Keisha Smith-Jeremie Helps Adults Reimagine Applesauce with Sanaía

Cuisine Noir Magazine. Nov 2019.

A Bohemian entrepreneur has reinvented an American staple with a Caribbean twist. Sanaía Applesauce is not your ordinary applesauce that kids usually snack on. This one has flavors such as tamarind, ginger, hibiscus, lavender, and white pear in a yogurt-cup like packaging. It is also made with all-natural ingredients and is less than 70 calories.

Growing up on the beautiful islands of The Bahamas, founder and CEO Keisha Smith-Jeremie never realized how idyllic her childhood was. “I had 8-9 fruit trees in my backyard and we would help our neighbors pick fruits over the weekends. You almost knew what month it was based on which fruits were in season. That is the deepest connection I have to my roots that led me to start my business,” says Smith-Jeremie about how she founded her company.

When she left The Bahamas at the age of 16 to attend the University of Virginia, it was the first time this island girl experienced winter and snow. She missed the flavors of home — tangy tamarind sauce and sweet guava jam — so she went to the local grocer in the Shenandoah Valley, got some apples and started making her own applesauce; recreating similar textures and flavors.

Guava Sanaia Applesauce by Keisha Smith-Jeremie
Pictured: Guava Applesauce | Photo credit: Sanaía

Over the years, Smith-Jeremie tested her recipe with friends. Her tamarind and applesauce concoction got rave reviews and she decided to commercialize the products. After appearing on the ABC’s “Shark Tank,” she joined hands with businessman Mark Cuban who ultimately did not invest but stayed on as an advisor to Sanaía Applesauce.

Now, Sanaía’s guava and unsweetened applesauce flavors are available at 800 Walmart stores and through Amazon.com.  Flavors hitting the shelves in 2020 will include hibiscus, ginger, tamarind, lavender and pear.

Disrupting the Industry

So what makes Sanaía Applesauce different from the other applesauce brands that have been on the shelves for decades? Smith-Jeremie says everyone from her 10-year-old goddaughter (who she named the brand after) to Millennials and adults love the unusual fruit flavors and texture of the apple wedges in her applesauce. Sanaía is made with whole Granny Smith green apple wedges, as well as all-natural and organic ingredients. No added sugars make the applesauce a healthy, vegan, GMO-free, low-sugar, gluten-free, dairy-free and allergen-free snack that satisfies your sweet tooth craving. She shares, “I created Sanaía because I believe that what we eat provides us with the fuel we need to live the life we want.” She advises to eat the applesauce chilled or poured over warm granola.

Unsweetened and Guava Applesauce by Sanaía
Pictured: Unsweetened and Guava Applesauce | Photo credit: Sanaía

As a female immigrant entrepreneur, Smith-Jeremie juggles her personal and professional life while growing her business. She attributes her success to having a great team. “Surround yourself with passionate people who also see your big vision. As a small company, I am closer to my customers and can make decisions much faster. The comfort is in not knowing all the answers, but focusing on all the advantages you have,” she advises.

When asked where she sees the brand going next, Smith-Jeremie responds that her aspirations are to see Sanaía at college campuses and in airplanes and grocery stores. Currently a $900M market with 99% of the spend focused on children, she believes that applesauce is ready for mature and healthy flavors and that Sanaía is the brand that will lead the way as adults reimagine the way they think about applesauce.

~ Written for and published by Cuisine Noir Magazine. All rights reserved.

From The Bahamas to Toronto: Raquel Fox Talks Plans for a New Year and Cookbook

For Cuisine Noir. January 2019.

Bahamian celebrity chef, restaurateur, caterer, and teacher Raquel Fox just added author to her list of accomplishments with the completion of her first cookbook, “Dining in Paradise. ”  The collection of over 150 authentic island recipes is due out this March.

Fox’s earliest memory of being in the kitchen is when she was a 6-year-old sous chef to her grandmother, peeling root vegetables and husking corn. “Watching my grandmother’s love for food, bringing people together over celebratory meals and making them happy was magical for me to watch,” she says. As a child, she would witness fishmongers bring fresh seafood to her house on bicycles and her grandfather, a farmer, start with a seed to bring ingredients to her grandmother in the kitchen and then to her dining table. She realized the power of cooking early on and knew that’s what she wanted to incorporate in her life.

In the Bahamas, Fox attended an international school which exposed her to different cuisines. She had friends from all over the world whom she visited between high school and college. During these travels, she discovered the similarities between different cultures and started looking at her island closely.

Incorporating Cultural Influences into Bahamian Cuisine
Bahamian chef and cookbook author Raquel Fox

With Africa, Latin America, France, Spain, the Caribbean and England influencing The Bahamas diverse history, you’ll can find seafood conch salad with a lot of chili and lime, Johnnycake or Bahamian cornbread, fried whole fish and chicken, as well as a British style steamed puddings called guava duff (the national dish) on the same table. Seafood is a staple and Bahamian cooking incorporates lots of spices, rum and tropical fruits.

Fox and her husband opened a wine lounge in the Bahamas in 2009, which they eventually closed to move their family to Toronto, Canada, where they currently reside. She also hosted her own television show, “Island Hopping,” to educate people about Bahamian food.

