Doc Bell brings the heat to The Royal
Shawn Bell can take the heat and has no plans to get out of the kitchen.
The creator of Doc Bells Hot Sauce, got his start at the Creemore Farmers’ Market this spring and upon receiving a very positive reception from customers, he has taken the step of entering his product in The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Bell said he launched his line of hot sauces at this year’s Easter market and sold 41 bottles on the first day. He was so encouraged by the response that he ended up taking a booth for the full market season, and getting a booth at the market in Wasaga Beach, where he lives.
Bell is entering seven sauces in four categories: All Thai’d Up and Chipotle Garlic are in the mild category; Sweet Heat and Dragon’s Kiss are in the medium category; Ghostly Fever and Tribute to Trinidad are in the hot category; and Unfriendly Ghost is extra hot.
The limited availability of some peppers means some sauces can only be made seasonally.
“It’s hard to find devil’s tongue and white ghost at any greenhouse anywhere so you have to grow them yourself, which is what I do,” said Bell.
He grows his own peppers in his home greenhouse, and sources them from a farm that grows more than 40 varieties of peppers.
“I have a lot of fun making hot sauces and sometimes I come across peppers that I wasn’t supposed to have and I end up making new sauces,” said Bell, who has made about 20 different hot sauces this year.
“And they all taste different, which is good. I’ve seen a lot of companies that come out with small batch sauces but they may only have two types and they are both blazingly hot,” said Bell.
Complementing the hot peppers with citrus, fruit, and sweet peppers, he prides himself on making products that have good flavour, not just heat.
Bell said it all started almost two decades ago when he was working with a Trinidadian man who served him a hot sauce one day at lunch that was incredibly hot, but he loved the flavour so he started working on his own recipe, trying to adapt it for the North American palette.
Over two years he developed his original Sweet Heat sauce, and has been making it the same way ever since. “That inspired a whole philosophy on sauces, because the market back then wasn’t saturated with ridiculously hot sauces, or ones that don’t taste very good,” said Bell.
He was encouraged by friends and family to sell his sauces, so over the years Bell has starred growing and smoking his own peppers, and has commissioned creative labels depicting the playful names of the sauces inspired by the peppers and spices used in the recipe.
When the market sent out a communication to its vendors saying they would support anyone who wanted to enter a product in the Royal Winter Fair, Bell said he was intrigued because he has fond memories of going there with his late father.
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at Exhibition Place in Toronto runs from Nov. 4-13 and includes a wide variety of agricultural shows, including livestock and food. The pickling and hot sauce competition is on Oct. 26.
Doc Bells Hot Sauce is available the next two remaining Saturdays of the Creemore Farmers’ Market on Oct. 22 and 29, or find them on Facebook.