Maryland Fried Chicken’s original hot sauce is a familiar favorite to Blackshear patrons and it will soon be showcased as a finalists in the University of Georgia’s 2015 Flavor of Georgia food product contest.

The signature sauce is one of three finalists in the marinades, sauces and rubs category. Rick Heavilon, who owns the restaurant with wife, Robin, says the creation came from necessity.

The Heavilons decided to add Buffalo wings and tenders to the Maryland Fried Chicken’s traditional menu when the couple established the Blackshear location 17 years ago. And what are wings without a lip-lickin’-good sauce?

That kept Rick Heavilon busy looking for an ideal pairing.

“We could not find a suitable sauce for the wings and tenders,” he says, with a slight shake of his head.

Instead, he used advice and tips gleaned from culinary experts during this business travels to create an original hot sauce he describe as having a “smooth, unique taste” intended to blend well with the Maryland Fried Chicken taste many have come to know.

“We didn’t want to tamper with [the taste of the chicken], just complement it,” Robin Heavilon says.

Her husband says the sauce stands out for its flavor, rather than being hot for heat’s sake.

“The sauce has a lingering taste that makes you say ‘I want more 1of that,’” says Rick.

The family-owned business began bottling the sauce in November last year after constantly having customers asking how they could buy some for their own pantries. Though it has been a hit with numerous diners here, it will have to satisfy a panel of 20 judges at Flavor of Georgia, set for March 9-10 in Atlanta.

Products in each of the food categories are graded on commercial appeal, a Georgia theme, taste, innovation and market potential. Rick Heavilon will provide sauce samples for each judge, as well as give a five minute presentation.

Part of the pitch, he says, is the versatility of the sauce beyond just wings and tenders, such as in breakfast meals or in a snack party mix.

“It covers morning to dark,” he says.

Judges selected 30 finalists from a field of more than 100 products to compete in the final round of Flavor of Georgia, part of the governor’s annual Agriculture Awareness Week.

The Original Maryland Fried Chicken Hot Sauce will compete against competing food items entered from Stone Mountain and Pooler. Judging and feedback will be given by industry professionals, such as food brokers, grocery buyers, chefs and other experts.

Rick Heavilon says he was surprised and honored to have his hot sauce selected as a top choice. Simply being a part of the food contest will bring added exposure to a Blackshear product and business.

All winners and finalists can have their products stamped with the 2015 Flavor of Georgia logo and will be featured in the contest’s product directory.

“This is exciting,” Robin Heavilon says. “It’s been a big boost to our business,”

About the owners

Rick and Robin Heavilon are residents of the Hacklebarney community. They opened Blackshear’s Maryland Fried Chicken in 1998. The Heavilons were long-time owners of Maryland Fried Chicken in Waycross, until selling the location, once owned by Robin’s mother, in January. The restaurant brand was established in 1969.

About the Flavor of Georgia

The Flavor of Georgia event is sponsored by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, in partnership with the Georgia Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, the Office of the Governor, Walton EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Agribusiness Council. Learn more at flavorofga.com.

Read more top stories available in the February 25, 2015 edition of The Blackshear Times(Subscribers click here to log in and read the entire paper online.)

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