Film Veteran Tries Fire, Builds Business
One taste is all it took.
Ever since his tongue first tingled from Buffalo-style chicken wings in Oswego, JD Cowles ’79 has added spice to life
at backyard barbecues, in break rooms around the world and most recently on the
While he spends his digital artist day job working on
blockbuster films like “The Matrix,” “Spiderman” and “Alice in Wonderland,” Cowles has been
getting down to business at his virtual All
Spice Café since 2005.
“Hot sauce for me really started with Buffalo wings,” said
Cowles, who currently works with Sony
Imageworks in Los Angeles.
“First time I tried chicken wings, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing.’”
It began a longtime love affair with all things spicy. Eager
to improve on the hot-sauce-and-stick-of-butter combination that made up most wing
coatings in the late ’70s, Cowles introduced his first habanero- and
cayenne-infused creations at backyard barbecues.
His homemade heat made its way around the world while Cowles
was working with Kodak during the ’80s and ’90s. He taught people how to use
the Cineon digital film system and when he was done with assignments he used
his own brand of guerilla marketing, leaving his sauce behind in kitchens and
“All of a sudden, I’d be getting e-mails from Italy or London;
all these different places” asking for more of the sauce, Cowles said.
After some small-scale success at a California home show, Cowles started production
from his apartment kitchen and quickly earned coveted Scovie and Golden Chili awards.
“In the hot sauce world, those are like the Academy Awards,”
explained Cowles, who was also named “Best Hot Sauce Maker” in the 2008 "Best of
LA" edition of Los Angeles magazine. He has made a high-profile
fan in George Lopez, who got a taste of some sauces that Cowles donated for
a National Kidney Foundation benefit.
Despite the name of his company, he is still in search of a
bricks-and-mortar café to serve as HQ for his fiery products. Cowles calls
himself a “bi-coastal commuter,” as he travels very frequently to Rochester, where his
wife, Joan Garvey Cowles ’81, and
He hopes to establish a foothold for his sauces in the East
and take the All Spice business full time.
— Shane M. Liebler
All Spice Café co-founder JD Cowles ’79 poses with his signature sauces on the shelves at Whole
Foods Market in Venice Beach,
Calif. The digital artist is
literally the face of the award-winning franchise.
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