A Tucson mans love for hot sauce turned his life around.

You know, hot sauce basically saved my life, said Zac Perkins, who founded High Desert Sauce Company in 2018.

Just love it. I just love it.

He says its helped him stay sober since Jan. 3, 2017.

That New Years, I had a really bad relapse, he explained. I almost lost everything that I had built at that point I had to figure out what I was passionate about. ‘Cause doing construction was not it.

Crafting new spice combinations ended up being the kick he needed.

I was just making sauce and giving it away to people, he told KGUN 9. Whoever wanted some, Id give it to em. And I was getting a haircut one day. Asked the barber, Hey, you like hot sauce? Ran home, got him a little jar. And hes like, Why dont you have a label on this? And why are you not marketing it?

Perkins has been making and bottling sauces at Cook Tucson, a shared kitchen space at Stone and Elm north of downtown.

With only a couple of other partners helping him, Perkins now makes about a dozen different sauces and sells them online.

In 2021, one of those sauces (Tikk-Hot Masala) was featured on the ultra-popular YouTube talk show Hot Ones, where celebrities answer questions while eating chicken wings topped with increasingly hot sauces.

I cried during the interview [with Hot Ones staff], Perkins said. Like legit, not five years prior I was a homeless drug addict. So I mean, this is every sauce makers dream to be featured on that table.

Perkins says an issue with that sauce soured the fame that came with the show.

I know a lot people wont ever buy that sauce again because we had an issue with co-packer with our Hot Ones order, he said.

Perkins tells KGUN hes even more careful in the kitchen, where he focuses on flavors more than heat.

We are a flavor-forward company, he said. Nothing that we make is meant to blow O-Rings or melt faces. Things do get pretty hot.

Anybody can make a sauce thats hot. You know what I mean? I could just literally put that in bottles right now and ruin peoples days. And wheres the fun in that? I want it to taste good before it assaults your pallet.

The hottest sauce High Desert makes is the Piri Piri sauce, with a spice level labeled Painful.

Now Perkins is looking to expand his product into grocery stores, and his production into his own kitchen space.

But hes also looking back at how far hes come.

My worst day bottling hot sauce is better than my best day painting houses, any day of the week. So when Im having a hard day, or its a rough week, I think about the fact that I could be outside in 112 degrees, working manual labor for literally no money.