How Far Can Dexter Holland's Gringo Bandito Go?

What started as a gag gift by the Offspring singer is becoming a serious business

The biggest problem McCollum says the company faces is theft—restaurants keep reporting that consumers steal Gringo Bandito bottles. “When they’re free, it’s no big deal,” McCollum says. “But if you’re paying for it, that’s a problem. That’s our Achilles heel. We need to chain it to the table, put a magnet on it, something. We need to figure that one out.”

Holland grants McCollum autonomy but always keeps up with the Gringo Bandito business. “Ultimately, the sauce is all him—he has the final word on everything,” McCollum says. McCollum gets an e-mail from Holland every day and a visit once per week when he’s not on tour, and the two talk regularly on the phone.

“He’s always looking to make people happy,” says McCollum, who grew up listening to the Offspring. “We tried to get into the Sugar Shack, and the owner liked our sauce but didn’t want to carry us. The bottles say, ‘For God’s sake,’ and she’s very religious. I told that to Dexter, and he said, ‘Let’s make a special label just for her.’ We spent money to make a new printing plate that reads, ‘For Pete’s sake.’ Only for the Sugar Shack—every other bottle has the original God quote. That’s attention.”

*     *     *

“We’ve had it almost since the beginning,” says Wing Lam, founder of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. “I know a lot of these bands from before they were big. I know they all have their hobbies—in Dexter’s case, it was hot sauce. I don’t know where he got it from, but who cares? It’s good.

“When he came to me, he needed places to carry it to add credibility,” Lam adds. “I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve been a fan, and we should do something together.’” The relationship between Holland and Lam is such that Hungry Punker recently started bottling its second hot sauce: Mucho Aloha, found only at Wahoo’s, created to help them stave off the Gringo Bandito-theft problem.

“I’m not surprised it’s taken off,” Lam says. “It’s a good brand.”

Holland still can’t believe Gringo Bandito’s run. “I’m very surprised,” he says. “It feels like ‘Come Out and Play’ did when it was going big. We’re hearing a lot of great things from people. It feels like it’s something happening, and that’s really cool.”

The immediate goal for this year: break even. Last year, Holland stopped giving away bottles to restaurants and began charging; most continue to carry it because of consumer demand. “It’s nice to have a hobby, but it’s nicer if it can turn a profit,” he says. “I probably should’ve started a clothing company, something that made more sense. I should’ve picked something that sells for more than two bucks per bottle. But we do it because we love it. It’s just fun.”

He pauses. The pupusa is almost done. He still needs to return to the Gringo Bandito office for a couple of more hours of work. “I never thought I’d be looking at those things that control the flow of salsa—they’re called reducers—for a living and saying, ‘How can I make the hole size right?’”

“My nephews in Mexico say, ‘Gringos don’t eat chile,’” Arriaga says. “Oh, this one does.”

garellano@ocweekly.com

This article appeared in print as "Hot Licks: What started as a gag gift by the Offspring singer Dexter Holland is becoming a serious business. How far can his Gringo Bandito hot sauce go?"
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