Todd Chambers likes to have fun, experiment and play with his food.
His company, Really Horrible Enterprises, doesn't have an obvious theme for the wide range of products it makes, but the majority are used to enhance food and drinks, he says. The things Chambers makes out of his garage and home-workshop are all unique items people would normally buy at the grocery store instead of making themselves.
“I like to make things for intelligent people, for people who like to think, not someone who’s just going to shove a burrito in the microwave,” he said. “It’s people who like to cook, people who like to play with their alcohol, people who aren't satisfied with what they get from the producers. ‘Oh you can only drink this particular way,’ well, no, change it up, do what you want to make it taste good.”
He said the drive to experiment is what got him started with Really Horrible Enterprises. The business began by making homemade vanilla extract, which sold out when he brought it to craft shows. It’s a simple process to steep vanilla beans in alcohol for six months, but nobody else was taking the time to do it.
After making vanilla extract, Chambers started making cocktail bitters, personal lubricant, coffee makers and whiskey stones. He said he makes what catches his imagination and never knows what he’s going to be making from one day to the next.
The products aren't available in stores, only online and at Ottawa-area craft shows. The uniqueness and range of his products is what separates Really Horrible Enterprises from other makers at shows, Chambers said.
“When people are at a craft show looking at the tables, a lot of it is the same. You’ll have four people making soap or three people making jewlery,” he said. “But they get to our booth and they either ask the question ‘what is this?’, it piques their interest or they go ‘no that’s too weird for us’ and they walk away.”
“But there’s enough of those people that see the unique and are engaged in the different,” Chambers said.
Really Horrible Enterprises also makes whiskey barrel aging kits, which Chambers said is a piece of white oak wood that he’s set on fire so it’s charred on the outside.
“You put one of those into a canning jar with some booze and it lends more smoky flavour to the booze. You’re barrel aging but instead of putting the alcohol in a barrel, you’re basically putting the barrel into the alcohol.”
He said he’s constantly surprised with the creative ways people use his products. One customer used the whiskey barrel aging kit to make a smoked cream sauce for seafood. Chambers said this use blew his mind.
The name “Really Horrible Enterprises” came from wanting to do the opposite of what people expected.
“I like to fix problems, so I thought ‘ok well I want to shock people, I want to get their attention, I will do the exact opposite of what everybody else is doing.’”
While the business is a side-project for Chambers, he said he wants to continue experimenting and making new products. When he retires from his full time job he’ll continue with Really Horrible Enterprises because it’s something fun that holds his interest, he said.
“I need to do something. That’s the thing that I’ve found, is that I can’t just sit around. I’ve got ten fingers, may as well use them all.”