life?” grade amazing. So it’s only natural that we had to ask her about them, just like we asked Sashee all about Tea Drops and Debbie about her delectable pour overs.
Read on for a full account of our conversation with flavor guru Lori, including talk of art history, sauce-loving kids, and wise words from the mouth—er, pen?—of Ralph Waldo Emerson, transcendentalist extraordinaire.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did your business come to be?
Well, when I was 8, I thought I would be the first woman president of the United States, but that didn’t really work out! I gave up on my political career in high school when my interests became zeroed in on the arts and I decided to go on to study Art History in college. However, as a first-generation child of Mexican immigrants, there were expectations of obtaining a traditional profession, so I went on to pursue Architecture in my postgraduate studies. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. So I quit my studies and enrolled in culinary school. It had always been a dream of mine to cook professionally and so I did! After years of cooking in several celebrated restaurants, I decided I wanted to share the flavors of my heritage, the country I had spent so much time in, both as a child and as an adult. I thought sauces were the ideal vehicle to highlight and promote the varying culinary traditions of each Mexican region, just like I grew up experiencing. A delectable study of salsas (the Spanish word for “sauce”) if you will—and so my business was born!
What was the most exciting part of launching your business? How about the toughest part?
The sauces are like my babies, so every milestone has been very exciting and memorable for me. But if I had to single one thing out, I’d say nothing compares to seeing people’s faces and reactions when they first taste the sauces. It’s like the ultimate validation—it makes all of the tough times worth it. As for the difficult parts, my gut response is to say “everything is tough!” Every day is full of challenges, but that’s what gets me up every morning. I remind myself that there is someone else out there working hard to take my dream, so you better believe I get up every day and hustle!
Each of your cooking sauces is inspired by the flavors of a particular region of Mexico—Jalisco, Zacatecas, Oaxaca. How have you chosen which areas to spotlight?
I launched the line with two cooking sauces that reflect the culinary experiences of Mexico’s Jalisco and Zacatecas regions, in honor of my mother and father’s hometowns—Ancho Chile & Tamarind Sauce and Chile Negro & Hibiscus Sauce. Both of these regional flavors are so familiar to me that it just made sense to start there. Afterwards, I introduced our Tres Chiles & Mezcal Sauce to the collection of sauces, which is an homage to the celebrated cuisine of Oaxaca. Mexico is a treasure trove of regional flavors, that’s why I think it’s a science or study of sorts. Having experienced several stints in other regions, I can say with certainty that the inspiration is endless and we will be introducing more flavors later this year!
Describe a “typical day” at work, assuming such a thing exists.
I don’t think there’s such a thing for a start-up! But for the most part, I like to set the tone of my day at home in quietude. I do some yoga stretches and meditate in the mornings before diving into emails with a cup of matcha. From there, anything is possible. We’re a small team, so everyone does everything, including me. So on any given day you can find me working demos, accounting, and most definitely doing sales calls. But I think I favor interacting with our customers because I believe they are our top priority, so whatever is needed to make them happy we prioritize because without them, we would simply not be.
Do you keep a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object at hand as you work? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I do! I have a set of quartzes and crystals that I wear daily depending on what type of day I’m having. I’m very hard on myself so a rose quartz is almost a daily essential because it helps me foster self-love and inner peace. It allows me to accept all that is not in my control. Which for any entrepreneur is tough to process.
Sometimes we ask artists to imagine how a kindergartner would respond to their work. What do you think a wee one would say upon tasting one of your sauces for the first time?
We’ve had kids try our sauces at demo events and more often than not, they love them and make their parents buy them. Kids today are so discerning and have adventurous palates that it’s super cool to watch when they are instantly surprised by the explosive flavors. But… it’s just as great and funny to watch when kids don’t like them.