Palo Alto Firefighters Pepper Sauce

The bite: Palo Alto Firefighters Pepper Sauce

The inspiration: a fire station garden and the desire to make a difference


Artwork by Sorin


During World War II, victory gardens were planted by families to help prevent a food shortage. These gardens, located in backyards, empty lots and even on city rooftops, were considered morale boosters, empowering gardeners by their contributions. They gave Americans a feeling that they were doing something helpful to win the war (and they were)!

Palo Alto, California firefighter Lee Taylor had his own modern-day victory garden of sorts in his fire station backyard.  At the time, it was a garden with unforeseen possibilities.  Back in 1994, with no visions beyond growing vegetables, Lee’s particularly bountiful pepper harvest fostered the creation of one wicked hot sauce as well as the development of the Palo Alto Firefighters Charitable Fund.

You might say this was more of an evolutionary process. Over the years, while Lee was offering his pepper sauce as gifts to family and friends, his motivation to give back to the community first came in the form of a scholarship fundraiser: biking solo from the Golden Gate Bridge to L.A. in five days (495 miles!). That was in 2003, and the first four scholarships were given away to graduating high school seniors.

Encouragement from members of Lee’s brotherhood at the firehouse led him to begin selling his hot pepper sauce, with 100% of the profits funding his charitable causes. Quickly becoming a commercial success, Palo Alto Firefighters Pepper Sauce also achieved national notoriety by winning first place at the National Fiery Foods Show in 2014.

Retired from firefighting for over two years now, Lee Taylor continues helping others through the Palo Alto Firefighters Charitable Fund. It has awarded 101 college scholarships to deserving high school graduates from the Palo Alto community and has donated $40,000 to area charities over the last eight years.

Lee Taylor’s firehouse garden was a modern day “victory garden”, a modest catalyst for a thriving business and a committed charity. Truly inspirational and worth getting fired up for!