By Kendall Stadler
I was lucky enough to get a few minutes with Michael Burgess who is the owner and creator of Nerpy’s Hot Sauce Inc. out of Ontario, Canada. As I was connecting to our video feed I was expecting snow and cold. But when Michael tuned in there was sunshine, blue skies and flowers in the background. I was honoured that Michael took time out of his vacation in Jamaica to talk with me. He was joining me from Kingston, Jamaica his home stomping ground at a watering hole called JoJo’s where the idea of Nerpy’s was born. With a Red Stripe beer in hand he began to tell me how it all started.
Michael was born in Jamaica and lived there until his family moved to Canada when he was 12 years old where he continued to finish his schooling. Then he moved back to Jamaica where he was in charge of a few different businesses and helped get JoJo’s up and running. Fast forward to 1999 he moved back to Canada where he resides now. He loves to get back home to Jamaica ones or twice a year to see family and friends. This time he is talking to some local farmers to ink a deal of fresh Scotch Bonnet peppers that originated here on the island. You may think that there are Scotch Bonnet peppers grown around the world but those are usually crossbred with Caribbean and other peppers. True Scotch Bonnets are grown on the island and are a bright yellow to a yellow-orange. He wants to make a Scotch Bonnet mash that he can use all year ’round in his products and also sell. All of Nerpy’s products are born with traditional Jamaican flavours and ingredients. The joy of Jamaican food and spices is what Michael loves and after tasting his friends pepper sauce at JoJo’s he knew he had to bring that flavour profile back to Canada. So Michael began making his own version to sell. That sauce is now his flagship sauce that started it all.
Nerpy’s now has a combination of seven different products. Two hot sauces, a jerk seasoning, a curry seasoning, an all purpose wet rub, a BBQ sauce and my favourite a hot pickle veg mix that is a combination of vegetable and Scotch Bonnet peppers made into a relish to use on fish, sandwiches or the way I like it, on a grilled sausage in a bun. It’s definitely packed full of flavour and lots of heat!
I asked Michael how the name Nerpy’s came about and he began to laugh and told me it all started on a boys night out with a few rum drinks. There were several kittens running around the room so they were trying to herd them back to their box. And, so Michael began to make cat sounds and meows. Well that somehow transformed into a ‘nerp’ sound. The next day at the beach his friend told everyone to call him ‘Nerp or Nerpy’ – and it stuck. So now everyone knows him as Nerpy. I love the name and the caricature of Michael, or should I say Nerpy, on the bottle. The likeness is spot on.
Michael Is extremely proud of the Canadian chilli-head community as it keeps growing year after year. You can meet him this February 29th at the Heat Wave Hot Sauce Expo in London, Ontario. Nerpy’s will be there along with 39 other vendors where you can sample hot sauces and spicy foods before you buy. I highly suggest finding Nerpy’s and say hi to Michael and try all his wonderful spicy products that are inspired from his Jamaican heritage.
Got to https://www.nerpys.com to learn more about Nerpy’s and where you can purchase all of his amazing products or use the store locator for retailers across the Ontario region. Michael will be introducing new products soon and he proudly boasts that all his products are as close to true Jamaican flavours as you can get. You can also find Nerpy’s at https://www.hotsaucesunlimited.com.
Be sure to check out my video interview with Michael for much more information about himself and Nerpy’s spicy products. Click here https://youtu.be/E2fvqvjMPGQ