Local sauce boss hopes to spice up Obama's ribs

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Guy Mitchell: White House Executive Chef giving Guy's Award Winning BBQ Sauce the Presidential Seal of ApprovalGuy Mitchell: White House Executive Chef giving Guy's Award Winning BBQ Sauce the Presidential Seal of ApprovalSome prominent chefs are discovering what Mahoning Valley residents have known for years - Ira ''Guy'' Hughes knows how to make barbecue sauce.

And maybe, just maybe, President Barack Obama will discover that as well.

Guy Mitchell - who was executive chef for the Philadelphia Eagles for five seasons, prepared meals for the cast and crew on three ''Rocky'' movies and has cooked for special functions at the White House and the vice president's residence - has eight cases of Hughes' signature sauces that he plans to recommend to the chefs who prepare meals at the White House and on Air Force One.

"I work with U.S. Navy and train some of the chefs that work in airlift division," Mitchell said. "I go to seminars with those chefs and help train them ... Because I'm close to those guys, I usually suggest great products to them."

Guy Mitchell with Guy HughesGuy Mitchell with Guy HughesAnd Guy's BBQ Sauce gets his recommendation because of its flavor and consistency.

"He's a great guy," Mitchell said. "He has a great personality and a great product."

Hughes described the recent events as "a heck of an opportunity," and it's one that came totally by chance.

Hughes, a Newton Falls entrepreneur who won Best Sauce and Best Ribs at this year's Mahoning Valley Rib Burn Off, was at a food show outside of Harrisburg, Pa., where he met Beth Pomper, trade commissioner for the Consulate of Canada.

She's responsible for promoting Canadian products in the United States, but when she sampled Hughes' sauce at the show, she asked if she could send a couple of bottles to her best friend.

"She said, 'If he likes the product, hold onto your hat because all sorts of good things could happen to you,'" Hughes said.

Pomper said she'd never tasted a barbecue sauce like Hughes.

"When you taste it, even off of the spoon, it's sweet tasting and mild but after it's in your mouth a bit you get a kick" she said. "Normally, you try a mild (sauce) and it's mild all the way through. You try a hot and it's hot all the way through."

Pomper arranged for the two "Guys" to meet at the Fancy Food Show in New York, where Mitchell was the celebrity chef in the Canadian consulate's booth. The sauce also earned high marks from Chef Barry Sexton, who was cooking with Mitchell at the show and has appeared on the Food Network's "Dinner: Impossible."

The chefs Mitchell works with in Washington, D.C., will have a chance to experiment with the sauce and try to incorporate it into their menus. For security reasons, products can't be shipped directly to the White House, Mitchell said, but the staff will go out and purchase it if and when they decide to use it.

Unlike those Obama road trips that have attracted press attention and caused sales jumps at the restaurants he's visited, the White House doesn't make a habit out of publicizing what products its uses.

"You can't use the coattails of the president to endorse your product," Mitchell said.

Hughes' barbecue empire continues to grow, with or without the president's seal of approval. His sauces are sold by several supermarket chains, and he recently started selling Pete's Tailgate BBQ Sauce in conjunction with Youngstown State University. He plans to market a similar sauce with the University of Akron, and Hughes will cook for Coach Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes football team on Aug. 20 as the first step in developing an OSU sauce.