words by Rosalie Murphy, photos by Ilenia Pezzaniti
The recipes for the five flavors of Not Yo’ Daddy’s Mexican Hot Sauce are still secrets.
The original version was created by Cristina González Alcalá’s father in Durango, Mexico, where Cristina was born. He’d considered commercializing the hot sauce years ago, but stopped when he found out someone had already claimed the name he wanted to use.
In 2015, when Cristina called to tell him she was going to start selling the family product, he said, “you’re going to learn a lot.”
Little did they know that Not Yo’ Daddy’s would grow into one of Akron’s best-loved local products.
Cristina spent her childhood in Durango. She moved to the United States when she won a scholarship to play golf at the University of Louisville. Upon graduation in 2008, she became an assistant women’s golf coach at the University of Akron, which led to a job as a graduate research assistant and master’s degrees in public administration and communication.
As Cristina and her partner Richelle, who is now her wife, settled into Akron, she often made her family’s hot sauce as a housewarming gift for friends.
After a whirlwind month, they were marketing it for sale.
It started with a conversation with Kaley Foster of Urban Buzz, a company that makes beeswax candles, in March 2015. Cristina mentioned her hot sauce hobby. Two days later, a food-industry friend of Kaley’s emailed Cristina and invited her to breakfast.
Two weeks later, Nicole Mullet of ArtsNow invited Cristina to serve samples of Not Yo’ Daddy’s at an event at the Akron Art Museum. And two weeks after that, they sold more than 140 jars of Not Yo’ Daddy’s at Better Block in North Hill.
A few weeks later, at a market day hosted by Brent Wesley of Akron Honey Company, Not Yo’ Daddy’s sold out again.
Cristina and Richelle became regulars at farmers markets, then began selling bottles in local shops. Now, they’re getting restaurants to use Not Yo’ Daddy’s in their recipes. Lock 15 Brewing recently began putting Not Yo’ Daddy’s on tables, where you’d normally find Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot.
“The ultimate goal is to build our hot sauce empire and de-throne a few of the hot sauces that you see set up on tables,” Cristina says.
When she’s not empire-building, Cristina is working at the Summit Education Initiative and pursuing a doctorate at UA. She and Richelle have a baby and two dogs, and they just bought their first home.
“I’m living a little of the American dream. We finally bought the house,” Cristina says. “And we started a business, and now we’ve started a family. I still let people know that, even though it seemed easy, there were… rules that exist, and barriers that you don’t really see unless you’re brown.”
Cristina has lived in the U.S. for nearly 15 years now. But she says Not Yo’ Daddy’s has helped her talk about Mexico and her heritage more than she ever has before.
“I do have a little bit of an accent, but you might just pick it up as somebody from Texas, because I did go to a bilingual school, and I did have English since I started kindergarten. There’s a lot more people like me over there,” Cristina says. “With food, I was able to say, listen, this is what Mexico looks like, this is what Mexico is, and guess what? I am Mexican. I am an immigrant.’”
Cristina and Richelle are raising their daughter to be bilingual, meaning Cristina speaks to her only in Spanish and Richelle only in English. Akron has welcomed their family, Cristina says, but she still feels like they’re part of a vanguard. Other LGBTQ+ families have thanked them for their example, saying they’ve encouraged them to be themselves. Her biggest fights have been with herself — the heteronormativity she’s internalized, the comments she’s come to expect as normal.
For now, Cristina and Richelle make and bottle Not Yo’ Daddy’s at Sweet Mary’s Bakery, after the downtown sweet shop closes for the day. They produce about 70 bottles of hot sauce every month. But soon, they’ll need their own kitchen and some part-time employees.
As an entrepreneur, Cristina says, she gets to “take the risks you want to take and work through the challenges that those risks bring, which then become that sweet victory. You have nobody to thank but yourself, or your team, which is Richelle and I,” she says.
“I love that I’m sharing, literally, ‘mi casa es su casa,’ my home is going to your home, when you take a bottle of our hot sauce.” she adds. “I love that.”