Like any respectable Wolfgang Puck, Marc Stephens was sure he had a culinary concoction on his hands the world would eat up once it knew about it.
His masterpiece was a marinade made of olive oil, garlic and a secret blend of herbs and spices. He refined the recipe through years of trial and error until he became the designated barbecuer anytime there was a cookout. People put his sauce on steaks, chops, fish, vegetables, chicken, pasta, eggs anything but Froot Loops. They smuggled spare bottles home. They told Marc over and over again that he should bottle it and sell it. He'd make a fortune.
It went like that for 15 years or so, until one Sunday three summers ago when the Stephens family was in the backyard enjoying a perfectly marinated chicken dinner and Marc's No. 3 son, Christian, laid down the gauntlet.
"Dad," he said, "you've been saying you're going to do something about the family sauce forever if you don't do it, I will."
So Marc did. He slapped labels Sunnybay Mediterranean Marinade on 14.5-ounce bottles, passed out assignments, and a family business was born.
The Stephenses first sold their fabulous sauce at a friend's restaurant, Tony Caputo's Deli & Market in downtown Salt Lake City. Then they branched out to the Salt Lake farmer's market. Then to the Park City farmer's market. Stores up and down the Wasatch Front started stocking the sauce. They set up a Web site (www.sunnybayinc.com). They attracted interest from national distributors.
All those raves all those years were right. People like Stephens' sauce. The world would beat a path to their door.
But there was one thing Marc didn't see coming.
Once the family business got up and running, so did the family.
"We really had no idea what was about to happen," he says.
One son, Jon, got married and is planning to go to MBA school as soon as he finishes at the University of Utah. Christian, who has been managing the sauce operation since its inception, graduated from the U. in Russian and has accepted a job in Russia. And the Stephenses' two teenage daughters, Maddie and Ali, were "discovered" in a shopping mall and signed on by Elite Model Management of New York it's like getting drafted by the Yankees and Marc's wife, Julie, has become full-time manager to Ali, who just turned 17.
Meanwhile, Jackson and Dusty, Marc and Julie's two oldest sons, continue to pursue their own careers in information technology.
Bottom line: About the only thing left in this mom and pop outfit is pop.
"And I've got a lot of irons in the fire," says Marc, whose day job is running his own advertising agency. On top of that, he helps manage the burgeoning modeling careers of Maddie Stephens and Ali Stephens, is part of a humanitarian project to save the rain forests and is heavily involved in Transcendental Meditation so his life doesn't get out of whack.
The inventor of America's hottest new sauce sighs.
But he smiles through the sigh. There are worse things than having your family healthy, busy and pursuing awesome opportunities. Even if it means they can't man the booths at the farmer's markets this summer.
And there are way worse things than finding out a whole lot of people like your sauce as much as you hoped they would.
"All the flattery has been great," says Marc. "One guy wrote in to the Web site and said he thinks it's addicting. I have to say I'm proud and overwhelmed both.""We'll figure something out," he adds. "It's like a lot of things in life. You better be passionate about what you start because you might be doing it the rest of your life."
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.