After 17 years as a history teacher and track and football coach, Shane Nobles started making fresh, all natural salsa as a way to spend more time with his three young daughters. “My oldest would help with the jars and we’d head to the Tomball farmer’s market together,” he said. “We made 52 jars for our first market and we sold out in 90 minutes. I’ve been blessed to have an avid following.”
How Shane spells salsa
That early success encouraged Novles to retire from teaching to become a full-time salsa entrepreneur. As a defensive coordinator, he ran a drill called the pain train for his students and while his salsas aren’t painful to consume, he decided the name had a catchy ring to it. “I didn’t start this to get out of teaching, but if I quit making salsa now there are some folks who will hunt me down. So I’ve kept at it for my own self-preservation,” he said, laughing.
From his commercial kitchen in downtown Tomball, Nobles, his family and some former students cook about 600 pounds of raw onions, peppers and tomatoes every week. “We caramelize our tomatoes for a sweet taste so we don’t have to use sugar,” he said. “We add a few spices and that’s it. We don’t put anything in our salsa we can’t spell.”
Offering a two-pepper medium, a three-pepper “perfect heat” and a “Green-Go” creamy avocado for $8 each, Nobles said quality comes first. “It’s no good if a salsa is just hot,” he said. “With ours, first you taste the flavor then you get the heat. We put more avocado in our salsa than many of my competitors. We cook away half our product to get the right taste. I want to create the Dom Perignon of salsas.” While Dom Perignon doesn’t have a recycling plan, Nobles offers a $.50 discount for every empty jar a customer returns. The Hilton Americas-Houston hotel carries his salsa at their omelet bar and orders about 12 gallons every 10 days. “I’m proud of our product – I think it’s first-class,” he said.
His pursuit of superiority has led Nobles to branch out into making homemade gluten-free tortilla chips, producing about 200 bags a week for $5 each. “You’ve gotta have a good chip to go with salsa and I’d been looking for something worthy,” he said. “An old buddy showed me how to do it from scratch and I found the perfect complement.”
Come take a ride on the taste-bud-friendly pain train each week at Westchase District Farmers Market. To learn more about Nobles’ work, visit facebook.com/paintrainsalsa.