Michael Kurtz didn’t intend to start a spicy honey empire, but here we are

By Rebecca Firkser
June 01, 2018
Photo by @mikeshothoney via Instagram

Avocado toast. Plain Greek yogurt and berries. Fried chicken on a biscuit. These breakfasts could all use a hit of something sweet, but at the same time would be perfect with a bit more heat. That’s where Mike’s Hot Honey comes in (at least, it does if you’re me). Michael Kurtz, the founder of Mike’s Hot Honey, didn’t necessarily want to start a company, but the demand for his chili pepper-infused honey proved that he should. Kurtz's sweet and spicy condiment had humble beginnings as a pizza topping in Brooklyn at a restauarant where he worked, but quickly grew in popularity. Since I tend to smother my breakfasts with hot honey on a regular basis, I asked Mike himself a few questions about his own breakfast routine.

Extra Crispy: What did you have for breakfast today?
Michael Kurtz: I usually have a couple avocados in my apartment at all times, especially around the summer when they are plentiful. This morning was no different, so I had a whole avocado and a hard-boiled egg sliced with a sprinkle of maldon salt. I really aspire to soft-boil but realistically in the morning I'm multitasking, so hard boiled it is. Recently, I've been drinking Turkish coffee with cardamom and a little sugar. The flavor with the cardamom is nice and it's easy to prepare since you're just drinking it unfiltered with the coffee grounds and cardamon right in the mug.

I hear that you travel a lot for work. What’s your go-to breakfast when you’re on the road?
Breakfast on the road can be tricky. My regular standbys of avocado and egg or oatmeal aren't practical if you're in a hotel room, and most bagels outside of NYC aren't worth eating. Usually, I resort to coffee and a banana and save room for what often ends up being pizza for lunch. I do also enjoy a classic diner breakfast. It's always fun to hit old school diners when we're on the road: two eggs over medium, home fries (well done) and rye toast.

What’s your favorite way to eat hot honey for breakfast?
Mike's Hot Honey drizzled over a bowl of greek yogurt with fruit (peaches, strawberries, blueberries) and granola is one of my favorites. The combo of the sweet heat from the honey with the cool creamy yogurt and tart fruit is a winner!

Why did you decide to launch a hot honey company? Did you imagine you’d be so successful?
There was never a specific moment when I consciously decided to launch a hot honey company. Mike's Hot Honey was something I made as a hobby for years before it became a business. I used to make it for friends and family around the holidays.

In 2010 I started an apprenticeship at Paulie Gee's pizzeria in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I wanted to learn how to make Neapolitan style pizza and Paulie invited me to become a pizza apprentice there. I would go in after my day job and practice making pizza. I brought Paulie a bottle of my Hot Honey to try and he liked it and asked me to make enough for the restaurant to drizzle over pizza. Once it was on the menu it just took off. Folks would come up to me while I was making pizza and ask if I was the hot honey guy and where could they buy some. I could see first hand that people really enjoyed it and eventually enough people were asking for it that I started bottling it and selling it off of the bar at the restaurant. From there, things just snowballed.

Can you tell me about a particularly memorable breakfast experience you’ve had?
The all-you-can-eat mezze feast at Glasserie in Greenpoint stands out. It's all vegetarian Mediterranean and Middle Eastern small plates for the table: grilled flatbread, labneh, hummus, pickled beets, Bulgarian feta with sesame seeds, roasted cauliflower, Brussels, tahini, olives. Everything you want and as much of it as you need. It's a great place for a group breakfast on the weekend.

What’s next for Mike’s Hot Honey? Are there any new products you’re excited to talk about?
We've got a new Mike's Hot Honey cocktail kit in the works for holiday 2018 so keep an eye out for that around Thanksgiving. MHH is great in a number of different cocktails. For all the Instagram users out there, I recommend searching #MikesHotHoneyVocktails for some of our favorite recipes or checking out @MikesHotHoney for more MHH food pairing inspiration. We also have a bunch on our website.