What was your inspiration behind Maine-Tex?
As for the inspiration for Maine-Tex, that came out of nowhere. I taught Bryce at an early age how to cook. It was important that he could feed himself, because if I pass, he’d be on his own. We have no family so at least I know he would be able to feed himself. He has been cooking his meals since he was seven-years old.
One day, we decided to make some of my salsa that I’ve been making for the last eleven-years. I posted a picture of Bryce grilling our salsa. One of my friends commented, “I absolutely love your salsa, you should sell it!” Within two weeks I had 109 orders, a patent attorney, a food scientist, and the USDA (Untied States Department of Agriculture) involved. It all REALLY came out of nowhere. I went from being an autism activist for a decade, to being a salsa maker.
How did you get involved with Hannaford’s?
Hannaford’s had tomatoes on sale for ninety-nine cents for a whole week. I decided to make homemade spaghetti sauce to freeze, and some of my grilled salsa to can to last through the winter. Three weeks into this salsa adventure, Bryce and I were shopping and I saw the store manager, Doug Mercier. I shook his hand and said, “I owe your store a huge thank you!”
He looked at me a little baffled and I began to tell him the whole story. When I told him about the SPECIAL Foundation, and that I wanted to have some of the proceeds go towards the foundation to support a work program for individuals on the spectrum, he immediately was in! It just so happened he has a niece that has autism, and said she would benefit from a program like that. As I was leaving I said, “You should try some of our salsa!” He agreed, and a couple of days later I gave him a jar.
A few days later I went into the store and had him paged. He came downstairs with a smile on his face and I said, “Well? What did you think?” He replied “That salsa was awesome!” I asked him if he would sell it and he replied, “Absolutely!” …He’s been my friend ever since.
Does Bryce make the salsa? Is he still interested in cooking?
Bryce totally helps me make the salsa, and many other dishes. I think I’ve finally found his niche…cooking.
Where does the future lie for Maine-Tex?
The future for Maine-Tex is very bright! A local wholesale produce company invited Bryce and I to their facility where we had a “board meeting.” They made Bryce an honorary chef, and an honorary board member of their company, Native Maine. They also offered to not only buy our product, but sell it along with delivering it to their customers which is over 3,000. Then they made an amazing gesture and said they are going to comprise a board of chefs for me to consult with. One of the chefs is the 2008 Maine Chef of the year.
Personally, the last decade of autism, cancer, hospitals and other adventures have flashed through my mind. I think it was the universe’s way of preparing us for the greatness that occurred on 12-13-14, the day I posted the picture of our salsa, and Maine-Tex was born.
What advice would you give to our readers who may have children who are possibly not coping or who are having daily challenges?