I am a certifiable fiery foods fanatic, but hot sauce and fresh homegrown produce has been a part of my life since the day I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. You could even say it’s “in my blood”. My grandfather, Roger Baumer, was plant manager and brother to Baumer Foods founder Alvin Baumer. Together they laid the groundwork for turning Crystal®, Louisiana’s Pure Hot Sauce, from a sno-ball syrup company in 1923, into the empire it is today. The pungent fumes of cayenne emanating from the old plant location on Tulane Avenue overwhelmed my senses as a kid and, gratefully, still pervade.
In 1944, my paternal grandparents, Mike and Virginia Bellina, established Bellina’s Grocery in Donaldsonville, a small sugar cane town in South Louisiana where Bayou Lafourche greets the Mississippi River. I spent many hot ’n’ humid bayou summers of the 1980’s stacking cans and tagging fruits and vegetables — keepin’ cool under the store’s AC.
Their enduring legacies and entrepreneurial spirits have been passed down for generations in my family. For the past 20 years, I’ve made my living in NYC as a creative director, designer, and musician. I’ve enjoyed a successful career helping clients launch and sustain great natural products and brands, and now I am thrilled to launch one of my own — showcasing my passion for hot sauce, Creole cooking, and the global flavors of NYC. I enjoy creating new ways to get back to my Louisiana roots and sharing them with everyone I meet. My grandparents would be proud of the career choices I have made in life, so making hot sauce with fresh ingredients is my way of showing the world how proud I am of them.
WHY “BAYOU GOTHAM”?
One doesn’t need a lesson in American history to understand that New Orleans and New York City are among the oldest, most ethnically diverse culinary centers of the United States — perhaps even the world. Strolling the colorful neighborhoods of either locale, one can quickly palate the aromatic medley of flavors in the air. A lot of blood was shed to get us where we are today, but our taste buds have come out on the winning end.
The spicy cuisines of Louisiana and of New York City are global mash-up cuisines. Creole-Italian. Viet-Cajun. Caribbean-Soul. Indo-Chinese. Bayou Gotham® is a celebration of these inclusive culinary fusions that could have only arisen through a warm embrace among melting pot mixes of creed, class, and ethnicity.
I recently discovered that, in the late 19th Century, all of my immigrant ancestors entered the United States from one of two places: New York Harbor at Ellis Island and The Port of New Orleans. Perhaps I was predestined to call both places home. I was born and raised along Bayou St. John in New Orleans and Bayou Lafourche in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. After graduating from Louisiana State University, I relocated to Manhattan to chase the Big Apple aspirations of a 25-year-old — just five months before the horrific events of September 11, 2001. I was born on the bayou, and I came of age in “Gotham”.
Bayou Gotham® is a byproduct of my continuous state of being in two places at the same time. It’s fearless ambition met with a laissez faire attitude. It’s a welcome embrace to change with an openness to diversity, while simultaneously a homage to very specific cultures and cuisines. It’s what makes us all the same while individually unique.
New York City is my heart. New Orleans is my soul. Bayou Gotham® Hot Sauce gets me back to my deep Louisiana roots while demonstrating the pride I have for my adopted home of New York City. My goal is to share these sauces and heritage, by offering a small taste of what’s so far been a zest-filled life. Bayou Gotham® is much more than a tale of two cities. It’s a culinary quest filled with heat ‘n’ soul.