9 July 2021
Chef Thomas Tennant has been a fan of hot sauces for a long time.
"From a very young age, when I was living in Miami, I was drawn to peppers and pepper sauce," he says. "I was drawn to hot sauce even though my parents weren't."
Tennant says it was his childhood tennis coach who first introduced him to hot sauce.
"He was from Panama and he always put Grace Hot Pepper Sauce on his food," he says. "I decided that was something I wanted to do."
Tennant, who worked for many years with Chef Michael Schwartz's Genuine Hospitality Group and first came to Grand Cayman as the executive chef of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Camana Bay, eventually started creating hot sauces himself.
"The first one was made with mango," he says, noting that he was still living in Miami at the time.
More recently, after living in the Cayman Islands for more than a decade and learning about other island ingredients, Tennant started making a wide variety of hot sauces, most of which use the Caribbean Scotch bonnet as the base pepper.
"I'd see an ingredient like sweet plantain and think, 'Ooh, that would make a good hot sauce.' Or I would see a coconut and think, 'What about using that for a hot sauce.'"
Making hot sauce is a labour of love and using peppers like Scotch bonnets comes with a degree of risk. Tennant says he uses gloves to prevent burning his hands, but that he no longer uses a mask to protect his nostrils from the fumes.
"My other staff [wear masks], but I don't anymore," he says. "I guess I just got used to it."
Now, Tennant bottles and sells nine hot sauces — all made in Cayman — with different ingredients and different heat levels under the Tomfoodery Kitchen brand. His "Plantain on de Side" is his best seller, followed closely by "Cayman Fiyah." Other varieties include Coco Fiyah and Mango Fiyah, which feature coconut and mango respectively; Rum Barrel Fiyah, which incorporates peppers fermented in used oak rum barrels; and Smokin' Bonnie Fiyah, which utilises smoked Scotch bonnet peppers and other vegetables.
Some of the pepper sauces are available at local supermarkets and some are available through Tortuga Distributors. However, all are available at Tomfoodery Kitchen & Bar, which opened for indoor and outdoor dining along the Paseo in Camana Bay last month.
This article originally appeared in the July 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline "Made in Cayman."
About the author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for four years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 17 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for the Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. Alan is passionate about food and wine and he loves to write about both those subjects. He is also the leader of Grand Cayman’s Slow Food Chapter. One of Alan’s favourite ways to relax is to catch a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!