Get to Know Chef Silas Caeton and His Hot Sauce Side Hustle

At a series of taco pop-ups, the Lox’s head chef has been showcasing his personal passion project: Sabo Sauce.

J.R. McMillan
Silas Caeton, chef at the Lox, has been hosting taco pop-ups that showcase his own hot sauce, Sabo.

If you noticed the lights on later than expected at the Lox Bagel Shop in early April, you probably gave the sign on the door a double take. Inside, mimosas and bagel sandwiches were replaced by margaritas and the aroma of Oaxacan fare as patrons eagerly lined up for tacos, despite a tornado watch.

Wait, wasn’t this a nationally renowned bagel shop … just this morning?

Don’t worry, the Lox’s boiled and baked breakfast classics aren’t going anywhere, nor is its chef, Silas Caeton. But Sabo Sauce, his signature hot sauce served at the shop, is another story, as Caeton prepares to expand the brand to additional retail locations and grow online sales.

“I love pop-ups as a format, where creators are really passionate about putting something new out there in a limited format, whatever is in the forefront of their minds at the time,” Caeton said during a March interview. “It’s a chance to create a menu that pairs the hot sauce with my background in Mexican food.”

For Caeton, that personal history dates back long before his tenure as executive chef at bygone Mexican restaurant Cosecha Cocina. His parents lived in Mexico for a stretch, and his siblings were born there. Though not Mexican by heritage, it was a formative experience that influenced family meals and his relationship with recipes and authentic ingredients from an early age.

“Being at the Lox for the past four and a half years put all of that on the back burner to really focus on bagels, which has also been an awesome experience,” Caeton says. “But it’s a muscle I still want to utilize on the side, to experiment with those flavors and tap into those memories.”

Though Tabasco was his hot sauce of choice growing up, he eventually ventured into more nuanced options. But the right balance of spice, texture and consistency remained elusive. Cosecha was the impetus to start creating his own variations, and for those who already know Sabo, its presence at the Lox long preceded its recent availability in bottles.

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“It’s more than the typical, vinegar-based hot sauce, somewhere between a classic hot sauce and a barbecue sauce in thickness. It’s smoky and spicy, but not overwhelming. Hot sauce should complement the food, not overpower it,” Caeton says. “But there’s also a sweetness, not too much, and the Mexican oregano adds this beautiful floral note to it. It’s a very deep, savory sauce.”

Thus far, Caeton’s pop-ups at the Lox have been highly popular and are now ticketed events, which helps to manage the number of patrons and flow of service. The pop-ups are expected to eventually become monthly events.

Guests choose from among five refined taco preparations—chicken al pastor, cochinita pibil, chorizo, sweet potato and barbacoa—as well as a supporting cast of accompaniments, including black bean tostadas and esquites. All are created to showcase Sabo, which is billed as a hot sauce but surprisingly versatile in bringing complex flavors together, not just adding heat.

“Sabo is currently available at the Lox and Joya’s [Café]. Our near-term goal is [to] add local grocery stores and online sales, with a long-term goal of larger chains,” Caeton says. “But it’s still exciting to see regular customers and guests bite into something new and realize the hot sauce that’s now in bottles is the same one they’ve had on their bagel sandwiches for years.” 

This story is from the May 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.