For retired marine Achilles Murray, the recent lockdown has been a blessing. “People are cooking more at home. They are tired of ordering takeout. That’s where my reputable and delicious barbecue sauces come handy,” says Murray.
Murray and his wife started J&T's Gourmet Sauces from their home kitchen while stationed in Japan. Murray, a native of Pasadena, California, joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of 22 and was deployed for about 13 years of his career. His family lived in Japan, Hawaii, South Carolina and California, and traveled all over the world. “We got to see a lot of places, including Hong Kong, Australia and Dubai. My favorite time was when I was stationed in Jordan for eight months. We had a mission there, and we did a good job at it,” Murray recalls.
Missing a Taste of Home
During his six-year-long tenure in Okinawa, Japan, Murray was inspired to make his barbecue sauce. Murray loved Japanese food and culture, but he was homesick for authentic and flavorful barbecue that he grew up with. He was always barbecuing with his fellow Marines and other service members but felt that something was missing. “It was a very beautiful island, and we could find all kinds of cuisines, but no respectful barbecue sauces,” Murray says. The only sauces he was able to get at the commissaries were very basic. He started experimenting in his home kitchen with no prior professional cooking experience and came up with something more palatable. “When our friends tried it, they said we should start bottling this. People were going crazy over it,” says Murray.
Do It Yourself
As a Marine, Murray learned to take leadership and an “if you want things done well, do it yourself” attitude. He started bottling and selling his sauces while living in Parris Island, South Carolina, but couldn’t get the operation up and running as he was always moving.
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It wasn’t until years later, when he retired in 2014, that Murray was able to fully dedicate himself to commercializing the sauce his family and friends had grown to love. He rented a kitchen and made 40-80 bottles of his “Original” sauce by hand, which would sell out in two weeks. “It was very daunting at first. We got to a point when we couldn’t keep up with the demand. So we got a business license, hired a copacker to make four different sauces under our label.” Murray now sells around 1200 bottles every six weeks.
Getting started was the most challenging part for Murray as he did not have prior business experience or a mentor. “I learned mostly through trial and error until I got it right. Once we got the paperwork together and started producing more quantities, it was like clockwork,” says Murray attributing his success to the dedication and discipline that he acquired while in the Marine Corps.
Flavor in Every Bottle
Murray named his company after his children (Joshua, Elisa, Tempestt and Leigh) and the flavors for his love for California. Back in Japan, he started with only one homemade sauce, which he calls Original. It is sweet and tangy and has more flavor than any other barbecue sauce, he claims.
Two years ago, he also started experimenting with local ingredients he found in the supermarket. Staying true to his hometown, he added crushed pineapple to the base sauce to create California Crush. Peaches, mangoes and jalapenos inspired the Backyard Boogie flavor. “When I tasted it, I start dancing, and Mack 10’s ‘Backyard Boogie’ song kept playing in my head,” says Murray. And his fourth flavor, San Andreas, blends strawberries, oranges and habanero, presenting an “earthquake in your mouth.”
“The sauces go on anything from Bloody Marys to mac and cheese and lasagna. You could even drink it. That’s how good it is.” As expected, Murray won’t reveal his secret ingredient.
Expanding The Brand
Murray and his wife now live in Camp Pendleton, California, and sell J&T’s Gourmet Sauces at Temecula area farmers markets, online through their website and in retail stores around Southern California. Service members and friends of Murray have ordered his sauces from Japan, Australia, Jordan and Netherlands.
But his goal is to get on grocery store shelves across the nation. Murray wants people everywhere to have the same “earthquakes and boogies” on their palates as he has while creating his sauces.
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