We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
At least for Alissa Peña, one that can hold the large order of jars the Corpus Christi-based owner of JalaPeña’s Salsa has been tapped to produce for director Kevin Smith.
After wowing the owner of Jade City Foods, a company that makes a variety of movie tie-in food products, Peña landed the opportunity to produce a line of “Salsa Shark” salsas, named for a joke in the director’s 1994 cult classic “Clerks,” ahead of the release of the third installment of that film’s saga.
“When it came around to finding out that I was going to be a part of it, I first didn’t really fully believe,” Peña said. “Secondly, I had a full-blown fangirl freak out. I’ve still never spoken to him. But talking to Jade City Foods was like … It blew my mind and was super exciting. And I had a super fangirl moment and then I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, okay. Get to work. Get your mind in the game. It’s go time.’”
Peña’s culinary journey has foundations in her family. A cornerstone of her line of salsas, “Prissy’s Original,” is named for her mother and is based upon the recipe Peña learned from her.
“My mom started my interest in food at a very early age because that’s how she showed her love,” Peña said. “We believe in our family that food is a love language. And we saw that if somebody is sick, somebody is happy, celebrating, ill, all of it … we show up with food, right? That’s what we do. So I think it was instilled at a very early age. My mom always cooked. We didn’t always have a ton of money, but there was always dinner on the table and it was always incredible, no matter what she did, because there was so much love put into it.”
But the spark that led Peña to start jarring and selling her salsas came after she was asked by friends and coworkers to bottle her well-loved product for a Christmas posada. The request prompted Peña to do some quick learning of how the process works – a process that took some time to perfect.
“The start of the business I think was definitely hard because I had to teach myself how to jar salsas, right?” Peña said. “How to can. And I started with basically two big pots and a rack and a lot of YouTube tutorials, teaching myself how to keep it on. And honestly, there’s nothing more frustrating than going through the labor of love that is making salsa.
It’s hot peppers. It’s hot in your hands. It’s hot in the house. I mean, it’s hot all the way around, right? And then not sealing something correctly and having them pop or not pop and you losing all of that product and those lids. It was definitely a hurdle in the beginning – trying to really nail it and get it down. But it eventually clicked. Now it’s clockwork.”