Thomas Hochheim with their Smokin' T's at The Petite Chef in
DELAFIELD - Thereís something about a
natural smoky taste that is as comforting as a campfire
and generates a cult-like following among fans, said
Thomas Hochheim, who created Smokiní Ts to harness that
ďItís a familiar flavor, but you canít
put your finger on it. Itís a comfort flavor,Ē he said.
Made in Dousman but based in Delafield,
Smokiní Ts is a versatile product that can be used as a
sauce, dressing or marinade.
Hochheim first came up with the idea
while working in a French restaurant in Florida. While
making smoked scallops for an appetizer at the
restaurant in the early Ď90s, one day he tossed tomatoes
into the batch and then used them to make a vinaigrette
to accompany the shellfish. Later, he moved to Delafield
and worked at Kurtís Steakhouse, where locals got to
sample the smoky tomato product and wanted more of it.
Sauce, Dressing, Marinade.
His heritage, though, is German. Hochheim
immigrated to the United States on a 32-foot sailboat
with his family when he was 13 and eventually settled in
Now, 30 years later, Hochheim is pursuing
the American dream of owning a business. In February,
Hochheim launched Smokiní Ts. He makes two versions of
the sauce: original and with a kick. One of the best
aspects of Smokiní Ts sauces is how versatile they are,
he said, explaining they can be used in Bloody Mary
drinks, burgers, stews, marinated pork chops, chili,
taco dip, chicken salad and more.
The process to make the sauce is labor
intensive so itís still made in small batches at The
Petite Chef in Dousman, where Hochheim smokes the
tomatoes and doesnít use an artificial smoke flavor
additive. In fact, the sauces are all natural. During
the peak time, Hochheim said, he was producing up to 50
cases of Smokiní Ts per week.
Since starting to sell the 12-ounce
bottles of Smokiní Ts, Hochheim has distributed it to
area stores, including Albrechtís Sentry in Delafield,
Daybreak Station in Delafield, Good Harvest Market in
Waukesha, Sentry stores in Waukesha, Madison and
Wauwatosa, Sausage Haus and Oil Well in Oconomowoc,
among others. He also sold it at nine farmers markets
during the summer. This winter, Smokiní Ts can be found
at several winter farmers markets, including in
Oconomowoc, Milaegerís in Racine, McFarland and
He has gotten into so many markets thanks
to his family, who helps with production, distribution
and selling. He credits his wife, Jeannie, daughter,
Erika Goff, and son-in-law Jon as huge helpers, as well
as his son, Evan, and in-laws, John and Pat Hallagen.
Hochheimís plan is to expand locally as
much as possible and then increase nationally. He has
had sales online to other states.
ď(I hope) they might stumble onto
something they want on their regular shopping list,Ē he
The vegan, gluten-free Smokiní Ts retails
for $7.49 to $8.49 per 12-ounce bottle.
ďIím extremely confident that Smokiní Ts
will be around for a long time,Ē he said.