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We used to scoff at the term ‘side hustle’,” says Marcy Harriell. “Now we realize we have about half a dozen.”
The actress/singer/sewist/vlogger and her husband Rob, an actor/writer who also works in development at New York City Ballet, are feeding me fries for breakfast in their Hell’s Kitchen apartment. On the side are two dishes of Rude Red Slammin’ Sauce, which, like any self-respecting New Yorker, has a multi-hyphenate identity. Hot sauce. Barbecue. Marinater. Punk rock ketchup. Mix it with mayo and you have a spicy aioli. This baby hustles for its rent.
“I started making this sauce, I don’t know, 15, 20 years ago,” says Rob, “just for cookouts, for us. And didn’t ever think anything about it other than I didn’t like anything else on the shelf – everything was too sweet, too hot, had too many chemical ingredients, or a combination
of all three.
“My best friend since I was two years old, Chris Dill – he’s a chef – he was in town and I made barbecue. He said, ‘What’s the sauce?’ He ate some more in this morning, and said, ‘Dude, we’ve got to bottle this.’”
The Rude Red train gathered momentum – “we’ve just been garage banding really” – and before they had a chance to catch their breath, they were being sold in a ton of stores in New Hampshire and one in New York City. “We can’t keep up with the demand.”
The ingredients are simple: apple cider vinegar, a little bit of tomato paste, a little salt, pepper, and spices … the secret is in the cooking, paying attention to get it just right, and nice and thick. “But it has this following,” says Marcy, “and people tell us everything they put it on: eggs, tacos, French fries, tofu, Brussels sprouts …”
“People tell us everything they put it on: eggs, tacos, French fries, tofu, Brussels sprouts …”
“Whenever we do a tasting, people come up with the weirdest stuff that they’re putting it on,” agrees Rob. “It is a multi-hyphenate, totally non-binary sauce. It’s what you want it to be. We’re not going to put any parameters on this baby.”
Marinate your steak in it. Douse your pulled chicken with it. “Last night Marcy put it on her pepperoni pizza,” says Rob.
“I was against it at first,” she proclaims. “Chris and Rob were like, ‘We’re going to make a pizza with some Rude Red,’ and I was like, ‘Don’t you dare. I will kill you!’ And now I will not eat a pizza without Rude Red on it. It’s so good.”
“Sometimes we’ll get Indian with samosas and we just dip them,” adds Rob. “Same thing with spring rolls.”
“My friend uses it as salad dressing,” says Marcy.
This playful attitude to food and ingredients began when Rob was just a whippersnapper, growing up in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “My mom was an amazing chef,” he says. “She was a stay-at-home mom, and every night she would do something different.
“When we were five, she got these place-mats that had dishes from around the world, and she’d make them. The rule of the table was you had to try everything and give it an honest try. And then, if you didn’t like it, you didn’t have to have it again. So it made us extremely adventurous.
“There was an Iranian family that lived in town, and the matriarch of that family, the grandmother, came over. She barely spoke a word of English but my mom and she just kind of hit it off and that woman taught her how to make authentic Iranian dishes, which is astounding.
“I was helping him cut the vegetables and I went, ‘Why isn’t this knife cutting?’ I was using it upside down!”
“So, flash forward, I was working in Paris with an acting coach and I had a blast with these Parisians. They took me all around and showed me the cuisine, and it opened up a new level of appreciation for food.”
He wooed Marcy with his cooking and, as early as their second date, he was whipping up a pasta dish with elegantly sliced vegetables. “I was helping him cut the vegetables and I went, ‘Why isn’t this knife cutting?’ I was using it upside down!
“I’m not a cook at all,” she admits, “and had not grown up adventurous, so Rob really opened up the door to me.”
Meanwhile, both of them are busy with their myriad other creative projects. Rob has just finished a screenplay. Marcy was reading a play by Joe Iconis. They’re still working on Marcy’s wildly colorful dressmaking vlog, appearing on the red carpet at NYCB, and generally being the coolest couple in Hell’s Kitchen. The common denominator? Joy.
“Life is tough enough,” says Rob. “Whether it be through cooking or singing or writing or whatever it may be, can we just bring some joy into the world?”
RUDE BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER RECIPE
½ cup Rude Red or Really Rude Red
1 head of cauliflower
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F.
2. Chop cauliflower into florets, about an inch wide.
3. In a mixing bowl, drench cauliflower with your Rude of choice.
4. Place cauliflower on a lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for 30 minutes (check periodically for browning).
6. For a crispier “fried” texture, finish under broiler for a minute or two (be careful not to burn!).
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Enjoy with a side of dipping Rude Red or Really Rude Red. Great as a fried “chicken” sandwich.
RUDE PULLED PORK RECIPE
Rude Red or Really Rude Red
1 pork shoulder or pork butt (6-10 lbs)
1 tsp each salt & pepper (or to taste)
1. Pre-heat oven to 300° F.
2. Salt and pepper all sides of pork, and place, fat-side up, in an oiled roasting pan.
3. Cover with tinfoil or lid and bake for 3-5 hours.
4. Remove from oven, and shred pork with two forks.
5. Slather with your Rude of choice.
6. Enjoy alone, or on your favorite bun.
A version of this interview first appeared in the November 2019 issue of W42ST magazine. Stay in touch and be first to read stories like this when you join our daily newsletter at w42st.com