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TikTok’s Pink Sauce chef defends her viral condiment

(iStock/Washington Post illustration)
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The Florida chef whose Pepto Bismol-hued condiment went viral this week — with people on social media analyzing her TikToks with Zapruder-like intensity and questioning its legality, safety and ingredients — says she’s proud of her product.

The Miami-area personal chef who goes by her professional name, Chef Pii, and her newly introduced Pink Sauce have been at the center of a Barbie-colored swirl of controversy and the subject of dozens of TikTok videos that have racked up millions of views. “The world is really curious about my creation,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post. “And they’re being malicious.”

Chef Pii, 29, who declined to go on the record with her real name, has an answer to all the criticisms that have been leveled against her and her nascent brand. First among them: Her product, she says, is legal and safe. She makes it in a commercial facility that is certified by the Food and Drug Administration, per the law, she says, not a home kitchen, as some people suggested. She says she had been making the sauce, which she uses to top fried chicken, french fries and vegetables, long before producing it for sale. “I’ve been using it and serving it to my clients for a year — no one has ever gotten sick,” she says.

She owns up to early stumbles, such as bottles being mislabeled. TikTokers had seized on errors on the initial packaging and questioned whether any of it was to be believed. She says a typo in the graphic design mixed up the number of grams of product with the number of servings (444 servings instead of about 30 servings totaling 444 grams). And after getting backlash, she added the instructions to “please refrigerate.” She apologized for the mistakes. “This is a small business that is moving really, really fast,” she said in a video posted yesterday.

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As customers began receiving their products when shipping began July 1 (she said she’s sold about 700 bottles so far), people complained that the packaging was poor, with some posting images of leaking bottles. Chef Pii says she’s switched shipping companies and apologized to customers who got damaged bottles.

And to those who said they suspected the sauce contained something that wasn’t listed — at least one video suggesting that she used mayonnaise to thicken it had gotten 3.9 million views as of Thursday afternoon — she says that’s just not so. But she’s not divulging everything about her process: “I will not explain my process, and I won’t be bullied into it.”

Previously, Chef Pii had only offered a cryptic response to many on social media who wondered whether she was operating legally. “Yes, we are following FDA standard,” she said in a video, adding that “we are currently in lab testing, so one we go through lab testing, we will be able to pitch to stores, to put the Pink Sauce in stores.” She now plans to post a long video, maybe as long as 45 minutes, tonight on YouTube to answer all of the questions people have raised.

Plenty of people thought it was strange that the sauce’s inventor wouldn’t describe its flavor, an omission that helped fuel the mystery around the sauce — and stoked the sense that she was hiding something. But Chef Pii says she wasn’t being intentionally coy or even trying to create hype. She says she really can’t put the flavor, which some have described as ranch-adjacent, into words. “I wasn’t trying to be rude or anything,” she insists.

Another thing she says isn’t a gimmick? The sauce’s distinctive color, which comes from the red dragon fruit, or pitaya. Chef Pii says she has suffered from depression and anxiety, and she had long found the fruit’s properties useful in treating her conditions. “I have a relationship with this sauce,” she says.

While some people on social media dug into possible legal or health issues, others just enjoyed poking fun at the spectacle.

Chef Pii says some of the online backlash stung. “I’m a normal human being, and I woke up to a million insults,” she recalls. Still, she has big plans for the brand, starting with bringing down the price tag from its current $20 to make it more accessible. She doesn’t want to sell her brand to a bigger company, but she dreams of partnering with one — maybe a fast-food company that would serve her sauce.

But she’s trying to tune out the backlash as she stays busy filling more orders.

“Yes, the sauce is extremely controversial, but for my curious, artsy people that are actually into the Pink Sauce craze, I love y’all,” she said in a video this week. “The haters are not taking my light away.”

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