Our Story

To me it’s all about family! I grew up in a big family, half from Plant City, FL a small town just outside of Tampa, the other half from the heart of Tampa Bay (Ybor City). My dad was raised in the Ybor City district of Tampa, 11th Avenue to be exact. ( The 11th Avenue  Gumbo flavor was inspired by the street he grew up on and my Grand Daddy's Gumbo).

My family is very close, growing up we all gravitated to my gramma’s house every Sunday for dinner after church. My grand daddy was there too and still is but we always referred it as Gramma’s house! :) I was known as the big eater and would always sit patiently at the edge of her kitchen counter waiting for the dinner bell to ring. I didn’t realize until years later how much I learned to cook by sitting and watching. To this day I have a photographic food memory. I see it once and I can make it.

My gramma's legendary dish, which I thought she made up for most of my life was called “Crab shalla” as its pronounced in my family. She only made it on special occasions and celebrations. While everyone fought for the crab and shrimp in the pot I was content with the sauce and sides like corn, sausage and potatoes. It’s served over spaghetti and always with buttered Cuban bread. Some of my fondest memories growing up are centered around the antics of my cousins, aunts and uncles as they schemed to get first position on that pot, which usually ended with someone getting hit with a spoon or fly swatter. No one touched my grandma’s pot until she was good-and-ready, and that’s true to this day.

I was raised eating this iconic dish and I finally got the courage to attempt to make it myself in college in 2003. The Tampa Bay Bucs were in the Superblowl and I threw a watch party for my college roommates and friends in Tallahassee, FL. I spent an hour on the phone with my gramma trying to get the flavor right... she doesn’t measure, It’s all soul, love and non-stop tasting. Her tastebuds know the exact moment when it’s time to stop seasoning, a skill which I developed over the years.

Fast forward 12 years. I was 6 years into growing Spice Crafters LLC. At this point I had chased my passions for food and developed a unique skill for developing fusion spices and seasonings. I was exhibiting at the 2015 Fancy Food Trade Show in NYC when I got inspired by the dynamic cultural sauces I saw being exhibited. I thought to myself, I should make a sauce..., but what? I left the trade show and flew from NYC to LA for a family vacation.

 

 

My son was two at the time and we would announce that we were expecting our daughter Mia on that trip. What a great time! 

Before we headed home we went to my Uncles house for dinner. During dinner my Uncle raved about how much he loved Crab Chilau and couldn’t wait to get back to Florida so that he could get his long awaited fix. I thought to myself, "he shouldn’t have to wait years to experience it again, he should be able to have Chilau right here in LA." The seed was planted.

After leaving LA with my new inspiration I worked for 12 months to replicate my grandmothers recipe from scratch with a single spice blend and all-natural ingredients. Though her recipe is legendary my knowledge of the spice market and unhealthy ingredients in some of the seasonings she often used, I knew I wanted to elevate the spices with healthier higher quality options. Around the same time I was shocked and surprised to learn we were not the only family to make Chilau and that my gramma was one of many who made this iconic dish. 

In 2016 with a newborn and a dream I launched a crowd funding campaign and successfully raise the funds to develop Chilau Sauce! See Original Video I used below. 

 

 My grandmother Minnie Hallback is a straight shooter and pulls no punches. So naturally, I wouldn't launch this sauce until she gave me the seal of approval. After months of perfecting the recipe, I was finally brave enough to go to her for the final taste test... She loved it! In fact, she now uses the sauce to make her Crab Chilau because it saves her time without sacrificing her sauce's authentic flavor.

The core to this coastal style of cooking coupled with aromatic staples like bell pepper, onion, garlic, celery and cayenne pepper are the base components which makes Chilau Sauce a perfect base for many types of seafood stews. I love celebrating Tampa Bay and Ybor City Culture, but this flavor also captures the essence of coastal cities and legendary food districts such as New Orleans and South Carolina.

The story of this brand may have began in Tampa, but as our customers have spread across the country Chilau is quickly becoming the 1# flavor base for rich and bold flavor in Seafood Stews, Gumbo, Chowder, Boils and Fried Seafood. 

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