The last thing visitors to the Cambridge Farmers Market might expect to encounter is a shark on the banks of the Choptank.
But those venturing close enough to Matthew Brady's stand to sample his culinary creation, Shark Sauce, seem to enjoy the experience, including the “bite” that comes with it.
Complimentary chips are on hand to help convey a taste of any or all five flavors of his spicy condiment concoctions to the adventurous or merely curious.
They run the gamut from the mildest, Maryland Honey Mustard, to Sasquatch, Shark-a-Q and Ketchup-flavored Glizzy, all the way up to Original Pineapple Habanero. Reflecting Brady's penchant for experimenting, Mystery Drop flavors also materialize, along with seasonal specials like last Thanksgiving's cranberry hot sauce. A new jerk flavor in the works for next year already has its own Rasta Shark artwork created by Roberto, a friend from Brady's stay in Colorado, where he worked in the cannabis industry. (Brady's current “day” job is at Sunburst Pharmacy, the Cambridge medical cannabis provider.)
Originally from Annapolis ("I grew up a five-minute bike ride away from Quiet Waters Dog Park," Brady recalled), after a college stint in York, Pennsylvania, where he met wife Maddie, the couple ventured south, settling in Surf City, North Carolina.
When his sister-in-law in Boone, N.C., shared her surplus garden-grown varieties of cayenne and jalapeno peppers, Brady decided to use up his fridge full of fresh produce, transforming it into sauce. After going through that initial supply stash, he purchased habaneros and was pleased with those results. Original sauce tasters may detect a hint of super-hot ghost pepper, as well, he said.
Passersby are drawn into Brady's tent by a veritable visual feast of vibrant shark artwork on display, with sassy sea behemoth portraits creatively captured on posters, shirts, comics and skateboard racks, created by local artist Dennis Kurth. There are also a growing series of eye-catching stickers, featuring Spooky Shark, Psychedelic Shark, Green Shark-A-Q and Sherk Shark.
Obsessed with sharks since childhood, the name was a natural for his home-crafted sauce creations. Being a big fan of 1990s collectible action figures and comics, which he's sold on Ebay, led to the idea of featuring shark personalities festooned in distinctive poses on each bottle.
Brady has partnered with James Shelket Jr., owner of Kraven's Comic Books and Collectibles, which offers a free dollar comic book to anyone bringing in an empty bottle of Shark Sauce to his shop at 2833 Ocean Gateway.
According to Shelket, he and Brady, who has become a good friend, are also collaborating on a special green chile verde sauce offering.
Brady enjoys fostering such local partnerships, welcoming artists to submit shark comic strips for him to feature on each bottle. His hope is to continue developing his brand by personifying his “spokesharks” through ongoing artistic adventures.
He's also regularly reached out to local farmers for freshly sourced ingredients, including fellow Cambridge Farmers Market participants Harris Farms and Roundstone Farms.
While enjoying his work with Sunburst and a variety of other jobs he's held over the years, Brady recalled always being driven by an underlying entrepreneurial fire to create his own business. Having a growing family, with son Rusty, born in Colorado, and daughter Anna, who came along after relocating back to Maryland two years ago, intensified that desire. "We joke that Anna and Shark Sauce share a birthday," Brady related with a smile.
On his company's website, Sharksauces.com, Brady explains how it all starts with the mighty creatures of the sea:
"Shark Sauce is more than sauce. As the mighty Shark swims through the depths of the vast ocean it knows not what lies ahead. The Shark, however, always finds a way to maneuver through the vastness with grace and poise. Sharks find time to sleep while they are swimming, which is incredible and speaks to the magnificence of the mighty Shark. Shark Sauce was born from humble waters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in a small family kitchen. Sourcing ingredients from local farms and working with local businesses is part of Shark Sauces' vision to grow and evolve. The goal of Shark Sauce is to push the creative boundaries in many different ways ranging from flavor combos to digital and physical artwork. Shark Sauce is carving a path of its own in this ocean of possibilities."
For more information, visit Sharksauces.com, email Matthewtybrady@gmail.com or call 443-223-7263.