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Élan is all about sugar & spices

GERCINE CARTER, [email protected]

Élan is all about sugar & spices

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ÉLAN MOTTLEY-HARRIS is one of five lawyers in the Mottley household. But unlike her dad, well known veteran attorney Elliott Mottley QC and her three siblings, she has cast aside the lawyer’s garb for an apron and is spicing up Australia with her gourmet line of Caribbean jams and spices.

This way, living in Sydney for over 13 years and married to an Australian, she has attempted to bridge the gap between both of the countries she calls home.

“I was trying to figure out how could I best do it and I looked around and realised everybody loves food,” Élan told EASY magazine recently on the eve of her return to Australia.

Finding that Caribbean products had no presence in Australia, “I decided to experiment with my friends and I came up with a couple of different sauces, which they all loved”. 

She thought those friends were just being kind with their compliments, but right there in her kitchen a business was born and a need to fulfil a passion was about to be met.

“I enjoy cooking; I enjoy food. I love my Caribbean, so I put it all together in a sauce that I call a modern Caribbean-inspired sauce made for not only the Australian market but with an authenticity that was Caribbean.”

“That’s what I was looking for when I made these flavours,” Élan said.

She took her experimental creations outside the kitchen to specialty supermarkets and gourmet shops and did lots of tastings.

“I would get comments like: ‘Oh, it was a lovely flavour, but can I have it hotter?’”

That’s when she made her “gentle start” with her Calypso Pepper Jam – sweet, not too spicy, with lots of fresh herbs and spices – a representation of a product that was “very versatile, great for meats, cheese platters” and the like.

Drawing on childhood experiences in Barbados, she next came up with Reggae Tamarind Barbecue Sauce. It was a reminder of those afternoons when “we used to have our driver stop at the little lady by the side of the road to buy tamarind balls”.

“I wanted it to represent all the experiences I had had going through the Caribbean, as well as my childhood.”

Customers still clamoured for more heat. Élan responded with her Feeling Hot, Hot Pepper Sauce and when they insisted “give us more” her answer was Jerk It Up Hot Sauce.

Élan’s Caribbean Flavours line has definitely caught the eye of the food experts in Australia. Entered in the Melbourne Fine Food Awards 2014 and the Sydney Fine Food Awards 2014, three sauces that were on the market at that time all came out with medals. Calypso Pepper Jam won two silver medals, one from Sydney, the other from Melbourne; Feeling Hot Hot Pepper Sauce won a silver medal and Reggae Barbecue Sauce, a bronze.

Last year she introduced Jerk It Up Hot Sauce and entered it in the Melbourne Fine Food Show 2015. The result – winner of Best In Show in its category, “phenomenal” reviews, and a gold medal.

“To me it was like validation. It was my passion but it was so wonderful to hear that food critics and show critics also thought that they were good enough and worth enough to award them.

“When I looked into qualifying (as a lawyer) in Australia, it was like having to do my degree all over again and my priorities had shifted from when I had qualified, to now being a mum and really wanting to put my girls first and whatever career, to do it as a secondary. I still think that was my balance,” said the mother of 15-year-old Viviana and Mica, 10.

While raising her girls, she also pursued a postgraduate degree in counselling “with the idea that maybe I could touch my law again”. But her passion for cooking and the possibilities for the products she created in her own kitchen steered her in another direction.

She pointed out: “When I was younger, my dream and passion was to be a mum. Once I had achieved that, my next goal was to start a business that reflected what I wanted to say and what I wanted to show the world.”

“I did it part-time for a while and realised this is my passion and nothing else could stand in the way of me doing this full time.

“I really wanted to show my girls that it is possible in life to be a mum and be there for them, but also take a risk and be an entrepreneur. There was that responsibility to having two girls and I suppose the most difficult part was finding that work-life balance that so many mums have to deal with.”

Élan said she also wanted to show them that in life “if you have dreams and you have passions you must go after them”.

“No politics for me,” said the sister of Opposition Leader Mia Mottley; the daughter of a former parliamentarian in the Barbados Labour Party and the granddaughter of the legendary Mayor of the City of Bridgetown Ernest Deighton Mottley.

An adamant Élan said: “I will always be supportive of my sister and what she does. I am in awe of her and what she does . . . . But I can serve the people in a different capacity.”

Her focus is on expanding her business. She is determined to find a way to produce the products here.

“I want to come home to Barbados. I want to be able to bring my girls back here, as we say, killing two birds with one stone . . . but also do business and in the process promote Barbados.”

On every jar is a little bit of her story –  being  “born in the beautiful island of Barbados in the Caribbean . . . now living in Sydney with my amazing family . . .” and how “my passion and love for my islands inspired me to create this line of gourmet products that are exotic and spicy”. She refers to the scotch bonnet pepper as the “hero” of her sauces.

“I have introduced a line of sauces that I am passionate about, that have had outside validation and I can’t be disappointed,” she said. “In fact, I feel so humbled and blessed to be able to share my passion with everyone.”

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