Tell Charlie Deyalsingh that his hot sauce has just been featured in Caribbean Travel and Life magazine, and the man won’t flinch.
Deyalsingh, who has been making his famous Trinidad Charlie’s hot sauce commercially since 1985, has been written about so many times that it no longer phases him.
“It’s beautiful, but I feel nonchalant,” said Deyalsingh. “Some people may think it’s a big deal, but it just happens for me.”
Deyalsingh’s West Indian Pumpkin Pepper Sauce is featured in March’s Caribbean Travel and Life, where the sauce, described as “exotic and mysterious,” is listed among CTL’s top ten favorite hot sauces.
Deyalsingh, who moved to St. John from Trinidad in 1968 and built his home from scratch, walking the materials in to his one and a half acre property himself, began making pepper sauce for himself when he first arrived in the Virgin Islands.
“When I arrived on St. John in 1968, it was my first experience without peppers,” said Deyalsingh. “Could you imagine an Indo-Trini without peppers, or mango kuchela or chutney or a curry dish? I experienced that period between 1968 and 1972.”
When Deyalsingh realized other hot sauces were starting to debut, he decided to go commercial with his own Trinidad Charlie’s sauce.
“I saw there was a market for it,” he said. “A lot of different people were starting to make hot sauce.”
More than 20 years later, Trinidad Charlie’s hot sauce is still a favorite among St. John residents. The sauce is carried in restaurants from Miss Lucy’s to Sun Dog, and is sold in stores throughout the island.
Despite the popularity of his product, Deyalsingh still considers making hot sauce a hobby.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a businessman,” Deyalsingh said. “It’s like a hobby.”
Keeping his production small is important to Deyalsingh, he explained.
Quality a Priority
“I’ve just remained small, doing the sauces in batches at home at the very highest quality,” Deyalsingh said. “Quality is a priority.
I want it to stay gourmet, and not be fighting for more space on the grocery store shelves.”
Trinidad Charlie’s sauce is unique in both its production, and Deyalsingh’s use of organic homegrown peppers and other ingredients.
“It’s a real Caribbean sauce because of the diversity in spices,” said Deyalsingh. “I solely stress the fact that flavor is more important than heat.”
Deyalsingh focuses on flavor, while many other hot sauce makers compete for which one can burn consumers’ mouths the most, he explained.
“It’s like a fad to focus on heat rather than flavor,” said Deyalsingh.
The hot sauce maker mainly uses spices he brings back from Trinidad, flavors his sauces with pumpkin, papaya and key lime which he grows on his property, and also uses East Indian, Caribbean and North American spices, Deyal-singh explained.
“It’s organic, not commercialized,” he said.
Deyalsingh’s modest home, situated along Guinea Gut, is surrounded by large fruit trees, ornamental trees and medicinal trees.
“This is a very special garden,” said Deyalsingh. “The gut is the soul. I believe in the natural flow of things.”
“Trinidad Charlie” does not use pesticides on his plants, he explained.
“All these plants exist without stifling each other,” said Deyalsingh. “They’ve never had diseases, and I don’t use pesticides. They are all natural, organic.”
New Hot Sauce Coming
Despite bundles of letters Deyalsingh receives from people throughout the Caribbean praising his hot sauce, he still produces his batches in his small kitchen, using peppers, mangos and papayas that he grows on his property, and is unsure whether or not he’ll expand the sale of his product beyond the Virgin Islands.
“I get emails from all over,” said Deyalsingh. “God knows what will happen. Small is beautiful — you don’t have to go beyond your means.”
Watch out for Trinidad Charlie’s new sauce, Carib-bean Heat, scheduled to be in stores next month.
“People are calling for something a little more hot than usual,” said Deyalsingh. “The flavor will be maintained, though, so it won’t be lost in the heat.”