Dad and daughter’s Caribbean sauces made in their kitchen are now being sold across the world

Charmaine and Earl decided to do something about the lack of diversity in the food scene where they live

Living in London we are blessed to have an array of diverse food at our disposal. In pretty much any direction you could find cuisines from corners parts of the world. You truly don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone and that couldn’t be more true than for Charmaine Smikle.

Charmaine, 39, grew up in Cardiff, South Wales with her family. In terms of diversity, her family were one of the few Black families in the area. She would regularly visit London on weekend trips and come back with countless products; food, hair products, items – all things she struggled to find at home.

She told MyLondon: “The Black community back then was quite small. In terms of visibility to afro-Caribbean products be that hair or food, it was extremely limited. Those normal things that are perceived for that Black experience and life weren’t really there. We’d always come back from London with so much stuff, we could have opened a shop.”

Charmaine found herself wishing Cardiff had the diversity of London so decided to do something about it (Image: Charmaine Smile)

In the early 2000s Charmaine found herself in London studying Biomedical Sciences at Kings College. Being able to see the range of food on display pushed her to think more about the situation in Cardiff.

“We could never get the food we wanted in Cardiff unless we travelled to London. We would have to phone our cousins about whether there’s something they could see in a shop. The internet wasn’t as huge then. I would rely on my family in London to tell me about the latest things so I could indulge in it whenever I visited.”

After finishing university in the city and returning to Cardiff, Charmaine and her dad Earl decided to be the change they wanted to see. Earl was a prominent chef since 16 and had created a name for himself in Cardiff. Earl brought his own taste of Barbados through his sauces to Cardiff but they both wanted to be able to offer Caribbean food in their own way.

Sadly, in 2017, Earl suffered a stroke. He had to take a step back from cooking in a proper kitchen, something that was a major change for a man who had been cooking most of his life.

Earl suffered a stroke in 2017 but he is still in the kitchen making the sauces (Image: Earl’s Kitchen)

Charmaine said: “My dad had been in the profession forever and also worked in TV, helping cater for shows such as Eastenders and 24. He came back from a big trip one day and he had a really bad headache. He had a brain aneurysm. For someone that was working a ridiculous amount of hours a week, he was stopped in his tracks. He had to learn to walk again and rebuild his life.

“He has done it, amazingly. His passion for cooking never went away and one day we were walking through a Farmers’ Market and he said to me ‘do you think we should create some sauces?’ We had spoken about this before I went to university but it got put on the back burner while I was studying. Now, it felt like the right time.”

Together, they created Earl’s Kitchen in 2019 with just £1,000 to start with that went into making their first jar. Earl makes sauces, condiments and seasoning, in the hope of bringing that ‘Caribbean experience to the home’.

Then, Covid hit a few months after the business had started. How they had known to sell drastically changed and their face-to-face business slowed down. By then, all they had created was a website but people weren’t flocking to buy food online just yet.

Their sauces have won awards in Wales for their taste (Image: Manan Houston)

She continued: “We found ourselves thinking should we pack it up because we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know how long Covid would last. Around that time, I saw an advert for Amazon’s Small Business Accelerator program. This really helped as we couldn’t do face-to-face sales anymore, we needed to build our online presence. I’m so grateful for it.”

Boasting a range of sauces from Rum and Peppercorn, Scotch Bonnet Chilli and Barbados Caribbean Sauce, they have won awards for their flavours.

“We’ve grown our online presence but we want to be getting into more London retailers. Not to sound pompous but whenever anybody tastes our sauce, they will buy it. Our customers are really faithful and they tell other people about it. This is the food we eat all the time and now we’re giving it to others.

“Being able to see my dad in the kitchen you wouldn’t think he even had a stroke. He’s got so much energy. He loves seeing how the business is going and is humbled by the feedback. These are things he has always been doing and he gets to share them now, he’s now realising a dream that he may never have thought possible. We bottle every jar from our kitchen and every single sauce he makes.”