Bronx Hot Sauce Has Burning Desire to Boost Borough

That old saying "the Bronx is Burning" is taking on a new and positive meaning thanks to an entrepreneur and some residents with a green thumb. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

Nineteen-year-old Junior Leiva has carefully plucked peppers that will end up in stores across the country in bottles of Bronx Hot Sauce - a product made with produce grown at community gardens across the borough.

"We give these 23 urban gardens seeds. They grow the seeds. We buy them back from the people and we pay them $4 per pound," said Julia Fitzgerald, Bronx Hot Sauce VP of Sales.

Those gardens already have grown 750 pounds of peppers this year. It's enough to make 30,000 bottles of hot sauce and earn Leiva and three others working at Brook Park some pocket change.

"I think it's pretty cool because instead of going to big companies they come to us," Leiva said.

The folks behind all of this want Bronx Hot Sauce to become a kitchen staple, but there's more to it than that.

"When you purchase a bottle of this sauce, it helps a lot of people," said King Phojanakong, Creator of Bronx Hot Sauce.

A major goal is supporting struggling communities in the Bronx and the often overlooked people who live there like Leiva, who's growing peppers at Brook Park as part of a program for teenagers who got in trouble with the law.

"They can have a sense of the possibilities for them as a result of  learning the really fine art of urban agriculture and now having an opportunity to take it up to a level where they could earn income," said Ray Figueroa, Program Director at Friends of Brook Park.

The peppers which become hot sauce virtually go from community gardens like the one in Brook Park to businesses like the Bronx Beer Hall where they sell the product to their customers.

"It's not just a bunch of guys who decided to produce some sauce and brand it after our borough," said Paul Ramirez, Lead for Public Relations at Mainline Media.

The company's mission resonates with the Bronx born Ramirez brothers who own the Beer Hall, along with a media and merchandise company that aims to improve the image of the borough.

"Their mission is very similar to ours. The work that they're doing does improve the community and does show that there are positive things happening within our borough," said Anthony Ramirez II, owner at Bronx Beer Hall.

For more information, visit bronxhotsauce.com.

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