Canadian-born Greg Brooks arrived in the Bahamas when he was 6. An island paradise, which rewarded him with cuts and scrapes, stings, bites, and sunburns. It was rough going for a pale-skinned Canadian boy in the Bahamian bush. But he loved it anyway, learning about the various plants and spices, and how to spear fish with a Hawaiian Sling, catching groupers, crawfish, grunts and jacks, and discovering a fondness for fresh limes, mangoes, papayas and the elusive red pineapple.
Already at a young age he had a keen eye for business. Copying the women at the docks, he set up his own produce stand in front of his house and sold to his neighbors coming home from work on Friday afternoons. He created his own local fair in his driveway with cotton candy, a roulette wheel, a lemonade stand, and ring toss. He invited all the neighborhood kids and was an instant success.
But the real magic happened when he bit into his first pepper. It was a Bahamian Goat Pepper in a conch salad: a classic Bahamian dish. “It was so hot, but so good” he says. He kept eating, despite the sweat pouring down and the fire in his mouth. Once he finished he saw a mosquito fly by. With lightning speed he snatched it out of the air. Opening his hand, the mosquito flew away. Greg was astounded.
“It was like I had some kind of superpower.” He then went outside and into the bush. “All the things I couldn’t see before, I could see it all…the spikes on the ironwood trees, the spider webs. From that day on, I was a Bahamian.”
His “superpowers” were indeed effects of the Goat Pepper. Years later while studying the
biochemistry of the brain at university, he would learn that peppers release endorphins and adrenalin and speed up your metabolism. That would feel like superpowers, especially to a prepubescent boy.
While he was at university, the Bahamas gained their independence. Greg returned for his citizenship papers, but because he missed a window that he wasn’t aware of, the Bahamian citizenship was denied him. He returned to his native Canada, although his heart still remained on the island. This is another aspect of the pepper connection: “The peppers connect me back there. I can’t have the island, but I can carry my peppers with me.”
Fast-forward to 2004 when Greg gets a chance to mix his passion with his entrepreneurial flair and creates The Peppermaster line of hot sauces. On his website I discovered things I never knew existed:
– The Antidote. Greg, in true Peppermaster form: “Any fool can give you the heat, but it takes a true Peppermaster to take it away!” A sweet concoction of heavy cream and maple syrup. You can use it for desserts or let it sit on your tongue while the enzymes in the cream counteract the oils of the pepper.
- Elixirs. These are pepper syrups. I tell him I’ve never heard of these, and he replies that it’s because he invented them. (‘Ah!’) A sweet and spicy syrup to be used on ice cream or in recipes in lieu of chopped fresh peppers.
- Mashes. These are peppers that are mashed and mixed with lime juice, in tribute to the mashes that were on every table in the Bahamas growing up.
There are well over 100 different products online to choose from, from a more milder spice in their “Junior” line, to the 2nd hottest pepper in the world, the Butch T Scorpion*. (And no, I didn’t try it. Not yet, anyway.)
This year alone he has used 32 different varieties of peppers in his sauces and mashes.
Some are from local growers, but usually limited in quantity because of the short growing season. Others come from Haiti, Bangladesh, the United States, Jamaica, Trinidad and Mexico. 80% come direct from farmers, either organically produced or with little to no pesticides. Greg is always looking to discover a new pepper. People send over samples for him to try.
As for future varieties of hot sauces, I asked Greg if he was still creating more. “Yeah…it’s a problem.” He creates hot sauces, like Mozart created music. He tastes the sauce in his head, then goes about and makes it a few different ways until he gets just the right recipe.
You can find all his sauces, mashes, elixirs and more at www.peppermaster.com, or go to their blog, http://www.peppermaster.com/wordpress/ where Tina Brooks, his wife and VP of Marketing, adds some great recipes. Their original line of sauces is also available at Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec at Jean-Talon market.
If the world of hot peppers has piqued your curiosity, then go to the Peppermaster’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/PeppermasterShop. There are some avid pepper fans out there, with lots of interesting insights to the world of hot peppers. As the cold weather approaches, this may be a great way to bring some heat back into your life.
For more links related to peppers, go to Links.
* In 2012, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion beat out the Butch T Scorpion, taking the title for the World’s Hottest Pepper.