Every summer, NYC food companies flock to the Javits Convention Center’s Fancy Food Show, the largest food industry event in North America. The event showcases superb specialty foods from all over the world—Italy, France, Morocco, India—and New York State. It offers invaluable exposure to companies of all sizes, but especially start-ups and small companies without the resources to promote themselves independently. Discover 5 of those innovative NYC food companies here!
1. Mexican Heart & Soul, but Made in NYC, Baby!
In a hip summary of their business, Cantina Royal’s website announces: “This is the story of Bold, Delicious, and Inventive hot sauces created by a former actress turned flavor connoisseur (Diana Beshara), fueled by the belief in a Dr. Frankenstein-like chef from Mexico (Julio MM) obsessed with the potential of peppers.” Cantina Royal is “proudly woman-owned and minority-owned.”
Chef Julio learned cooking primarily from his mother but he learned food from his unusual upbringing. After the 1985 earthquake destroyed their home in Mexico City’s historic Colonia Roma neighborhood, his family moved into a hotel. They ate out in Mexico City’s full range of restaurants—everything from the corner taco truck to high French. His special love today is Mexican food itself, and Mexican ingredients, which he sources carefully for his five “powerfully flavored, lovingly made-in-Brooklyn” sauces. The sauces “leverage” eight types of fresh and dried chilis from Mexico. No artificial preservatives, chemicals, or colors are used.
To make sure the chiles are precisely right, Chef Julio regularly goes to Mexico, looking for the right terroir that will yield the chiles he wants. A favorite region is Oaxaca, where—as in France—terroirs can shift quickly.
The company started out running what Beshara calls a “cool, vibey restaurant” in Williamsburg, where Chef Julio made all the sauces, which were so popular people stole them off the tables. “That’s when we decided we had to bottle and sell our sauces,” says Beshara.
Cantina Royal’s Tamaulipeka sauce won Saveur Magazine’s designation of Best Overall Hot Sauce, taking “the tongue on a journey, beginning with a gentle sweetness, tempered by the sour of tamarind, then a growing heat on the finish. Though labeled as ‘medium,’ the spice lingers strong.” The sauce is named for the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where Chef Julio’s mother grew up.
Saveur gave an honorable mention to Cantina Royal’s Tomasa, for its originality and flavor. Like Tamaulipeka, Tomasa uses a corn-oil base but adds garlic, onion, celery, and chia powder plus manzano and habanero peppers for what Saveur calls “a beguilingly savory sauce that brings big intensity without overwhelming everything.”
These days Cantina Royal is “working out of commercial space in Long Island City,” says Beshara. “But we were born in Brooklyn and that’s where we’re hoping to return.”