Black-Owned American Spice Company Launched During the Pandemic
While the coronavirus forced many businesses to shutter their doors permanently, Marcus Davis, an enterprising steamfitter living in NYC, traded the big city for greener pastures in Bucks County, PA, and took a leap of faith to launch his life-long dream of entrepreneurship during the height of the pandemic.
Wah Gwan® is a luxury seasoning line developed by Marcus Davis and his wife, Rose Orrell Davis, who are passionate about producing quality spices and blends so that anyone can have the most flavorful food possible. The name is inspired by the Jamaican Patois greeting which means “What’s going on.”
“We have become a culture obsessed with eating out and ordering takeout,” said Marcus. “Historically, there has been a resistance to cooking at home, mostly due to time, shopping for ingredients, and knowing how to put all of the components together. Our all-purpose seasoning is the solution — one product — that brings a ton of flavor, allowing home cooks to fill in just the fresh ingredients, thereby simplifying dinner and waste. Our goal is to educate home cooks on how to create their own delicious food at home.”
The line includes an all-purpose seasoning – Wah Gwan®; G Salt — oversized salt crystals from the south of France; a Dry Brine that can be made into a wet brine by adding water; and dried Scotch Bonnet powder.
“Our mission is to deliver quality, globally sourced seasonings, making them accessible to everyone while inspiring a new take on in-home culinary experiences,” added Davis.
What makes their seasoning different from the myriad of other companies? The idea was born out of a desire to reach a larger audience in order to inspire and educate families to return to the kitchen to cook, talk, laugh and heal. And actually, Marcus admits the pandemic may have worked in their favor, as scores of restaurants were closed and more people had to rediscover the joy of cooking at home.
“What we didn’t see coming was that our launch in mid-March 2020 would be peak pandemic panic for all. It has been an interesting year and our mission couldn’t have been better timed, as families were forced to be home with each other planning meals and cooking together.”
The rolling hills of bucolic Bucks County seem like an unlikely birthplace for a spice brand deeply rooted in Jamaican culinary history, but that’s where Marcus, a self-taught chef whose parents are Jamaican immigrants, started sourcing, mixing and blending. Just before the pandemic, the NYC transplants moved to New Hope, where Rose grew up. Rose, a body psychotherapist, massage therapist and digestive health coach, worked in the corporate wellness sales industry for more than a decade.
“We are both nutrition coaches which 100% supports our mission to get people cooking more for themselves and their families,” said Rose.
Wah Gwan was conceived in the kitchen of their Bucks Country farmhouse, but the idea had germinated decades ago, explained Anthony.
“After wrapping up a short-lived rap career at 25, I worked as a steamfitter in NYC for close to 20 years, helping to build high rises, skyscrapers and even One World Trade Center, all the while secretly pursuing my passion for cooking.”
At night, Marcus taught himself the fundamentals of the culinary arts by pouring over the French Culinary Institute’s The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine.For years, the 44-year-old former union worker had been testing and trying blends looking for an all-purpose seasoning that bridges cultural and situational cooking. It wasn’t until Rose gifted him with two key quality-sourced ingredients: Pimentón de la Vera dulce (sweet smoked Spanish paprika) and dried scotch bonnet powder, that he realized the combination ignited serious sparks.
“Now, my cooking has always included ‘Scotchie’s’ being that I’m Jamaican and love spice,” noted Davis. “Paprika as well has been a staple in my life. What happened though, when we combined these ingredients and blended them with a handful of other spices was purely magical, and Wah Gwan seasoning was born.”
However, finding the right source was paramount.
“I’ve had a love affair with the Scotch Bonnet pepper my whole life, but it’s difficult to find it fresh in powdered form with the right consistency,” said Marcus.
After sampling hundreds of batches, the Davis’ finally found what they were looking for from a grower in Florida.
“The paprika comes from Spain and the Scotch Bonnet is grown by hand by the only person we found who can grow and dry the pepper just right. This is what sets us apart. This is the game changer!”
Connecting over delicious food that has been quality sourced and prepared with love is what brought the Davis’ together as a couple (they officially tied the knot last December).
“We also quickly realized that what people are craving (besides access to delicious, fresh food) are experiences within their community and actually breaking bread with friends and loved ones,” added Rose. “We’ve found incredible joy in helping people uplevel their cooking! And we couldn’t be happier about the fact that we’re doing this together.”