Meet NYC Fancy Food Fellow Finalist: Pierre's Spicy
Looking to turn up the heat with your food?
Pierre Henry was born in Haiti, where "bold and spicy" are all but essential elements of the region's cuisine.
He moved to the United States at age 12 and quickly adapted to American life through sports, even participating in the Junior Olympics as a member of the U.S. volleyball team.
But he never forgot about the flavors of the island he left behind, particularly that of the "Mamba," a spicy peanut butter from his childhood. He started experimenting with the best of ingredients—peanuts, chilli, butter, and sea salt—to recreate the tastes that tantalized his palate as a child.
What resulted was Pierre's Spicy, a line of premium almond and peanut butters in the form of four flavors: Hot Peanut Butter, Medium Peanut Butter, Hot Almond Butter, and Medium Almond Butter. Based in East Harlem, the company infuses a Haitian twist into your prototypical "sweet nut butter," creating a savory taste you might not expect.
As one of seven finalists in our Taste of NYC: Fancy Food Fellowship, sponsored by NYCEDC and the Specialty Food Association, Pierre's Spicy now has a chance to share its specialty nut butters at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, where over 22,000 buyers from more than 100 countries will converge to view top-of-the-line specialty food products.
We spoke to Pierre about his vision for Pierre's Spicy.
What prompted you to start the business?
I missed the Haitian Cuisine and the Mamba I grew up with in Haiti.
I have always liked working in the kitchen, so I decided I would make my own spicy peanut butter and when my friends tasted it, it became a business. They loved it and I realized I could share my love of Haitian food by making my own spicy nut butters, so Pierre’s Spicy was born.
Did you have any culinary or business experience to help you get started?
I have started small businesses before and always have projects going. I still have my own massage business and my clients encouraged me.
In addition, I grew up around fabulous home cooking. My mother, sisters and brothers all are talented in the kitchen.
What are some of the major obstacles you face in your day-to-day operations?
The biggest obstacles are juggling two businesses with my family and also, acquiring startup capital for cash flow.
What role does your local community play?
My neighborhood stores have been supportive of the business from the beginning and the local Haitian population has really enjoyed getting their own taste of Mamba from Pierre’s Spicy.
Are there any common cultural misconceptions that you face as an immigrant entrepreneur?
No, I feel as though I am treated like I was born here. It is one of the things I like most about New York: it is so diverse that everyone gets a chance—if they are willing to work hard—to achieve their dreams.
In need of some spice? You can find Pierre's spicy almond and peanut butters at these locations in NYC.
About the Fancy Food Fellow Series: Each week, we’re featuring immigrant entrepreneurs with a passion for bringing their unique flavor to NYC’s melting pot. Come back next week for another food profile from this year’s Fancy Food Fellow Finalists. You can find all profiles here.