“I came to Australia to have more opportunities and more choice,”

– Rishna Gunness

When it comes to a melting pot of cultures, it doesn’t get more dynamic than a Mauritian woman, living in Australia, making Mexican hot sauces. But for Rishna Gunness, it’s all par for the course. “Growing up in Mauritius, I experienced a real mix of cultures and flavours,” says Rishna. “Mauritius was colonised by the French, but has such a multicultural influence, from African, to Indian, to Chinese. So the cuisine is great, but it is a little … All over the place! I grew up having my curry with a baguette!” she laughs. 

The one thing that was consistent about those curries? The chilli. “There were Mauritian Indian immigrants, Mauritian Chinese immigrants … And everyone brought their own type of chilli and their own way of cooking it,” explains Rishna. And now, the own melting pot of Rishna and her Children of the Corn hot sauces falls into delicious place.

Growing up surrounded by food, Rishna spent her time after school observing her parents in their family restaurant, and competing with her brother on who could eat the hottest chillies. And if her love of food weren’t already strong enough, Rishna experienced a world of delectable delights when she moved to Australia as a 19-year-old student.

“I came to Australia to have more opportunities and more choice,” says Rishna, whose parents borrowed to send her to Melbourne, following her older sister who had already settled in Australia. “It was awesome to arrive in this country and to feel like I had found myself. It was scary and really stressful, but it was so exciting. Best of all, I fell in love with Melbourne and with the food scene.” 

Introduced to authentic Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, as well as local Indigenous ingredients, Rishna became enamoured. “The fruits and vegetables in Australia are almost too perfect,” she says. “Everything tastes different. The potatoes even take longer to cook!” 

While waiting for her visa to come through (and perhaps those potatoes to boil), Rishna and her husband chose to spend a year in Cambodia. Here, the idea for Children of the Corn was born. “My husband is obsessed with Mexican food, so we started making tortillas and experimenting with flavours,” Rishna says. “Of course, I wanted to make hot sauce because it’s such a normal thing back home. It’s always in your fridge. Then when we returned to Ballarat, we thought ‘let’s just see if this idea works’ and thankfully, it did.”

While Rishna would never claim to be making authentic Mexican food, what she is doing is making absolutely delicious, local, ingredient-led delicacies. On Made By Many Hands, that’s a tamarind and pineapple hot sauce, made using 100% natural, local and seasonal ingredients. “I am so inspired at the market, but I also forage for food like wild onions and blackberries,” says Rishna. “Right now, mangoes are in season, so I’m making mango jalapeno reaper hot sauce. Another favourite is smoked ancho chilli and cashew salsa, which is great on top of tacos.”

Salivating? Us too. Plus, it’s only getting better, with plans for Children of the Corn to start selling dinner and lunch packs to freeze and defrost whenever a craving strikes. Or to greatly please Rishna, when we’re entertaining. “I love that it’s interactive,” she says. “I want people to get in there with their hands and have it heaped on the table. It’s the way I want to eat.”

Now, thanks to Rishna, that’s exactly what’s on the menu.

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer