Dayton Comestibles Corn WhiskeyMustard, winner of the Ohio Signature Food Contest

Dayton Comestibles Corn WhiskeyMustard, winner of the Ohio Signature Food Contest

Kathleen Hanover won one year of business, technical and production support from a statewide culinary incubator program to take her Dayton Comestibles Corn Whiskey Mustard to the retail marketplace, despite losing her kitchen in a fire.

(COLUMBUS, OHIO) August 2, 2016 – An artisanal whole-grain mustard made in the Miami Valley by Dayton resident Kathleen Hanover was today announced as one of two winners of the 2016 Ohio Signature Food Contest sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF). Kathleen Hanover of Dayton, and Akron resident Adam Fried, will each receive one year of technical and business assistance to help them take their food product ideas from their home kitchens to retail stores.

“The irony of winning a food competition is that we don’t even have a home kitchen right now,” Hanover, 51, noted. Her home sustained water and smoke  damage in a suspicious fire that totally destroyed her garage and deck on April 18 of this year, with the kitchen taking the biggest hit. Hanover and her husband, Kaden Harris, 59, also lost most of their pantry items and extensive spice collection. After learning she was a finalist, Hanover made a batch of mustard for the competition in the tiny kitchenette of the extended-stay hotel room the couple has had since the fire.

The view of the back of the house from behind the garage after the fire. The kitchen storm door is melted, and the kitchen windows are boarded up.

The view of the back of the house from behind the garage after the fire. The kitchen storm door is melted, and the kitchen windows are boarded up.

Hanover was one of eleven finalists in the contest, which attracted nearly 100 entries from first-time culinary entrepreneurs from across the Buckeye State. She presented her mustard and business model—creating bespoke lines of spirit-infused condiments for Ohio’s craft distillers—to a “Shark Tank”-style judging panel of culinary experts, food entrepreneurs and restauranteurs assembled in Bowling Green, Ohio this July.

The judging panel was impressed with the mustard, which is made with corn whiskey from a local distillery.

“I surprised my husband with a tour of a local craft distillery for Valentine’s Day,” Hanover said. We had already been making our own condiments for some time, and we instantly realized that these craft whiskeys would be the perfect addition to own mustards, ketchups and relishes.” After a few weeks of kitchen experiments, the couple shared their whiskey condiment prototypes with the distillery’s owners, and other friends and family, who encouraged them to take their products to market.

Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Several other restauranteurs and retailers are already lined up to stock the Dayton residents’ comestibles once they have a commercially licensed product available. “We cannot believe how much people love Dayton Comestibles Corn Whiskey Mustard,” says Hanover. “My husband and I just love to cook together and share our flavors with friends. We never imagined that our kitchen tomfoolery was going to turn into a business!”

“We had just started our commercial food product research when the arsonist hit,” said Hanover. “We still aren’t back in our own kitchen, and our seed money for the condiment business has instead gone toward fire recovery.” Despite being a city of innovation, Dayton is the only major city in Ohio without a culinary incubator program or non-profit community kitchen. Included in the prize is free use of the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK), a licensed commercial kitchen and processing plant in Bowling Green created especially for food entrepreneurs.  “Our new food venture would be dead in the water if it weren’t for the Center for Innovative Food Technology, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the NOCK,” said Hanover. “We’re so grateful and honored for this immense opportunity.”

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