After being in the culinary industry for 14 years, Fox went back to school to get a culinary degree from George Brown College in Toronto. “I tried to be modest at the time, but I wasn’t a beginner to cooking. Still, I learned a lot of techniques, culinary terms used at work, and even the proper way to hold a knife,” she adds. After graduation, Fox opened a catering business and started teaching at George Brown and various cooking schools. “What I enjoy most being a culinary instructor is that you meet wonderful people who are enthusiastic about learning and passionate about food. I tell stories of my childhood as I teach them how to cook, which is very entertaining,” Fox says about her favorite job thus far.

New Cookbook Celebrates Familly

In her cookbook, Fox shares many of her family’s recipes as well as stories from her childhood growing up. She pays homage to her grandma and her mother-in-law for teaching her how to entertain and bring families together over food. Readers can recreate her colorful platters around family, like people in The Bahamas do every Sunday. “Families from other islands would come over for a party in our backyard, older men made rhythmic sounds with a saw, scrub board and goatskin drum games, women danced and kids played hopscotch and hide-and-seek,” she writes in “Dining in Paradise.”  “The cookbook is my way of sharing my heritage, love and passion for Bahamian cuisine.”

Juggling so many hats can be challenging, but Fox’s passion for food and constant need to innovate energizes her. She advises doing something that brings you closer to your goal every day, even if it is a small step in the direction. “Get rid of the resolutions, be realistic and continue to grow in knowledge,” she suggests for the new year.

As for Fox, she hopes to spend more quality time with family, land a new television show, and make “Dining in Paradise” a bestseller in 2019.

“Dining in Paradise is available at independent bookstores in the U.S. and at Indigo bookstores across Canada, as well as available for pre-order on Amazon.  You can also visit her website at www.racquelscookbook.comand connect with her on Facebook.

~ Written for For Cuisine Noir in January 2019.

Conversation with Pro Boxer and Caribbean Chef Julius Jackson

For Cuisine Noir Magazine. June 2018

At age of 30, Julius Jackson is a professional boxer, chef, cookbook author, model, and actor. He is a light-heavyweight Olympic qualifier and plays a boxer on the Telemundo series El Cesar based on the life of Julio Cesar Chavez. Born and raised on the beautiful island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Jackson maintains a delicate balance between his professional life, his passion, family and serving the community.

I met Jackson at the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience’s “The Giving Table,” a community-centric private gourmet dinner prepared by celebrity chefs to raise funds for the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development and rebuilding St. Croix after the destruction from two hurricanes in 2017. Jackson carefully plated about 40 servings of pumpkin fritter with a salmon croquette and micro-blended creole sauce, topped with a thyme and parsley garnish. It was an instant crowd pleaser.

How did you get involved with St. Croix Food and Wine Experience?

The St. Croix Food and Wine Experience works with a lot of nonprofits in the USVI, one of which I am closely involved with. I am the head chef and manager of the charitable café/ bakery called My Brothers Workshop which focuses on mentoring and job placement for at-risk youth. We help kids get diplomas online, provide job skills, counseling and mentoring and give them hope to overcome their situations and become better citizens of the island. I also spend a lot of time volunteering at schools and summer camps to talk about boxing and cooking.

What’s your history with boxing?

My dad, Julian “the Hawk” Jackson, was a 3-time world champion boxer and Boxing Hall of Fame recipient. Boxing was huge for our family, but I did not care much for it. I saw my dad get injured and go for surgeries towards the end of his career, which turned me away from the sport. I liked baseball better.

My brothers, on the other hand, did box and would come home and teased me for being fat and lazy. So, I decided to just go to the gym with my dad to get in shape, but I didn’t want to punch or fight anyone. When my brothers started competing in tournaments and needed a sparring mate, my dad asked me to do it. They would beat me up but I couldn’t hit them back, so decided to box. Soon enough, I realized that I was a natural at it and started liking it. I began my amateur boxing career at the age of 13, competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China and won the title of WBC (USNBC) Super Middleweight Champion in 2012. I am currently fighting with a professional record of 20-2 with 17 KOs (knockouts).

How did you get into cooking?

When I was a kid, I hated being hungry. I would stay in the kitchen to help my mom cook mostly because I wanted to be the tester and take the first bite. One day, when I was about 10, I was home and hungry, so I decided to cook myself fried chicken. It turned out nice but I remember putting too much Goya adobo! All my brothers wanted some, so I started cooking for everyone. I watched them enjoying what I prepared and it made me feel good. Then on, I would make pancakes, scrambled eggs and Johnny Cakes on the weekends for everyone.

Until high school, I never perceived a career in culinary arts. My counselor advised me to take home economic courses in 8th grade and after graduation, I went to Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach. I worked with a catering company, hotel, restaurant and did some pop-up dinners while maintaining my pro boxing career.

What’s your cookbook about?

Whenever I get a chance to talk with the women in my family, I am always learning how they cook certain Caribbean dishes. Keeping true to my roots, I wrote my Caribbean fusion cookbook focusing on traditional Caribbean recipes across the different islands, with classic French and Italian twists I learned through my training. Some of the recipes include Caribbean quesadillas with fresh mangoes and focaccia bread with avocados. I am Caribbean by blood but I love mixing with other people and cultures.

I wrote “My Modern Caribbean Kitchen” (releasing July 2018) through the two hurricanes Maria and Irma. It was dark everywhere and I had to look for light and internet. I dedicated the book to the victims, while I was also working through the time feeding people at the bakery.

To learn more about Jackson, visit  http://juliusthechef.com and follow him on Twitter.

~ Written for Cuisine Noir Magazine