By Kelli Samson
With a name like “Hot Babe Hot Sauce,” how can you be anything but intrigued?
The “hot babe” cannot be separated from the hot sauce, so let me introduce you to her first.
Sandra Bocas is enchanting. She has clear, dancing blue eyes that hold one’s gaze, and her Caribbean accent kind of makes you want to kick off your shoes. She is instantly familiar, warm, and charismatic. Sitting down with her in the café at the Eastside Olympia Coop, I was downright mesmerized.
I love food. I love time spent in my kitchen, where the tides of meditation and creation co-exist. I love welcoming my kids to the counter to help out, putting on whatever music is suiting the day – sometimes a little Sam Cooke, sometimes a dash of Lyle Lovett or Pink Martini – and just immersing into that world. I love following a recipe for the first time, then playing with it in the future.
Bocas loves the same things. Imagine my delight to find a kindred spirit. For a foodie, there’s nothing quite like connecting through the language of the kitchen. “Food is a celebration,” exclaims Bocas.
Bocas lives such an authentic life that it is hard to be anything but captivated by her. Her story is both unique and universal.
It all began in Trinidad and Tobago. Bocas grew up there, eating her grandmother’s sauce on chicken and vegetables. Her parents had a restaurant called El Diamante Negro. As an adult she traveled the world, attending school in England and then working as a makeup artist in the fashion industries of New York City and Europe. “My creativity was expressed in that form,” explains Bocas.
Her work graced the pages of Vogue, yet here she is, living a quiet life in Yelm. She never forgot the quality of the clean air here during a visit in 1986. She now is working full-time at fulfilling her dream of making Hot Babe Hot Sauce a household name.
Her label says it all.
Her parents’ restaurant’s name is at the top. Bocas herself is represented by the name “Hot Babe.” “I wanted the name to be fun!” says Bocas.
Additionally, the image on the label is one of her own paintings, entitled Francine. The label is also clearly marked “vegan,” which is important to her because her daughter Luna practices this lifestyle.
Put all of these elements together with her grandmother’s recipe inside the bottle, and, says Bocas, “I’m very glad I’ve got four generations represented in one product.”
“My grandmother would go into her garden and harvest the herbs to make her sauce. In that time, it was quite the norm. My sauce is real food, not fake food. Mothers are buying my sauce for their children, and the children love it! Children haven’t been conditioned yet. Their minds and their hearts are still together,” she explains.
“Everyone is an artist. We just create in different ways. We are creating all the time. See colors! Express them as you wish! I love inspiring children to cook and realizing that their crazy tastes aren’t really crazy, they just like new flavors.”
Bocas hand crafts each batch of sauce in the Yelm Community Kitchen, where she uses absolutely no preservatives and only non-GMO ingredients. Her sauce must be kept in the refrigerator and stays shelf-stable due to the acidity of the limes in her recipe. She uses organic ingredients where possible, and sources things as locally as she can. Many of her ingredients come from Olympia’s Eastside Coop.
Her secret ingredient, though?
“Cooking for others is a position of great responsibility. You are truly caring for other people. It’s a time for giving. I hold that true and dear when I am in the kitchen. When I’m making the sauce, I feel very serious about this. Love as an ingredient is underestimated and overlooked in our culture, but it’s the invisible ingredient that heals people.”
Bocas continues, “Color is also very important to me. It resonates with us and with our feelings. It makes something feel yummy before we even eat it. It’s part of life.”
Her ultimate favorite use for her sauce is as part of a dressing for a very colorful, cold vegetable salad, one filled with shredded beets, carrots, radishes, and zucchini.
“It’s really more of a marinade than a hot sauce. It’s wonderful for meat, but for fish, especially, because it’s lime-based. It’s also good to go into vegetables and tofu,” suggests Bocas.
Bocas wants the users of her sauce to make it their own. “I want people to be inspired to get creative in the kitchen and to find new ways to use it. It’s sort of a tool for your kitchen.”
Hot Babe Hot Sauce will soon be releasing two new flavors, both a milder and a hotter version of the original sauce. The hotter version will have seeds from Trinidad, so it all will come full circle. “We are growing and we love it,” shares Bocas.
You can find Hot Babe Hot Sauce in the Hot Babe Bloody Mary at the recently opened Olympia nightspot, Dillinger’s. “They’re one of my best customers,” boasts Bocas.
Here in Thurston County, you can buy a jar or two to try for yourself at the Olympia Food Coops, Farm Fresh Market, Tumwater’s Courtyard Cafe, the Yelm Food Coop, the Yelm Farmer’s Market on Sundays, and Spud’s Produce Market. The product is also sold at various locations in Tacoma and Seattle.
For more information, see hotbabe-hotsauce.com, where online ordering will soon be possible.