Posted April 26, 2006 by Anthony in Makers

Meet Your Makers #3 – Peppermaster

It took some time, but I was finally available to grab a moment of Canada’s Largest Producer of hot sauces time. The venerable Greg Brooks and his wife Tina Brooks were kind enough to shed some light on their unique products and their constant quest to fire up the palates of the Great White North and Beyond.

1. Why hot sauce? Where did the idea come from for you to get involved doing this??
GB: It’s the closest legal thing to a near-death experience that I’ve been able to achieve. I liken it to swimming in Hurricanes. The feeling I get when I’m underwater and I’m about to come up for a breath. It’s the same feeling. I’m sure that mountain climbers, sky-divers and other seekers of the juice of life experience a similar thing.
TB: The idea originally comes from Greg’s head. He moved to the Bahamas as a young boy, and that’s where he learned about the food enhancing qualities of hot peppers. He made his first hot sauce, by crushing Bahamian goat peppers in lime juice when he was 8. As he grew up, he was all about creating great food. Even during his Duke of Edinburgh Gold Scheme, rather than figure out survival food, like everyone else, Greg’s team was eating 3 and 5 course meals. After graduating university, he opened a restaurant, the Apple Tree Landing, in Canning Nova Scotia. After a few years, he started canning his sauces and selling them under the name, Constant Creation. He enjoyed a modicum of success but went out of business when he broke up with his ex-wife. About two and a half years ago, Greg and I discussed his getting back into the sauce business and it began. It’s been very busy around here ever since. I managed to convince Greg to focus on pure hot sauces and to not worry about whether or not non-chiliheads could eat them because nobody else focuses on us. We’ve since become the largest dedicated hot sauce manufacturer in Canada.

2. If you had to pick a favourite sauce yours, which would it be??
GB: Fusion Fire.
TB: I’d pick the Jerked Curry. It’s a Madras Curry spiked with Bahamian Jerk spice; allspice and fresh organic thyme. I can easily say it’s the best curry in the entire world!

3. Any new products we should be ready for from your line?
GB: Fire Roasted Peppered Oils

4. Where do you see the future of hot sauce in Canada 5 years from now?
GB: In Albuquerque. For any hot sauce product manufactuerd in Canada to become successful, it must penetrate the US market. which is more fully developed than in Canada, probably because of the more southern connections in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, California; etc. So to see the future of hot sauce in Canada, I just have to look to the US market, as it is now.

5. What is your favourite sauce that you don’t make?
GB: Conch’d Out. It comes from Nassau. It’s made with fresh peppers, and fresh papaya and is low in vinegar.

6. Do you eat the sauce you make?
GB: 2 or three of them every day as I’m working on a cookbook and must document my use. When I’m not working on the cookbook, I’ll usually use at least one a day. I used two at lunch today.
TB: Greg does most of the cooking in our house, it’s hard not to eat his sauces; besides, they’re soooooo good, I even carry them with me when we go out to eat.

7. What’s a typical day for you?
GB: It depends on what mode I’m in. Whether I’m in development, writing the cookbook, or in the kitchen, in production or in the office doing administrative functions.

8. What sets you aside from the other hot sauce producers out there today?
GB: Experience: I have over 43 years of experience making and eating hot sauces, I have owned and operated an international style dining room and written two best-selling cookbooks. I have prepared a huge number of different ethnic or regional cooking styles that over the years. My ability to manipulate the background flavours in the presence of extreme hot peppers, and my exceptional sense of balance. Ultimately, I take it back to my mother feeding me scotch by the tablespoonful when I was an infant; I think it cracked open my tastebuds making me open to all of the essences, nuances and flavours of food that escape others’ palates. Like a chess-master, I can anticipate the final outcome before I begin.

9. What is your inspiration before you embark on a new concoction?
GB: It’s usually a series of apparent coincidences that drive me towards a new product or idea. One concoction I put together was the Chili Chocolate Passion. My wife asked me to make a mole sauce. I didn’t think the North American palate was really ready for it, so I took the idea of chocolate and pepper and turned it into something that I believed would be acceptable to the American palate.

10. Outside of creating hot products, what else keeps you occupied or out of trouble?
My family and my six children are a huge drain on my energies. Mountain biking, swimming in hurricanes (although I don’t get to do that very often anymore), reef diving (when we’re in the islands — there aren’t many reefs in Rigaud, Quebec), any time left is consumed by sleep which is the only thing that keeps me completely out of trouble.

11. Any weird stories or uses for your hot sauce that you would like to share?
I gave a couple of samples of our hot sauces to my lawyer. He discovered that he had a pre-existing ulcer and it put him into the hospital. He threatened to sue. I guess, on occasion, it can be used for medical diagnosis of ulcers.
TB: We have a group of hunters who go out hunting game in the fall. They come in for a dozen Fusion Fire before they go. They’re using it to field dress their game while in the field. I guess it works really well, because they keep coming back.

12. How much sauce do you make in a week?
Sometimes zero, sometimes 10,000 jars. It depends on the orders. With our new renovations completed, I am capable of making over 70,000 jars a week.

13. How many different recipes do you go through when developing a new sauce?
Usually no more than two. The Chocolate took on the first try, but the Cajun went through five evolutions.

14. How did you get started in the industry?
GB: We started by introducing the sauces on the Canadian Craft Show circuit.

15. What is your biggest challenge?
GB: Balancing the insistent demands of rapid growth with cash flow.

Brooks Pepperfire Foods Inc.
26 St-Jean Baptiste, East
Rigaud, Quebec
J0P 1P0
Phone 1-866-451-6770