• Rachele Viard

Chef Llewellyn Clarke and his Famed Hot Pepper Sauces

Updated: Mar 4

Although Chef Llewellyn Clarke was born in Manchester, England, he did not miss out of Nevisian or Kittitian dishes. He grew up as most of us do in the kitchen watching his mother conjure up some great meals. It is in his mother’s kitchen that he developed a passion for food.

Chef Llewellyn had the opportunity to work at some major and high-end dining establishments in England, Canada and St. Kitts & Nevis. In 1999, the disciplined and detail oriented chef returned to Nevis to care for his aging father. His heightened sense of curiosity, his keen sense of taste and smell and his passion to continually create new dishes, sauces, jams, etc., propelled him to launch his own business venture.

Photos provided by Chef Llewellyn Clarke

At first, he produced hot pepper and thyme sauces, jelly water, local drinks, mango chutney, and flavored oils. But now it has evolved and Chef Llewellyn has varieties of pepper sauces such as guava pepper. He also produces sorrel wine, jams, local fruit ice creams. In addition he also makes salad dressing, and garlic butter for supermarkets.

Violet Clarke

Llewellyn’s has become a family affair, with his wife, Violet, playing an integral part in the business. Along with his children, mother, and father in law assisting him in making these in-demand products. His son Joseph, who loves to eat what his dad cooks has developed a passion for food and wants to become a chef. The teenager’s (14 year old) desire to follow in his father’s footsteps is so strong that he has already participated in food workshops. The Llewellyn tradition is secured.

Chef Llewellyn's three sons: Deus, Joseph and Benjamin
Chef Llewellyn's mother and father in law

CE: During your childhood, did you visit St. Kitts and Nevis?

Chef L: I visited Nevis for the first time in 1984, 1 year after the Islands of St Kitts & Nevis became independent from the United Kingdom. As an 18 year old, it was the first time that I saw fruit trees, it was a taste of Eden, because everything was there. And I was seeing upfront the country where my parents were born and experiencing the vibrant culture. After that I traveled every few years and stayed in Nevis for about six (6) weeks each time.

CE: During your childhood you cooked with your mother and state that your love of food is directly tied to those experiences. Please explain?

Chef L: I have fond memories of the bread being made at home, the aroma of the yeast in the flour proving in the large creamy brown china dish that all Caribbean people had in their homes. Whether to make bread or bake a cake.

My siblings and I were always there to scrape out the cake batter, because it tasted so good. Making Pancakes was hit and miss in those days and I could never manage to form the perfect ball of cornmeal (which went with fish). Bacon ribs was another item we ate with rice and was a regular dish, nowadays it has grown in popularity the name has changed we know it as baby back ribs.

Soup on Saturdays, that’s what it was without change, I don’t know where those ingredients came from. Mind you I grew up in inner city Manchester, Rusholme to be exact, and those ingredients did not come from there. I am talking about tania, dasheen, chou chou and those heavy dumplings. When my father made soup and put in dumplings, they were dense, so dense one nearly pulled out my tooth filling. See I preferred my mother’s cooking.

CE: To get to know you better, tell us about your experience in the food industry?

Chef L: I went to Openshaw Technical College in Manchester to study City and Guilds Catering. During the two-year program, I learned the basics of cooking and the foundation of the hospitality industry. We learned how to set tables and silverware, and serve guests in restaurants. It was fun serving in our black and white attire and getting to know dining etiquette.

From there I went to London to gain work experience. College was just the basics now I was entering the real world. My first job was at Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London. This was a grand hotel whose Head chef was Remi Fugeré. He was a French Chef and I learned classical French culinary skills while there.

Then I worked in several different restaurants staying for a minimum of 18 months at each. It was hard but worth it. It was long hours (double shifts) plenty of coffee and the money was good. In London you met the world. People came from all over the world to visit I enjoyed meeting new people and learning something culinary new as well.

CE: What are the key experiences in your career that have defined you professionally?

