There is a new hot sauce that is gracing many households in the US. Granted that this sizzling hot sauce is a product of Malawi’s own kambuzi pepper, Nation Publications Limited US-based contributor Tonny Chirwa spoke to Kuleza Kadyakale, the culinarian behind this successful venture that has put Malawi on the map.
First things first, congratulations on your brand of chef Kuleza Hot Sauce, which I might say is the first Malawian hot sauce brand made in the USA. Before we talk about your business venture, who is Kuleza and what has been your journey?
Thank you very much. I am Kuleza Kadyakale [nee Mlia] from Balaka in Malawi. I am a wife and a mother of two handsome boys. I come from a family of six, two brothers and three sisters. I left Malawi 14 years ago in search of greener pastures. I have always been doing business from a young age and sometimes, my mum would take me along with her as she went about her business errands. I am a certified dietary manager and an executive chef and I possess a degree in culinary arts. I have worked at the famed University of Notre Dame as a chef and as a food service director for a healthcare company.
Tell us about Chef Kuleza Hot Sauce? How did you start and what has your journey been like for you to get where you are?
After graduating from college, I wanted to utilise my expertise with my Malawian background so in 2019 I created Chef Kuleza Hot Sauce with our Malawian pepper kambuzi. It has three levels mild, medium and hot. I started making it from home to sell locally, but with the great feedback we got, the demand grew higher. It was from then on that I started making it at an industrial level.
What strategies have you used to market this product both in Malawi and here in the USA?
I have leveraged on the power of social media, especially Facebook, tiktok and Instagram and of course through word of mouth. This has helped me reach out far and wide. We sell our hot sauce to our local farmers market, online and other local stores. This has worked to our advantage because the population demographic which we serve is mostly culturally diverse. Through chef Kuleza Hot Sauce, a lot of people are interested in learning about Malawi and what it is all about. Those who already heard about Malawi are seeing this as the first recognised Malawian hot sauce made in America.
How has the market received your product, especially here in the US?
There are a lot of hot sauces on the market in the US and Chef Kuleza Hot Sauce is unique in that the kambuzi flavour is unique and that sets it apart from the rest. We literally let our customers taste before they buy. At the beginning, we were just giving away a lot of it because it was a new flavour and also that we were hoping to develop a niche and a client base in the market. Now, one thing with our sauce is that once you taste it, you are assured of coming back for more.
What challenges have you met in this journey?
We have met a couple of challenges along the way. The first challenge we encountered was to have kambuzi shipped to the US from Malawi due to strict importation of some crops into the USA.
Related to that, we do not have a systemic way in Malawi which helps us with the exportation of crops such as kambuzi pepper like they do with tobacco.It is our intention to liase with the Malawi government to empower us to export more kambuzi pepper from Malawi for our business.
Another challenge has always been our inability to identify a big farmer who is willing to plant our Malawian kambuzi pepper right here in the US. That will reduce our importation cost and the bottlenecks which we encounter in due course of our production value chain.
Our vision is to start producing Chef Kuleza Hot Sauce in Malawi, for the African market as we are only producing it here in the USA.
Any encouraging words for the Malawian girl child?
I would like to encourage the Malawian girl child to follow their dreams no matter how hard they may seem. They should never quit, but just keep working hard, and involve God in all plans because he guides every step of the way.