Brighton, April 1979.
A 20 year old Yorkshire Lad wanders out of the railway station into Brighton for the first time. Over the road is a kebab shop, and he's hungry.
The shop owner asks him;
“Do you want chilli sauce on that?”
“What sauce? Yeah go on, I'll try anything once”
“Have you ever had chilli sauce before?”
“No, but don't worry about it, I'll give it a go”
“I tell you what, I'll make up a special chilli sauce for you – not too spicy”
I watched as he mixed tomato puree with chilli powder, garlic and spices. When I tried the “special sauce”, it nearly blew my head off – and I loved it! I also remembered how to make it, and mixed my own chilli sauce whenever I fancied it from then on.
Kingston-upon-Hull, September 2009.
I took stock of what I had left. The burglars had known exactly what they were looking for the first time. They cherry picked all the most expensive of the cookware I sold. About £10,000 worth of it. That alone would have put the business in serious difficulty. The second time they had put it beyond doubt. Never mind that the third time they came that week we caught them red handed, the damage was irrepairable, I had to cease trading.
On the office roof my 15' x 10' greenhouse was full of ripe chilli plants. About the only good thing left in my life (apart from some very good friends, as I would soon find out). This year I wouldn't just make one sweet chilli sauce and one hot chilli sauce, I'd experiment. After all, the only other thing I had plenty of was time...
I first registered with Hull City Council as a food producer in May 2010. My friends had convinced me that there was a market for my chilli sauces, and I'd been offered a one-day-a-week sub-let on a little food production unit in Arthur Street, Hull. Chilli Devil Sauces is still based there, but it's my unit now, not a sub-let anymore, and I've been working full-time at developing the business for 2 years now. Since then I've made (and sold) about 25,000 bottles of chilli sauce in 25 or 30 flavours, most of which have stood the test of time and are part of the Chilli Devil Sauces range today.
I use only the best ingredients, and absolutely no chilli extract, no artificial flavouring, colouring or preservatives. Flavour is always the most important thing – any fool can make a hot sauce, making a tasty hot sauce calls for a little more. At one end of the scale, my Apple, Mint and Chilli sauce is so mild it's just like apple sauce with a little attitude. At (almost) the other end of the scale my Naga Challenger sauce is hotter than a raw Scotch Bonnet chilli, but has been described as “one of the best ultra-hot sauces available in the UK” (chillibugs.co.uk).
I've also made chilli sauces for other people – as wedding favours or for parties, for charities, sports teams, musicians and food outlets. The creative process is my favourite part of the job. There is a lot of pressure when you are one to one with a customer, in the kitchen, and you've already told them “just describe to me what flavour you want and I'll make it happen”. There is nowhere to hide, but the thrill of succeeding, and the look on the clients face at the end of the day, make everything worthwhile.