When surgeons saved Danny Ives' life three years ago by removing a cancerous growth from the side of his head, he thanked them by giving them each a case of his homemade hot sauce.
But perhaps that is to be expected from a man who once won the jalapeno-eating contest at the Laredo Jalapeno Festival by eating 83 jalapenos in 12 minutes.
Mr. Ives moved from Laredo, Texas, to northwest Ohio about 10 years ago, but he kept many of his Texas ways, from his cowboy hat and cowboy boots to the motor home he has fitted with a huge pair of horns, "so it looks like a big cow coming down the highway," he said.
And he kept his Texas cooking, too. He opened a restaurant, now closed, called Taste of Texas. Tamales were his specialty there, and he used to give away his hot sauce for free.
Now he wants to sell it, four different varieties of hot sauce plus three spice-rub mixes of varying degrees of heat (Fairy Dust, Burning Dust, and Diabolic Dust). The Food Product Development Contest award he won last week, along with two other winners, ought to come in handy.
Now in its fifth year, the award is handed out annually by the Center for Innovative Food Technology as a way of offering information, advice, and even packing and bottling facilities to entrepreneurs hoping to bring their food-related products to the market. The center helps the winners with nutritional analysis, shelf-life tests, getting Food and Drug Administration approval of labels, and even round up focus groups to hear unbiased opinions of the products.
The 51-year-old father of six has big plans for his company, Nacho Danny's. Along with the sauces and rubs, he is looking to bring out a cereal seasoning -- cinnamon-sugar mixed with peppers for a sweet and spicy kick to add to breakfast cereal -- and a similarly spicy seasoning to add to salad dressings. He has also started a charity, Wholly Toledo, to give money to cancer research and to help developmentally disabled children.
Noting the importance of marketing in selling anything, Mr. Ives has come up with a clever idea to make his hot sauces stand out from the crowd. On the back of each bottle is a photograph and information about one of the 15 most-wanted fugitives from the U.S. Marshals Service, like a milk carton in reverse.
The sauces are available at Mud Hens games, Walleye games, the Toledo Zoo, and the Hollywood Casino Toledo.