Yvette Brooks is easy to spot at the Grey Lynn Farmers Market, not just from her striking red hair – it is the crowd gathered around her, concentrating as they identify salsa flavours in different areas of their mouths, under her expert instruction.
Why the red hair?
I’ve been colouring my hair since I was 13 and red seems to suit me. So red seemed an obvious element to include in our name – The Red Hot Kiwi Company is meant to be playful. I wanted to use our national mascot, the Kiwi, but to make a difference. He's shaggy with feet!! I'm the RED, the salsa is HOT, KIWI - we are made in NZ, and my darling husband Chris is the COMPANY!!
What attracted you to salsa?
I have strong nostalgic associations with Mexican food from a trip to San Diego with my nieces. We found an extraordinary Mexican restaurant that was alive with vibrant colours, smells, flavours and sizzling sounds. As we shared this delicious feast, I had an epiphany “This is what food should be like”.
But why make it a business?
The real push was my beautiful niece, Danielle, who just passed away at the age of 26, from cancer. About two years ago, she was visiting us and found me up to my eyeballs in tomatoes and chillies. She told me she thought I was so brave and how proud of me she was. She is my reason that I make every batch with love, integrity and the finest New Zealand ingredients.
Her motto, and now mine, is: “DO WHAT YOU LOVE”, and I love making salsa and great food that people love to eat.
Why do you sell at Grey Lynn Farmers Market?
I love the community of the market. It is like being part of a family where everyone is interested in seeing each other succeed.
I started at Oratia and Melissa (who makes kombucha) kept saying I should come to Grey Lynn. She was right - it is such a good fit for me. It’s great to be surrounded by like-minded people who value to integrity of the ingredients.
Any surprises at the market?
It is amazing how many Americans, Canadians and Latinos have sought us out. They are our biggest critics because the know what good fresh Mexican Salsa should taste like. There was a Mexican girl who tasted my salsa and started crying because it tasted just like her Mum’s – it made her home-sick.
What is it they like about your salsa?
I think it’s because it's so fresh and ticks so many 'healthy choices', without being dull. We are vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten free and all round yummy! We use NZ ingredients, organic when possible. From our Mild, to our Xtra Hot, our Salsa Verde, or our Chipotle, there is something for everyone, even kids love it.
What does the future hold for you?
I was lucky to be spotted by one of the “talent scouts” for the Kitchen Project. There was a rigorous interview process and it is such a privilege to be one of the five emerging food businesses that have been accepted into this intensive business mentoring programme. I intend to make the most of this opportunity. I would love to be the wholesale salsa that all chefs and restaurants use and that every household has in their fridge.
As published in Ponsonby News : May 2018