ONCE UPON A TIME, Before there was Co-op Sauce, there was Co-op Image, a free arts and entrepreneurship organization that Mr. Mike Bancroft (a.k.a. the Sauce Boss) started with Chicago youth. Mike and the kids needed to raise funds to sustain the programs, so in 2003, they got together to brew, bottle and sell hot sauce to restaurants and at farmers markets. Well, the business turned out to be hot, hot, hot!
In a few years time, Co-op Sauce went from being a fundraiser to a legitimate business that was growing fast and furious. The operation no longer bottles hot sauce in a small art center, but now has its very own café and retail location in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. The only thing that hasn’t changed much is the way the sauce is made: it’s crafted in small batches with hand picked ingredients sourced straight from farmers in the Midwest.
All of the recipes are hatched from Mr. Mike’s very own imagination, utilizing techniques including fermentation and barrel aging. Obsessed with spice and flavor, Mike the Sauce Boss takes inspiration from the farm-fresh ingredients to create flavors that enhance food, rather than overwhelm it with spice.
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• The hot-sauce trials — Time Out New York
• A love letter to Chicago, signed in hot sauce — The Huffington Post
• Co-op sauce moving to Rogers Park, to become private company — Grub Street Chicago
• Co-op Sauce moves to Rogers Park — Gapers Block
• Co-op Sauce Green Zebra Apple Butter — Daily Candy
• ‘Co-op’ teaches Chicago kids green business — ABC Local News
• Sauce boss — Time Out Chicago
• Chile chief — Tasting Table
• One Bite: Co-op Image Hot Sauce — Chicago Reader