“It is still rooted in Indian flavours"
Chef Shachi Mehra has launched Spice Girl Sauces, two years after she won the popular Food Network show Chopped.
On the show in 2019, she was asked what she would do with her winnings.
Shachi stated that she would start her own line of sauces.
Shachi is the chef and owner at Adya Indian street food restaurants in the Californian cities of Anaheim and Irvine.
She ended up winning the cooking reality show.
Shachi recalled: “Well, now I just said it on national TV. I better get this thing rolling.”
However, the pandemic hit and her focus turned towards making sure her restaurants survived.
The period ended up being a good time to develop a brand that was separate from her restaurants.
Shachi told LA Times: “I wanted the sauce really to have its own identity because when people think of Adya, they think of Indian food, and I want this sauce to be more than just Indian.”
Spice Girl Sauces Original Hot Sauce is the first in the line of sauces Shachi has spent the past few years developing.
Her husband Maneesh Rawat insisted that Shachi’s face be on the label, however, she initially was not keen about the idea.
She said: “I thought it would be super weird.”
But, Shachi eventually saw the importance of putting a female Indian founder on the label.
While the sauce flavours are inspired by India, Shachi says the sauce is not just for Indian food.
She explained: “This is a sauce you can put on your breakfast sandwich or on your tacos or on a BLT or in your pasta… anywhere you want to add a level of flavour and heat.
“It is still rooted in Indian flavours and it has that Indian soul, but it still works on a lot of stuff.”
Ingredients include cumin, garlic, four different chillies and black pepper. Shachi says the layers of flavour come from the way the ingredients are prepared.
“The garlic is roasted, the cumin is bloomed in oil and the black pepper is bloomed in oil, and all of these things are cooked and then mixed together.”
According to Shachi, this method means it is difficult for consumers to find something similar outside of Indian cuisine.
She added: “The thing that makes you want to go back and eat it again is that there is so much happening in your mouth, and that to me is really what makes Indian food so fascinating and interesting.
“It is the layers of flavour that we inherently have in our food.”
She now believes it is time for chefs to appeal to home cooks.
“One thing I think the pandemic has done is make a lot of people cook at home and there is a space for chefs to create products for people to take home.
“If you can go online and buy something made by a chef that you trust, so you can have some portion of that experience at home, absolutely people are looking for that.”
Shachi knew that making her sauce in-house was an option but she also knew that she would need to outsource if she wanted to go big.
She said: “For me, there is a way I can make it in restaurant, put it in a bottle and sell but because I wanted to start it in a way that we could scale up quickly, I wanted to go with a co-packer from the beginning.”
Shachi enlisted Village Green Foods as her contract packager. The company has helped with salt and sugar levels, shelf life and product consistency.
The chef said: “I can make what would be considered a mini batch at my house, but when you multiply the recipe by 500, things change and flavours change, so we made it four or five times to make sure it was what we wanted it to be.
“The process has been interesting and fun.
“Doing a sauce that you are selling in a store is a completely different business than running a restaurant.”
She says she did not mind all the learning and webinars.
But the most challenging aspect has been getting used to her face on the bottle.
“I will be honest, it has taken me about a month or so to get used to it because it is weird to see your face on a jar.
“Now I am able to look at it and appreciate why that is important.”