Nicole isn’t your typical hot sauce company Product Head. But then we’re not exactly your typical hot sauce company either. With a qualification from Le Cordon Bleu’s London branch under her belt and an earful of experience under Gordon Ramsay as a Senior Chef de Partie at The Savoy Grill back in the day, Nicole was all set to blow up the shmancy London restaurant scene in style, probably dishing out modern European small plates over an Instagrammable 4-seater counter tucked behind an incognito front door in the belly of Soho. But then she met us and everything changed.
With roots in India’s coastal Catholic community and over a decade of cheffing experience in London, experimenting with new flavours at the crossroads of culinary traditions comes naturally to Nicole. That’s why a range of hot sauces that marries India’s traditional recipes and indigenous ingredients with contemporary eating styles and sensibilities was an obvious and, frankly, perfect fit.
It’s time to meet the chef behind the sauce.
Where did the Pico idea come from?
If you associate one cuisine with being “spicy”, most people would probably say Indian. Sure, lots of other food can be spicy like Thai, Mexican or Korean, but they aren’t the first places your mind jumps to when you think ‘spicy’. So with all the hundreds of Mexican and South East Asian flavours you find when looking for a hot sauce in a supermarket, why isn’t there even a single Indian flavour in the mix, let alone a definitive Indian hot sauce brand? Everyone can name Tabasco - but that’s made in America. These days Sriracha comes top of mind, but again that’s Thai. So where’s the Indian hot sauce? When you think about it, Pico was just waiting to happen - it’s a natural fit, really.
Cool packaging design. What’s the story here?
We worked with an awesome creative team - Hermana Creatives - a London-based Argentinian sister duo that are super creative and completely got our brief down to a ‘T’. Inspired by Imperial sketches of Indian caricatures and the whacky tradition of Indian matchbox art, they underwent the same process that we followed with our sauces: reinventing great things from India’s past and giving it a makeover for the consumer of today.
What is Pico’s most popular sauce?
Our signature sauce is definitely the Naga Ghost Pepper Sauce. It’s really spicy and gives a real kick, but that’s not what we had in mind when we made it. We wanted a sauce that is really spicy, but that tastes really good too. A lot of hot sauces are basically just chilli and vinegar - they increase the heat of your food but they just have a slightly sour taste if you take away the heat factor. With our Ghost Pepper Sauce we’ve got garlic, onions and a range of spices in there, which is why it tastes absolutely amazing as well. That makes it a great ingredient to mix in if you are preparing something else like a marinade or a dip. Personally though, I just eat gallons of our Konkan Mango Chilli Sauce. I can’t get enough of it. It’s fruity but without the excessive sweetness that you get with mango chutney. And our sauce is hot but still manageable so you can eat a lot of it without going crazy.
What's the story behind the Punjabi Ketchup?
While waiting for our order at a McDonald's outlet in Mumbai, we noticed that the condiments at the table are the same as what they have in the USA or the UK. It was your standard mustard, ketchup, mayo set, that was it. We thought - what if they gave you a sauce that could make anything Indian - it would be a hit in India where fast food chains have always struggled with “Indianising” their menus for the Indian population that loves spices and stronger flavours. So we set out to make a ketchup that could literally do that - make anything Indian. We took the spices from a classic Punjabi Butter Chicken recipe and we cooked the sauce the way you would make ketchup, and it worked! Ketchup that tastes like butter chicken. Simple, really. Simple but brilliant.
If someone finds the Naga Ghost Pepper Sauce too spicy, what should they do?
Our Naga Ghost Pepper Sauce is too hot to eat by itself for most people. The best thing to do is to mix it with mayonnaise to tone down the hotness. You mix 10 parts of mayonnaise with 1 part of Naga Ghost Pepper sauce, and mix them together. You can add more or less sauce depending on how much heat you can handle. You can also add chopped parsley and a pinch of salt to give it that gourmet flare if you have friends over and want to impress. The same steps work with regular ketchup too, which also goes really well.