The recession of 2001 was hard on the Potrero Hill district of San Francico. Many dot-coms were based there before the recession and life was good. Just before the bust, a group of entrepreneurs decided to open an upscale lunch restaurant where high-flying area businesspeople could wine and dine both customers and investors. One of those entrepreneurs was Sean O’Connor. O’Connor was educated in food management at the University of San Francisco and was an aspiring inventor.
Within a few months of opening their upscale restaurant the bubble burst and suddenly their full dining room looked like a ghost town. The owners quickly decided to change the format of the eatery from being an upscale pricy lunch place to a “road house” type restaurant that served less expensive, lighter fare and featured live music nearly every night. Fortunately, the nimble entrepreneurs hit upon a recipe for success and the establishment did well.
The restaurant was equipped with a large full-service kitchen with everything needed for baking and making pastries. But the road house didn’t offer fancy pastries, so much of the equipment sat idle.
O’Connor decided to experiment with some of the unused equipment. He was particularly fascinated with the equipment that allowed a pastry chef to load a “gun” with fillings or frostings and squirt the viscous liquid onto cakes and other sweet desserts. As O’Connor told me, “There were a number of experiments I did that you should never try at home.” He tried making beignet batter and squirting it into a deep fryer. That didn’t work. Other concoctions proved equally unsuccessful.
One recipe using the aerosol pastry equipment did turn out to be a huge success. Taking a pancake/waffle batter made from fresh, organic ingredients, O’Connor found it was perfect for aerosol use. And so the Batter Blaster was born.
It took several more years for O’Connor to get his Batter Blaster to market, but his first big order was to Costco in Southern California. From there, interest in Batter Blaster went ballistic. By 2007, the company’s single product was selling like hotcakes nationwide. (Note to editor: I couldn’t resist the pun!)
To date, O’Connor’s company has sold over 6 million cans. Nearly every major national grocery store chain and organic food store carries it. The day after I interviewed him, I bought a can in the refrigerated section of my neighborhood grocery store. The suggested retail price of Batter Blaster is $3.99-$4.99, and a 28 oz. can makes 28 4-inch pancakes.
I am forced to admit they are better than my own secret family recipe, and I am known as a pretty good cook. My 17-year-old stepson ate 12 in one sitting the other morning. I wasn’t there to watch him (as it is not always a pretty sight), but my wife said he loved them. She even told him they were labeled USDA organic and he still ate them. This is from a kid who won’t eat anything that is good for him, but I digress.