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" NEW YORK! NEW YORK! "
"It's nice to be
recognized", says Margaret Simmons,
savouring her family's latest success. The family
business - Simmons Hot Gourmet
Products - has just picked
up the Best International Hot Sauce award in the
2001 Fiery Food Contest, sponsored by Chile
Pepper Magazine in New York City.
Consequently, Fire 'n'
Brimstone Hot Sauce
and other Golden Chile Award winners will be
spotlighted in the March/April issue of Chile
Pepper Magazine. It will share that
spotlight with a host of celebrities including
Patti LaBelle, Sammy Kershaw, LeAnn Rimes, and
The Dixie Chicks.
Margaret says the Simmons family would love to
come home with two additional awards given by the
people of New York - the Judges' Choice and
Complete Heat Awards. Regardless of the outcome
of the street-level contests, their first-place
International Hot Award will give Simmons
Hot Gourmet Products
with international recognition that could launch
the family business to a far bigger scale.
Basil Simmons has long eyed the Big Apple as a
brand new potential market for his hot sauce. The
results of the Jan. 16 Manhattan Meltdown on the
streets of New York will give the Simmonses a
better idea of how sales of their products might
fare in the big city. NYC chefs, food critics,
celebrities and writers will determine the
winners of the Judges' Choice Award. People on
the streets will select the winner of the
Complete Heat Award. The Simmons family has never
been afraid to take on challenges or start from
scratch. Originally from Guyana, the Simmonses
left a prosperous life, including their home,
extended family, their jobs and a tropical
climate - to breathe fresh air of Canada. In 1976
Hilda, Basil and their ten-year-old daughter
Margaret arrived in southern Alberta with less
than $200 in their pockets. Basil and Hilda
quickly found jobs and began saving for a home.
Margaret got down to school. The Simmonses love
Canada, but they have always missed the spicy
foods of Guyana. Basil decided he could not live
without Guyanese hot sauce. so he began making
batches of his own spicy concoction in the
Simmons' Family kitchen. Co-workers sampled the
sauce at lunchtime, urging Basil to market it.
In 1998 the Simmonses shared their sauce with
visitors to the Heritage Day Ethnic Food Fair in
Lethbridge before taking it to the farmers'
markets and specialty shops. Their big break -
getting into the Overwaitea chain - came when
staff of Lethbridge's Save-On Foods asked
Margaret why she was buying such huge quantities
of scotch bonnet peppers. Discovering the family
was manufacturing hot sauce, they asked to test
it. They loved it, and moved quickly to get it on
the store's shelves.
The simmons have adapted their traditional sauce
for the Canadian market - incorporating mangoes
and cucumbers to give it a unique flavour and
golden colour suited to the tastes of Albertans.
They suggest that hot sauce can be used on almost
any type of food: curries, potato salad, salsa,
barbecue, chicken wings, and soups - even
Part of the Simmonses success may be due to
Albertans' growing love of ethnic foods, but it
is certainly due to the familys' determination to
get through the maze of licensing, labeling and
testing. They have a passion for showing
Albertans how to use the hot sauce. "We demo
it", explains Margaret. "That's part of
our education process."
As the Simmonses packed suitcases for the flight
to New York, they looked forward to sharing their
zeal for hot sauce with New Yorkers.
Did they melt New York? Find out in our March