Mark Ramadon is passionate about his high-quality ketchup. "It combines all five basic tastes into an amazing cocktail of flavors that get lost in traditional varieties," he says. The 25-year-old didn't let a lack of formal food training dampen his enthusiasm when he joined Scott Norton, a fellow Brown University classmate, to create Sir Kensington's Gourmet Scooping Ketchup in 2008. They produced a well-balanced, highly nuanced condiment that has 50% less sugar (no high-fructose corn syrup) and half the sodium of supermarket contenders. And its pleasantly thick, slightly chunky texture comes from whole tomatoes, not concentrate. It's available in regular and spiced varieties.
How did two guys with no formal training develop your final product?
We looked up tons of ketchup recipes, bought every ingredient under the sun, and made eight different ketchups, then had a ketchup-tasting party our senior year at Scott's apartment. By the end, his kitchen was absolutely covered in tomatoes and smelled like vinegar.
How did you keep sodium and sugar levels down without sacrificing taste?
It happened naturally. We put in as much salt as we thought it needed to keep the taste perfect, and it just so happened that was half as much as some major brands. We only used natural sweeteners that we actually wanted to eat.
We live in a ketchup country. Why mess with America's most sacred condiment?
We live in a white bread country as well, but that doesn't mean folks can't choose whole wheat, rye, or sourdough. We were excited by the possibility to offer choice in a category that previously had none.
Do you think the specialty food biz is going to continue or go bust?
Food is changing in America, and we think it's a trend, not a fad. Our generation is rediscovering food as a form of entertainment and self-expression.
By John Grossman
Photography by Bobby Fisher