MANATEE -- Bradenton-native Bruce Blunt has come a long way from his days as a kid sneaking into the kitchen at home and scrambling up some eggs and bacon.
"I've always loved cooking," said the now Orlando resident.
Today he heads up a company called Mr. Bojacks, Inc. -- after his nickname -- and manufacturers his own barbecue and wing sauces currently being carried in Fresh Markets and ABC stores across Florida.
The Southeast High School graduate has come a long way since his Army days of grilling foods in his spare time with the cooks he befriended in the mess hall.
Even though he's had other careers along the way, Blunt has never gotten away from what he likes to do best -- cook.
Even when he spent 20 years with the Orange County Sheriff's Department as a corrections officer working in a work release center.
"People would call in sick and I'd go into the kitchen and start cooking," he laughed.
He started making sauces -- hot and barbecue -- because he didn't like what he was tasting in the marketplace.
"I make sauces real fast, I think what it will taste like in my mind and then get going," Blunt said.
Over the years he has developed seven sauces, his first and probably most popular is his Slappin Sauce, a dark and spicy concoction that tastes like a blend of teriyaki and A.1. Steak Sauce.
"It's a no brainer, you can put it on everything but ice cream," he said.
Four are barbecue sauces including a mustard sauce he made on a dare.
"People thought because I wasn't from the Carolinas I couldn't make one," he said. "I had something to prove."
His other two sauces are for wings including a sweet and spicy garlic one.
The sauces, which are manufactured in Ocala, are now offered in five Fresh Market stores including the one that has just opened on Manatee Avenue in Bradenton. Five ABC stores in Central Florida also carry the products as well as a handful of gourmet good stores in Florida and Georgia.
Cost ranges from $5 to $8 per 16-ounce bottle.
"They've been with us for six months and they're doing good," said Christopher vant Wout, local marketing coordinator for The Fresh Market about Bojacks. "They went out of their way to build their brand knowledge by doing things like instore demos."
The sauces are located in a special section The Fresh Market has for local and regional products in the store.
"We look for emerging brands, companies that really reflect the local taste of our customers," vant Wout said. "We want to make sure we can offer not just international products but local ones as well."
The store often takes the most popular of the local brands and helps build them into national brands.
"When we find great, unique products, we help them through the journey of getting to be a national product," he said.
If Blunt has anything to do with it, Mr. Bojacks will soon be in people's pantries across the U.S. and even other countries.
He is currently working on a project to introduce the sauces to retail shops in the United Arab Emirates.