How it All Started
Marie Sharp's USA President and Maya Mike founder Michael Touby used Tabasco sauce by the teaspoon at an early age growing up in Miami. While attending Loyola University in New Orleans, his taste for capsicum blossomed into love and he famously used Louisiana-style sauces religiously at every meal.
Within months of graduation in the late 1980's, some friends from college and Touby started importing pepper sauce into New Orleans, LA from Belize, Central America. It was a carrot-based recipe created by Marie Sharp, named Melinda's Habanero Pepper sauce that used a non-fermented form of this "new" pepper called the red habanero. What fortune brought him to Belize in the first place is a separate story.
Ultimately, a company was formed in Louisiana named Melinda's Gourmet Food Products (MGFP) and as President, Touby was instrumental in helping the brand acquire national distribution with a company called Reese Finer Foods.
America also fell in love with Marie’s sauces, the habanero pepper moved into the mainstream and within three years, "Melinda's Original Habanero pepper sauce" was 1st on supermarket shelves nationwide.
Soon after in 1991, Touby resigned and parted ways with his partners and went on to work in other industries. Subsequently, Touby testified on behalf of Marie in 1994 when a dispute arose between Touby's ex-partners and Marie, and despite best efforts, Marie gave up the rights to use the name "Melinda's", to avoid protracted legal costs and move on with her business.
Capsaicin coursed through my veins at an early age. Growing up in Miami, I was transfixed by the power of the chili pepper. After graduation, an opportunity to visit #Belize vaulted me into the hot sauce business. It was 1988 and the Habanero pepper had not yet penetrated the US market. Marie had been making hot sauce since 1981. Fresh out of college with a mind full of mush, I met Marie at her farm in December of 1988. She is the most dynamic entrepreneur, tough and tender with an elegant air unexpected to find off the hummingbird highway on the outskirts of Mayan ruins. I cajoled her into permitting me and some friends to import her products into New Orleans. We had ZERO experience in international trade, let alone, specialty food marketing.
Twenty-eight years later, I had the privilege of celebrating Marie’s induction into the Hot Sauce Hall of Fame in 2016 (the first and only woman to receive this honor) and a new collaboration was born.
In 2019, I had the honor of being selected by Marie to establish Marie Sharp's USA, the right way.
- Michael Touby
The Maya Mike brand started development in 2016. Our mission is discovering and creating Mindfully Made products resulting in clean, delicious flavors. Marie Sharp’s tried and true methods of using freshly picked whole ingredients from local village farms provides the perfect platform for developing and bottling interesting, complex and tasty products. No thickeners, stabilizers or preservatives are ever used. Simply naturally delicious results are captured in every bottle!
Michael Touby (aka Maya Mike) & Marie Sharp in April 2016
Why is Maya Mike highlighting Belizean Barbacoa as its first product?
America & BBQ are discovered simultaneously
The first indigenous tribes European explorers encountered on the island later named Hispaniola had developed a unique method for cooking meat over an indirect flame, created using green wood to keep the food (and wood) from burning. Reports indicate that the Spanish referred to this new style of cooking as barbacoa: the original barbecue. As the Spanish explorers who followed Columbus turned their expeditions north, they brought the cooking technique with them. In 1540, close to present-day Tupelo, Mississippi, the Chicksaw tribe, in the presence of explorer Hernando de Soto, cooked a feast of pork over the barbacoa. Eventually, the technique made its way to the colonies, traveling as far north as Virginia.
Maya Mike's Belizean Barbacoa Sauce. The pit barbecue, a worldwide cooking method, was revered by the Maya and was used to prepare the sacred foods. The word “Pib” is Maya for the earth oven known elsewhere as "pit barbecue" or "luau."
Cooking in earth ovens is a pre-Hispanic technique common to all of Mesoamerica.
- In the Huasteca region it is called a texcal and in Central Mexico it is an horno de barbacoa (barbecue oven).
- The food is usually cooked 60 cm below ground level.
A pib is an underground oven of Maya origin. It is constructed by digging a hole and putting a layer of bricks in it covered by firewood. When the oven is hot (200oC), the food wrapped in banana leaves is placed in it.
Although the pib under this name belongs to the Mexican southeast—mainly Campeche and Yucatán—the technique is used throughout a large part of the country to prepare traditional dishes, such as barbecue in Hidalgo.
By Michael Touby
MarieSharpsUSA.com | Global Pioneer of habanero pepper based products.