Chef L: I think working in fine dining restaurants and upholding their values and standards is necessary to bring you to a point of always trying to do your best and give your best. We had a saying back in the day which was “the Caprice way or no way”. Knowing what is right is a good way to set a standard and working at Le Caprice in London was a key experience.

I think following good practices will always give you the edge. When I went to live in Canada working at Auberge Du Pommier was another key experience as that was another high end restaurant offering top notch food for a discerning clientele.

CE: Who is a chef you admire, and why?

Chef L: I do not look for chefs to admire anymore .When I was younger I used to look towards Raymond Blanc from Manoir aux Quat’saisons. That was a place I wanted to work because the cuisine was excellent.

As you go through life you save all the good practices and working environments that you have encountered. Then you implement them into your life’s trajectory.

CE: What do you like to eat when you're at home?

Chef L: I enjoy fresh snapper at home, pan seared fillets or fish soup with the head. You can’t beat a bit of fish soup with green banana and some ground provision.

CE: Nowadays, with the Food Network and cooking channels, home chefs are really pushing the envelope and exploring diverse cuisines. What is the best piece of advice you would give these foodies?

Chef L: It’s always good to try other cuisines and open up your senses to new and interesting flavors and aromas. Every country has something different to offer and no one should push up their noses at other people’s culture.

CE: Many new kitchen gadgets have emerged in the past few years to facilitate cooking, what are some your favorite kitchen equipment or gadgets and why?

Chef L: My favorite gadgets are the Benrider Mandoline which is excellent for slicing vegetables with ease to facilitate cutting into julienne. Also a Vitamix blender is excellent for soups and purées and leaves little residue to strain out. It is also great to emulsify sauces and dressings.

CE: What made you decide to leave Canada and return to Nevis?

Chef L: I decided to go and live in Canada to experience another country and it was a good choice. I was living in a small village called Eden Mills, Ontario which had a population of about 400 people and was close to rural farmland.

Animals that frequented the area were white tailed deer, raccoons, and chipmunks. And as far as birds were chickadees, blue jays, and cardinals.

The Eromasa River was close by and good for fishing or Kayaking. In the Ontario greenbelt there was an abundance of fruit and vegetables and I used to visit the farmers market quite regularly or visit the orchards gathering peaches or cherries to make liquors or bottle them. You got to appreciate nature and what it has to offer. After seven (7) years in Canada I left to go to Nevis to look after my father who was getting on in age.

CE: Did you imagine your gourmet hot pepper sauces could ever reach the popularity it has?

Chef L: No not at all. I was making a product and made it consistently not ever thinking about making it popular.

CE: What is the inspiration behind your hot pepper sauces?

Chef L: I saw that there was pepper sauce here in the Caribbean and they were very rustic. Also there was an abundance of pepper and I decided to make a refined pepper sauce with flavor so I did a little mixing and came up with something - hot pepper and thyme sauce.

CE: Does your family use these sauces? If yes which one is their favorite?

Chef L: Of course they do. Their favorite one is the Mango Pepper Sauce.

CE: You are selling the sauces worldwide, what is your largest market?

Chef L: Pre Covid, I was selling in North America. Right now shipping is at a lull and sometime this year we will be ramping back up to get an Amazon distribution set up, so shipping will be easier and cheaper than shipping from Nevis.

CE: Where do you currently work and what is your role?

Chef L: Presently I am employed at the 4 Seasons Resort in Nevis where I am employed as the Butcher. My role is to fillet the fish that we receive from local fishermen and to ensure appropriate portion control. We receive snapper, mahi-mahi, grouper, wahoo, tuna, swordfish and spiny Caribbean lobster. My job is to also portion and distribute the fish and meat cuts to the different restaurant outlets that operate on the resort.

I also work from home at my business place called Llewellyn’s where I manufacture pepper sauces ,make local fruit ice creams, chutneys, jams, salad dressings, and condiments.

CE: What is your favorite Nevisian or Kittitian dish?

Chef L: Fish soup of course.

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