From the Bayou to the Big Apple, Scott Bellina is poised to scorch taste buds with Louisiana-inspired hot sauces.
by KATE STEVENS
The hot sauce industry is heating up thanks to a bayou-born chili head who has dashed, stirred and blended the unmistakable flavors of Louisiana into his new hot sauce line.
Scott Bellina, president and “sauce boss” of Scotty Peppers Hot Sauce Co., hopes Bayou Gotham, his handcrafted line of unique hot sauces, will be on grocers’ shelves by May. The line is “really creating a whole new perspective on what Louisiana sauces are because it’s based on the culture of Louisiana,” Bellina says.
The hot sauce line is based on his own culture as well. Born in New Orleans, Bellina grew up in Bayou St. John. His grandfather Roger Baumer, plant manager and brother of Baumer Foods founder Alvin Baumer, helped lay the groundwork for turning Crystal hot sauce into the empire it is today. “Those cayenne fumes on Tulane Avenue—I still remember like it was yesterday,” says Bellina, 44. “Hot sauce to me is as ubiquitous as air.” Bellina also spent time at his paternal grandparents’ Italian grocery store in Donaldsonville where he learned to love fresh produce, spices and herbs.
Each of the four Bayou Gotham hot sauces is “heritage inspired,” Bellina says. Bayou Bourré captures the zesty essence of a crawfish boil with cayenne, crab boil, garlic, onions, celery, citrus, red potatoes and yellow corn. There’s no actual crawfish in the sauce, but it pairs wonderfully with fried or boiled seafood … or just about anything, Bellina says.
Juju Guru is a tropical jalapeño green hot sauce inspired by a backstage conversation with the late legendary New Orleans musician Dr. John, who mistakenly thought Crystal had produced a green hot sauce back in the day. Crystal actually didn’t make a green hot sauce, so Bellina says he thought, “I have to make a green sauce for Dr. John.”
Ruby Rebelle is a defiant twist on the traditional Louisiana-style hot sauce classically made from red peppers, salt and vinegar. Bellina added barrel-aged bourbon to the mix, which enhances the piquant flavors of the peppers.
Flambeau Fiya is a nod to the Mardi Gras flambeau carriers—the men lighting the way for the parades—and the traditional Caribbean, sweet-heat flavors found in so many dishes in New Orleans, a locale that some call the northernmost Caribbean city.
On the hot meter, Ruby Rebelle and Flambeau Fiya are the hottest of the two sauces, he says.
This “journey filled with heat and soul” all began when Bellina graduated from LSU with a degree in graphic design and moved to New York City, where he currently lives. After spending years designing and creating food brands for clients, Bellina decided to go back to his roots “literally and figuratively” and design his own hot sauce brand.
Experimenting in the kitchen with peppers, produce and Louisiana flavor profiles was challenging. He broke plenty of bottles, scalded his hands and burnt other body parts with forgotten pepper residue in search of the perfect recipes, he says. “The Bayou Bourré sauce took me six months to perfect because of what I was trying to achieve,” Bellina says, “the essence of a crawfish boil without using crawfish.”
Bellina named his sauce brand “Bayou Gotham” because of his dual lives in Louisiana and the Big Apple. “New York City is my heart but New Orleans is my soul—that’s how I feel,” Bellina says. “I’m a New Yorker at heart but I’m a product of Louisiana.”
Although Bellina has four other hot sauces named after New York neighborhoods, he is focusing on the Louisiana-themed sauces for now. A Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $30,000, well beyond Bellina’s $25,000 goal, to help him launch the business.
The sauces will go into production in mid-March, he says.
Unsurprisingly, a 15-second social media video for the Bayou Bourré sauce received 28,000 views while the other three sauces received a combined total of around 1,000 views. “Nobody loves the bayou stuff more than people who live on the bayou,” Bellina says.