“Where are you from?” I get asked, all the time. I reply, “Georgia.” “Where are you really from?” “Smyrna!” Navigating this socio-cultural mash-up, I learned grit and perseverance amidst the perplexity of what it meant to be Asian, Southern, American, female, four-foot-eleven, and strong. The juxtaposition of Asian and Southern foodways became the inspiration for my coffee-table cookbook, Egg Rolls & Sweet Tea. It is a personal collection of favorite recipes that I hope home cooks will enjoy trying, tweaking and making their own. 

While many of my Harvard Kennedy School classmates headed to Capitol Hill, I joined  a national non-profit to spearhead a groundbreaking program that would redefine the tenets of leadership development for years to come and would eventually prove to be game-changing: ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance). Several years later, from my office in the headquarters of a Fortune 100 conglomerate, I felt a calling to pivot, to work for purpose--rather than just for profit. 

I headed back to my hometown of Smyrna, Georgia and started a quirky little business with the lofty goal of making a palatable difference (pun intended)–to break down barriers and dissipate negative stereotypes by facilitating positive interactions and impactful experiences through food.  My new title? CEO, or,  Chief Eating Officer. My mission: “Opening Minds, One Mouth at a Time”®. And that has been my life’s work ever since.

How I became the Sauce Maven? My refrigerator door was lined with sauces. Yet, none captured the flavors of my childhood growing up in the Bible Belt–juicy peaches, honeysuckle nectar, Vidalia Sweet Onion, and my po-po’s tomato wedges marinated in sugar-vinegar brine.  Using my own taste buds as a litmus test, I set out to fill the gap. Thus began the entrepreneurial journey that would earn me the nickname Sauce Maven.   Sauces make everything better, don’t they? Even though upholding high standards of quality, like being all-natural, using fresh rather than powdered ingredients, and avoiding cheap fillers like high-fructose corn syrup, poses challenges from higher small-batch production costs to shelf-life concerns, I did not want to sell anything that I would not give to Grandma or eat myself, especially since one of the sauces, You Saucy Thing™ Soy Ginger Vidalia stir fry, marinade and braising sauce was inspired by her cooking. All of the sauces must pass the grandma test and, after taste testing in the local school district cafeterias, also be kid approved!

To my delight, my sauces have earned many enthusiastic fans, from ages one to one hundred and from many different backgrounds. And apparently, the fans are sometimes more innovative than I am when using my sauces. My dad concocted his Bloody Sweet Hottie Cocktail by adding My Sweet Hottie Sweet Chili Peach Dressing & Marinade to a shot of vodka. My Indian neighbors drizzle my Wild Wild East Asian BBQ Teriyaki Pineapple sauce onto their samosas and pakoras, and on hot dogs.

I try to make sure each of my sauces is truly a premium, authentic recipe in and of itself—a natural blend of a dozen fresh ingredients and spices all in one bottle, so when you shake it up, you are cookin’ up a storm. The one complaint I get is that using my sauces turns you into a lazy cook! 

Natalie's New Coffe Table Cookbook is available for Pre-Sale!

Here’s to cross-cultural friendships, potlucks and eggrolls ‘n’ sweet tea!

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Check out my RECIPES-IN-A-BOTTLE, Asian Chef Trio Sauces for Stir Fry, Marinade and Dressing. Natural, Homegrown and Made in the USA!