A Blast from the Past
On May 29, 1991, Richard Levangie of the Halifax Daily News, a tabloid that ceased publication in 2008 wrote an article about then budding Commercial Hot Sauce Creator, our very own, Greg Brooks. Here is that article:
Take a trip on the Hot SideRichard Levangie The Daily News Maryse Hudon, co-owner of Constant Creation specialty sauces, has observed the differences between the sexes first-hand when couples approach her display booth at craft fairs. "There's an interesting segmentation that happens with our sauces," Hudon says, laughing. "The couple walks in, and the woman will go right for the dessert sauces, while the men go for the hot sauces." Judging by the response at craft fairs over the last dozen years, its reasonable to assume that both sexes love Constant Creation sauces — even if they do disagree on what to taste first. Most businesses should be so lucky — and so popular. At a time when business bankruptcies are rife, profits have plunged, and companies across the country are streamlining operations, sales of Constant Creation products rose by 41 per cent last year. Hudon has divined her own theory for Constant Creation's bucking of the recessionary trend. "When times are tough, people want their comfort foods. I also think it's because our products are priced in a good range. At the craft shows people can't always afford a $200 purse, but they can (afford to) treat the whole family (with one of our sauces)." Constant Creation was started by Hudon and her husband Greg Brooks 14 years ago, as a way to supplement income from their seasonal restaurant in Canning, called Appletree Landing.
Decadent namesBrooks is a self-taught chef who had gained a loyal following for his international cooking and sinful desserts. "He prided himself on the cheesecake that he made, but was horrified at the commercially available toppings that people would use on cakes at home. So he tried making dessert toppings — and he came out with three... He took them to the craft show and sold everything (he had made) in two hours." With decadent sounding names like Raspberry Sauce with Grand Marnier and Triple Cherry Jubilee, it's no wonder that the Constant Creation sauce business was simmering from the very beginning. The next step was to increase the sauce repertoire. Recipes sometimes take a year or more of spicy dabbling, including time spent determining each sauce's shelf life. (Hudon says their creations can be stored for up to two years). Sampling through Constant Creation sauces is now a trip on the hot side as well as the sweet side. With 17 sauces in all, eye-watering ethnic condiments like Caribbean Pepper Sauce, Thai Satay Sauce and Cajun Sauce with Red Wine now share shelf space in gift shops and specialty stores throughout the province with sweeties Chocolate Sauce with Kahlua and Maple Cream Coulis. The latter was awarded best confection product at the 1989 Canadian Specialty Foods Show and is Hudon's favorite. "When it comes to developing sauces, a lot of it is by gut feel," Hudon says, without intending a pun. "I keep abreast of all the new trends in food by reading all the new magazines. But then we might go on a trip, and happen to hit on a great Thai restaurant. We'll love the Satay sauce and we'll come home and experiment with it. That's actually how that one came about." The Caribbean Pepper Sauce was one Brooks had wanted to make for a long time, but put on the back burner until he could find a supplier of birdseye pepper &e; used by all Caribbeans worth their salt. It's guaranteed to raise temperatures. Hudon thinks the spiced mulled wine mix is particularly ingenious. Most mulled wine mixes are dry, and come in packages designed to make gallons of product. At Constant Creation, "we did the mulling for our customers. It has an apple juice base, so it doesn't affect the acidity of the wine, and you can make it quickly, by heating it up... so you can serve it a glass at a time." She adds that it's fun to watch people experiment with the sauces at craft shows, where Constant Creation sells most of its product. She points to the Caribbean Pepper sauce by way of example. "Since Greg was brought up in Nassau, in the Bahamas, it's not a Canadian version of a hot sauce, it's Caribbean hot. And we've had that confirmed to us over and over at craft shows, when people won't believe how hot it is. I think there's real entertainment value there." The sauces are certainly original. "People are amazed at the concentration of flavor. They're expecting something very sweet, and they're surprised at how sharp it is. Or they say 'boy does that taste like raspberries.' " It's no wonder the strong flavours come through. Although they hire a few extra people at peak times, for the most part Brooks and Hudon still do everything themselves. Brooks is the culinary general, while Hudon with a science degree in horticulture and a masters in agricultural economics — speaks the same language as farmers and businessmen and women. They've purposely kept the company small — they still operate out of a backroom in their Wolfville house — so that they can continue to oversee all aspects of production. "We use over 12 tons of locally-grown produce. By now we've established good relationships with our suppliers. They'll call us and tell us when the variety is reaching maturity. they'll call and say the raspberries are being picked in the morning, we'll pick them up at noon, and they'll be in the jar by five o'clock." Although the sauces sound and taste quite decadent they're made without chemical additives or preservatives. "They're in keeping with the philosophy of our restaurant. There's no cholesterol, no salt, we've replaced the sugar in the dessert sauces with concentrated fruit juices. That makes for a sharper product, but it's also healthier. The Constant Creation booth at craft fairs is almost like a culinary prep school. Hudon and Brooks explain their product, suggest recipes, and show how a little Constant Creation can go a long way. It's a scene they repeat at every major craft show in Nova Scotia, and more in central and eastern Canada. The business plan seems to be working. They sold the restaurant about 18 months ago because they could no longer manage both enterprises. "When 800 pounds of tomatoes are arriving, and you have to make a paste out of them," Hudon laughs, "you don't always feel like prepping for dinner (afterwards)." They also hope to hand product distribution over to a national company in another month or so which will free up more time for production, in-store selling and other important matters.
Prep work mindlessLike starting a family (Maryse is expecting). They've also just released World Wind Tour for Two — a self-published cookbook chockfull of recipes from around the world, and a few more based on their specialty sauces. Contrary to popular belief, owning your own successful business is not always an idyllic life. Hudon says a lot of the prep work, in particular, is mindless. But Constant Creation, as a business, is flexible enough to allow Hudon and Brooks to explore the world beyond bubbling stainless steel pots, mounds of fresh fruit, and empty jars. "That's the real beauty. We enjoy travelling, taking courses, and furthering our other interests." Constant Creation sauces can be purchased at Mary Jane's Alternative Tastes on Hollis, and craft shops like Harbour Swan on Argyle. Look for them at the Nova Scotia designer Craft council Summer Craft Market in August.