Creating art and hot sauce are the two mediums through which Sandra Bocas best expresses herself.
She has been doing both for a while, but just recently ventured out on her own to produce and bottle her family’s own no-preservative hot sauce recipe, which she calls Hot Babe Hot Sauce, straight from her homeland of Trinidad and Tobago.
Its label, of course, ties in her artistic background as well.
“I come from a family of cooks. I started it because it’s something that wakes up food. It wakes up your palate, brings life to the palate and color to the taste buds,” Bocas said. “It’s a conversation piece and it’s great with everything. We all love food and it’s great to experiment and do new things with it. It helps people with their own creativity in cooking.
“The recipe comes from my family, from my family’s restaurant in Trinidad, El Diamante Negro. My grandmother made the sauce and I’ve always used it in my adult life,” Bocas continued. “When I came here three years ago I started to make it as gifts for friends, and I just kept getting really good comments and calls the next morning, asking, ‘Where can I get this?’ It became kind of a joke but my friend suggested, ‘Why don’t you just bottle this and sell it?’”
Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Bocas also spent 18 years in New York followed by 18 years in Germany as a makeup artist before settling down in Washington about three years ago. She proudly infuses what she refers to as her greatest ingredient — love — with the simple combination of tomatoes, lime, cilantro, garlic, peppers, thyme, onions and salt to create the new hot sauce that locals can’t get enough of.
“It’s vegan, so there are absolutely no dairy or oil products in it whatsoever. Vegans are very picky eaters; my daughter is vegan so I wanted to make something that would please her,” Bocas said. “It’s great as a seasoning that can go in meats, chickens and especially in shrimp. It must also be refrigerated because there are no preservatives in it.
“The main ingredient is love; this is where we’re remembering and going to, because in our grandparents’ days food was cooked with less preservatives and there were many less diseases going around,” she continued. “I think we need to cook more with love. The fact that there are no preservatives brings something fresh to the palate. It has a good shelf life because I use lime rather than vinegar, which is a very good natural preserver.”
Currently, Yelm Food Co-Op, Olympia Local Foods and the Courtyard Cafe in Tumwater are the three stores carrying Hot Babe Hot Sauce, which sold out everywhere over the holiday.
“I’m pleased and thankful that they are carrying the product,” Bocas said of her retailers. “It did very well over Christmas; I’m sold out and waiting for the New Year to make some new batches. It was a great item for stockings and to put in gift baskets. I was hoping it would do well — but selling out, that was a really wonderful surprise.”
Prior to finalizing all licenses and government mandates, Bocas tested out her product under Yelm Community Kitchen, run by Susie Kyle, from the beginning of 2013 until early December. That was when she was able to launch the parent company, El Diamante Negro, and start with her first product. She’s already planning to create other hot sauces in the future.
“It was a great experience at Yelm Community Kitchen. Hot Babe Hot Sauce is a medium heat so it was interesting because there were quite a few people who said, ‘When you get the hot stuff in, call me.’ So there is definitely a market here for hot sauce,” Bocas said. “I intend to do a few more sauces — hotter and hottest sauces, made with the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, the hottest pepper in the world, which is in Trinidad.
“People find the sauce very unique not only because of the label and artistic background, but it has a Caribbean background.”
The label for Hot Babe Hot Sauce is one of Bocas’s acrylic paintings, titled “Francine,” which she had already completed prior to deciding to bottle and sell her hot sauce.
“I was just looking through my paintings and the thought came that ‘Francine’ would be great for the label. It’s very vibrant so in retrospect when I saw it I thought it would be great for it. With the other sauces that I’m going to make I’ll use other paintings.”