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  • Writer's pictureCrystal Cabrae

Exclusive Interview: You Get More Than Just Pepper Sauce When It’s Kali’s Kaliente!

Did you know there was this secret, amazing pepper sauce popping up in Hudson County? From carrots to pop-ups, find out how Kali’s Kaliente is turning heads and making a name for itself in the community in this exclusive interview with co-founder, Marica Kalicharan.

After eighteen years of perfecting their blends, Kali’s Kaliente made its debut in the spring of 2021. Two years later, the business has appeared in pop-up shops and catered events across Hudson County and beyond. With offering a variety of products for their customers, I caught up with Marcia so fill me in on the details.

The Scoop Behind the Sauce!

Q: Is Kali’s more than just pepper sauce?

Absolutely. Even though it started with pepper sauce, we offer weekly lunches, catering options, pecan pies, cheesecakes, and even face painting for the kids! It’s more than just pepper sauce 100%.

Q: So, how did Kali’s Kaliente start?

When I was in grade school, the lunch they gave us came with a pack of baby carrots. My siblings and I would bring the uneaten packs back home so that my dad could pickle them. Eventually, there were so many carrots that they started going bad before we could eat them all. So, my dad started grinding them up and seasoning them and over time it evolved to pepper sauce. Flash forward sixteen years, my brother made a joke about my dad selling what is now our House Seasoning. As soon as my dad made the sauce my brother ran with the idea and was constantly promoting our pepper sauce. I eventually took over so my brother can have more time for the outdoorsy lifestyle he loves. Being the only one in the family with both business and culinary education from Hudson Community College, it was almost like it was meant to be.

Q: Where do you get your ingredients?

The ingredients vary depending on the blend and what I’m looking for. For example, our Summer Blend is only made in the summer. I get fresh fruits that are seemingly seasonal, but living in Jersey most things can be found year-round at the grocery store. I try to find the freshest ingredients and love to use fresh peppers that I get from Indian Square or fresh pepper powders if I can get them in bulk. When the farmer's markets roll into town, I get excited to see what they have to offer.

Q: Where do the ideas for your flavors come from?

We have four flavors right now: Regular, Spicy, Flaming Hot, and Summer Blend. The first three flavors my dad created. We usually start with the Regular pepper sauce as a base and then you tweak it a little, adjust the heat level, and it becomes something new. Sometimes new flavors come up that are limited time, like the 3G Glaze and the Winterberry Glaze we had during the fall of last year. I would love to make a spicey BBQ for the summertime, but that’s still being experimented with.

Q: Which flavor is your favorite?

The Summer Blend. Not only did I make it, I like the sweet and heat that comes from it.

Q: What is the biggest change you have seen in the company that makes you excited for the future?

When we started back in 2021, there was only one pop-up event that we went to, and I had to do the legwork to find it. Last year, we were all over Union City, Jersey City, and Hoboken at pop-up events and catering for the community festivals and a good portion of them invited us. Earlier this year, we launched our Tuesday-Friday Lunch Menu that I update weekly. Overall, I’m excited about the connections that our events bring us not only with the people that support us at home but also with the people that we usually don’t get to interact with outside of Hudson County. At the end of the day, we’re still a family business. So, when you see our table or our grill going, just know you’ll be meeting the whole family.

Q: Being a local to the areas that you vend, do you ever run into people that you know?

Sadly, no. I’ve come across family friends that come out because I’ve invited them, but usually it’s fresh faces. There was one time that I ran into someone I knew in Hoboken because their art was in the museum at the time. Instead, I end up recognizing the vendors that I’ve done events within the past and it gives me the feeling that I’m not alone out here. There's other people along for the ride, even if it’s their own journey and brand. One of the people that I did an event for, found me at another pop-up event just to buy a bottle of pepper sauce, so you never know who your clientele will be.

Q: Did you ever think that those carrots you brought home from school would turn into your full-time dream job of being your own boss?

Being my own boss, yes, but not in this way. When I was in high school, I had dreams of opening a restaurant, but as life got in the way I kind of put those dreams to the side. Now, I’m taking back my dreams and throwing my all into something that brings me joy. Even as it continues to evolve, I’m putting it first and I’m proud of it.

Q: Being a female entrepreneur with a daughter who is watching you make yourself from the ground up, what image do you think or hope will impact her for choices for the future?

I want her to know that whatever she wants to do, despite being a girl, she can do, she will do it, and she had her family’s entire support to do it. Being a small business owner, I want to show her that this is my dream, and I did everything I can to make it happen and I want her to do the same with her dreams.

Q: What does the future look like for Kali’s Kaliente?

Eventually, I’d love to get a food truck and expand our Lunch Menu to be in a more accessible location. I’m a versatile cook, so they’ll be getting something different every day like they do now. It would also be cool to have other small businesses, like the local Mexican restaurant or other food trucks, have our pepper sauce as an option for their customers. Like small businesses helping other small businesses.

Though Kali’s Kaliente is available for catering in the NYC/NJ/PA area, you can order a bottle of pepper sauce right through their instagram page to be shipped right to your door. If you happen to be in the area, you can meet Marcia and the rest of the family at The Hoboken Historical Museum on March 11th from 1 pm-6 pm to celebrate Woman’s Day! If not, be sure to follow them to keep up with the latest menus, pop-ups, and more!

Sauces Available (as of this publication)

Regular & Spicey: Small (2oz) $3, Large (12oz) $13

Flaming Hot & Summer Blend: Small (2oz) $5, Large (12oz) $20

Another successful Nums Report in the bag! If you would like to feature as our next exclusive interview, reach out to Crystal here.

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