Dennis O’Shields of Maple Valley is making waves across the food market with his low sodium savory foods and spices.
Created about a year ago, Uncle Dennis’ Foods sprung into business after overcoming remarkable obstacles, which in turn inspired his products.
“I had nine kidney stone surgeries in three years and after trying medications and other treatments, the kidney stones were still coming back,” O’Shields said. “We started to do some research on our own and found a study linking high sodium intake to kidney stones. I had already started making all food at the house — including homemade soups, stocks, using our freezer for pre-making meals for the microwave — but realized the sodium I was taking in with condiments in general was the last item for me to look at when I had to reduce my sodium intake.”
Being told to reduce his sodium intake to 1,000to 2,000 milligrams a day, O’Shields hot sauces contain only 25 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon, whereas most condiments contain at least 100 milligrams per teaspoon.
“I’ve only got two hot sauces on the market right now with only one more coming in the near future.” O’Shields said. “My business is actually not a hot sauce business, but a ‘specialty foods and spices’ business. We have two new spices out last week, and two more coming within the next couple of weeks.”
O’Shields is not just making headway in stores and restaurants. He is also taking part in an event similar to “Iron Chef” and “Chopped” on the Food Network called “The Healthy Edge Battle of the Chefs” in Kent.
The interesting thing about this food battle is that the chefs are not allowed to use butter, cream or table salt.
“This actually came about because of a high school friend of my wife.” O’Shields said. “He’s one of the chefs that will be competing in it and knew what we were doing with our sauces… and thought we would be a good fit. When I called them to get more information, we decided it would be very exciting to be the ‘Official Hot Sauce of The Healthy Edge Battle of the Chefs,’ so we decided to be a sponsor right then and there.”
You can find Uncle Dennis’ Foods at a multitude of places. Uncle Dennis’ Foods are carried at Whole Foods Market, “Bill the Butcher” shops in Seattle, and 23 other stores that can be found on the Uncle Dennis’ Foods website. Uncle Dennis’ Foods are also used at Sunbreak Café in Auburn, Dixie’s Home Cookin’ in Sumner and the Highline on Capitol Hill, which actually has a signature “Uncle Dennis’ Ragin’ Mary” made with Uncle Dennis’ Ragin’ Fire Sauce.
“We are currently working with our distributor to expand into other grocery stores and specialty shops that will hopefully happen within the next year,” O’Shields said.
O’Shields’ hot sauce will continue to spread across the country in the fall.
“Next up is actually sending 800 bottles of sauce to be used at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., starting in October and running through Nov. 14,” O’Shields said. “The sauce would be used in the gratuity bags for the visiting chefs and executives for the festival. We’re incredibly excited for the opportunity to be a part of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.”
Looking forward to the future, O’Shields is trying to run a family company that would leave a legacy for his daughters and actually create food that means something to people.
“We want something that stands out in the crowd of even ‘specialty’ foods when it comes to feeding our children,” O’Shields said. “Our children always come first and we believe their health is always directly affected by the food they eat.”
It’s easy to find O’Shields products locally at every Maple Valley Farmers Market, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday until Oct. 9, at Rock Creek Elementary School.
“Eating healthy can mean great tasting food as well as making you feel good,” O’Shields. “It’s been a fun ride for the first year – we can’t wait to see what the next 40 have in store for us.”