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Basil Simmons

An internationally acclaimed hot sauce saw humble beginnings at the Lethbridge Heritage Day Ethnic Food Fair and local farmers’ market. Working from the 55-year-old recipe of his Guyanese grandmother, Basil Simmons, his wife Hilda and daughter Margaret developed a condiment that represented the perfect fusion of ingredients from the Guyana and Alberta.

With the mango and Jamaican Scotch bonnet pepper providing the fruit and heat of Simmons’ southern home, it would take the mellow nature of Alberta mustard, onion, cucumber and canola oil to complete the taste sensation.

Simmons familyWhile immigration to Canada offered many things to the Simmons family, good hot sauce was not one of them, explains Basil on his website. "When my family and I immigrated to Canada, we joked for years about making our own hot sauce as we had difficulty finding one that lived up to the reputation of being hot and flavourful. I had continued making the hot sauce as I had learned from Grandma for our own use, but decided to refine the recipe by adding more ingredients suitable to our own taste. The result of this experiment was an absolutely delicious tasting sauce!"

He retired as a federal inspector in 1998, and at the suggestion of his co-workers who had tasted his version of his grandmother’s specialty, set up a company with his wife Hilda and daughter Margaret to produce and market the product.

In 2001, the result was a trio of hot foods victories in the United States, a development that brought the Simmons family attention from the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia. At the time the Simmons did not have a distributor outside Canada, and were selling the condiment only through their website.

The publicity from the awards caught the attention of the Overwaitea Food Group of Vancouver, the parent company of the Save-On Foods chain, and today, the product can be found throughout Canada through Save-On, Sobey’s, IGA, Sunterra Foods and a multitude of specialty shops. With the increased business both in and outside Alberta, the family moved its production from a small commercial kitchen in Lethbridge to the federal food processing centre at Leduc.

However, the Lethbridge—and, indeed Guyanese—roots are not forgotten. Basil and his family still maintain the website (www.firenbrimstone.com), and offer their products on the Internet, just like the old days.

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