Guest blog by Renad Sheraif, Founder of Yugo
Yugo makes fusion sauces that foolproof your kitchen experiments. Our aim is to help home cooks make amazing meals without the hassle of complicated recipes.
Growing up, I always loved experimenting in the kitchen. I’d spend my weekends creating new cookie recipes and coming up with many an experimental dessert, which I’d test out on my relatives, and sometimes I was even cheeky enough to charge them.
When I moved away from home to go to university at the age of 17, it was the first time I had to rely on myself to do my own cooking, which I’d never done before. The first meal I cooked myself was a stir-fry with some chicken. I was so afraid I’d die of salmonella I cooked it for far too long and it was an overdone mess.
Fast forward three years, I’d become a lot better at cooking, but living in London and being heavily involved in a social enterprise society at university, I never had enough time to make something I was actually excited to eat. I didn’t really think of this as a problem, as restaurant options are virtually endless in London. Why would I bother improving my cooking skills further if exciting new restaurants and street food traders were constantly popping up around me? Ultimately, this was unsustainable, as it took a toll on both my health and my student budget.
Near the end of my final year at university, my friends and I went to Sushi Samba (a super upscale Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant) as a rare treat to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was one of those meals you spent hours thinking about after, trying to break down the flavours and techniques and wondering if you could ever achieve the same thing at home (because god knows I couldn’t afford to go there regularly).
In an attempt to cook more exciting food at home, I went to the supermarket and tried to find ready-made sauces that would make cooking more feasible by making it quicker. Disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about the options available. Everything was either Chinese, Italian or Indian, the ingredients were horrendous, and the flavours just weren’t there.
At this point, I already had a very well stocked spice cupboard I used to experiment sometimes, and I thought it was time to use that and my massive stack of cookbooks to create some of my own sauces on the weekends for quicker cooking on weekdays. Most of them came out great, but I’d already had these flavours many times before, and I thought back to my meal at Sushi Samba and thought: why not try fusion flavours?
This led to a lot of admittedly failed experimentation to see which cuisines went well together. I was on the verge of giving up when I went out with a friend and saw Miso Chipotle Chicken on the menu. I was so excited to try it, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to my expectations, and I kept thinking how I would do this flavour combination differently. This is when my first flavour was born: Miso Chipotle.
At this point, I was studying towards a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and was lucky enough to have 50 coursemates who were always willing to trial the sauces I made and give me feedback. I spent the year working on several iterations of the first flavour, developing the second flavour (Curried Sun-Dried Tomato), and working on market research. I found out that the cooking sauce category has been in eight years of consecutive decline, which made sense to me after scouring the shelves for something exciting and coming up empty. This showed me there was obviously space for sauces like mine, as the sector was in desperate need of a something new.
Taking the learnings from all my research and testing, I developed the sauces so they would taste good on a lot of different things, so people could use them with whatever they happen to have in their fridge. I wanted to make cooking a meal less of a chore and more something busy people could look forward to, and I think our sauces really help people do that.
After that I worked with an agency to develop a brand I felt embodied all this, and Yūgō was born. I also worked with a reputable factory who helped me ensure the sauces were shelf-ready, and after trialling sales on boroughbox.com, we’ll be launching in shops later this year!
It’s been an exciting journey full of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
More about Renad:
Renad moved to London in 2013 to study Economics and Management at King's College London, where she was also president of a social enterprise society. Working on several social enterprises in the U.K. and abroad for two years helped her realise her passion for entrepreneurship, which led her to do a master's degree in Entrepreneurship at Cass Business School. She's currently focused on growing Yugo and is eating her way through London for inspiration.