At the last Mexican Christmas Market, we met a very confident, bubbly and determined Mexican young lady passionate about her salsa macha project, an artisan salsa made in Mexico. She charmed everyone who came near her and tried the salsa, selling out all the stock she had brought to the market. I went home with a jar and loved the brand Chili Maven ever since, her name is Alexa Fernandez. I invited her to answer some questions to get to know her better:
1- What made you come up with Chili Maven?
Chili Maven was born out of my love for salsa macha, a Mexican chili oil that is delicious and addictive but is not available in the UK. I started making it at home and realized there was an opportunity to bring this amazing and flavourful condiment to the UK.
It took me over a year to make Chili Maven a reality. I started by testing and sampling my salsa macha with family and friends, until I achieved the perfect recipe. It then took me several months to find a manufacturer in Mexico that could make it with the same love and dedication I did at home. I also worked super hard on the logo and brand – I’m super happy as I think it really celebrates the spirit and vibrancy of Mexico without using cliched imagery.
2- What has been people’s reaction to your salsas?
Surprise followed by love! Most people have a preconceived notion of what a Mexican salsa tastes like. When people first try Chili Maven, those notions are dispelled: people grin in delight at the depth of flavour and are amazed by the warmth (instead of the burn) of the chilis. Our salsas are handmade in small batches using high-quality and locally sourced Mexican chilis. The process to produce our salsa macha is traditional, which means it is labour-intensive and authentically Mexican. When people first try Chili Maven, the quality and flavour shines through and they love that!
3- What are your plans with Chili Maven?
To educate the world about the wonderful world of chilis with our range of chili products. There are over 4,000 varieties of chilis globally, with over 200 in Mexico alone. Most people don’t know that and are only aware of a handful of varieties. I want to change that through Chili Maven, and our salsa macha is just the beginning…
4- What makes you homesick the most?
I miss the sun and the flavour, or the “sabor”, of food!
5- What is the best Mexican restaurant you’ve tried in the UK?
Last year I attended a pop-up with chef Adriana Cavita and it was absolutely amazing. She’s opening a new restaurant in the Spring, Cavita, which I’m sure will become my favourite Mexican restaurant in the UK!
5- What neighbourhood do you live in, and what is the best thing about it?
I live in Clapham and the best thing about it is the Common, a huge park with 3 ponds and a Victorian bandstand. I love going there for walks and picnics! Clapham is also turning out to be a great place to start a food business. I’ve gotten amazing support from the locals who try Chili Maven and the shops that stock it.
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