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Interview with Edmond of Awassi – Ebesse Zozo West African Hot Sauce

Awassi, the company that makes Ebesse Zozo hot sauce, is a one man show, and an engaging and entertaining on at that. Edmond Segbeaya is the founder, manager, cook, marketing director, and sales man for his company, and an infamous character in the community. Known widely in the Nelson area as “the Hot Sauce Guy”, Edmond says that he got into the hot sauce business more or less by “accident”. When him and his family first arrived in Nelson Edmond was happy to discover that the local store Kootenay Co-op carried fresh Habanera peppers, so happy that he in fact bought the whole case, and came back the next week for another. This was because the extremely hot Habanera peppers are a staple ingredient in the spicy foods and sauces of Edmond’s country of origin, Togo in West Africa. One of the produce managers at the Kootenay Co-op became curious about why Edmond was buying entire cases of the peppers weekly, when most people only bought one or two single peppers at a time. When the produce manager approached Edmond and found out that he was using them to make hot sauce for his family he asked Edmond to bring in some of his hot sauce so the Co-op staff could try it. They immediately loved it and asked Edmond to start making it for use in their Deli department. So, with the support of the Co-op staff and other members of the community Edmond launched his company, Awassi, on April 1st 2002 with its first product, Ebesse Zozo West African Hot Sauce. This was just the beginning of a great success story.

A big highlight of Edmond’s Hot Sauce career to date is his requested attendance and awards won at the largest Hot Sauce event in North America, the ChiliPepper ZestFest in Texas. Edmond has attended the festival two years in a row now (2003 & 2004), and plans to attend again this coming fall. In 2003 Edmond’s Sauce won 3rd place in the XXX Hot sauce no extract category, which had over 803 entrants. At the 2004 ChiliPepper Magazine event Edmond went on to win even more, with his Dipping Sauce winning 3rd Place in the Condiment Dipping Sauce Category, and the Ebesse Zozo Hot Sauce winning 1st Place in the People's Preference Award Category. There is no doubt that Edmond makes an excellent product that people love and demand.

Currently Ebesse Zozo Hot Sauce comes in four varieties, hot, medium, mild, and an extra mild dipping sauce. But, don’t let the word mild fool you, all of Edmond’s sauces are HOT, and may more appropriately be said to range from very hot to intense to proceed with extreme caution. Although, the Ebesse Zozo sauces are not for the faint of heart, many people comment on how they have a great flavour that can be tasted through the heat. In fact, peoples’ positive and animated response when they try the sauces is one of the highlights of operating the business for Edmond. He says that one of the things that keep him going is all the people that stop him on the street to tell him “don’t stop” what you are doing. And Edmond has definitely taken this advice to heart. Edmond’s product can now be found in attractive glass bottles in various stores around the Kootenays including, Evergreen in South Slocan, Mother Natures in Castelgar, at Red Mountain ski hill in Rossland, and at Kootenay Co-op, Ellison’s, Darwin’s, and most recently Save-On Foods, in Nelson. You can find out more about Edmond’s products and also the remarkable story of how him and his family eventually immigrated to Canada on the [Ebesse Zozo] website at