You’ll notice all sorts of interesting condiments as you stroll through the bustling Chili Pepper Festival in Brooklyn—yes, this is a real event. Some sauces are so hot they’ll practically burn your tastebuds off, while others are mild and sweet. Many vendors are dressed in regular street clothes, and others rock their company’s branded swag. Somewhere in the mix, bobbing a full head above most of the crowd, you’ll spot a huge, curly wig wrapped up in a bright bandana. The wig and headwrap belong to Shaquanda Coco Mulatta, the drag persona of cook, performer, and hot-sauce company owner Andre Springer.
Andre is the founder of Shaquanda’s Hot Pepper Sauce, a line of hot sauces that pay homage to Andre's Brooklyn upbringing, his family’s Barbadian roots, and his identity as a drag queen. Perhaps what sets Shaquanda’s sauce apart—beyond the fact that it's delicious on pretty much everything—is how seamlessly and thoughtfully Andre brings all the aspects of his identity together in one product. Shaquanda's boasts four delicious sauces now, all of them taking inspiration from the pepper sauces Andre’s Barbadian family pour on all of their food. On the front of each bottle of fiery sauce is a label sporting Shaquanda’s glowing smile, the same one that will greet you if you ever make it to one of those spicy festivals.
I joined Andre in the kitchen to learn more about Shaquanda, and see how New York's most fabulous hot sauce is made.
Resetting the Table is a monthly Serious Eats video series celebrating the diverse foodways that inform the way we eat in America. In each segment, Elazar Sontag cooks and talks with someone whose work in food, farming, or social justice is making a difference.