Dino Ferri sells hot sauces when he’s not running the Central Florida Zoo

Dino Ferri is the kind of guy who doesn’t sweat when the weather is hot.

“It’s a rush. It’s literally a rush, ”Ferri said.

The “it” in question here is capsaicin – the substance in peppers that makes them spicy. Ferri loves the stuff and puts it down like a champ. He shares his love with the world through his own hot sauce business: Hotter Than El.

“I’ve always liked spicy foods,” Ferri said. “Its own cult, as was craft beer. Now hot sauce is the new craft beer in that it’s something people really follow.

In addition to enjoying spicy foods, Ferri is also diabetic. The dietary restrictions that accompany this condition prompted him to start making his own sauces.

“I’ve always wanted something without sugars. So I started to do it. Everyone has always been delighted, ”he said.

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The Hotter Than El product line (Hotter than El)

Despite praise from his friends, Ferri only started selling his sauce after he lost his job in 2015.

“I lost my job and my career – I was like, ‘Well, this is a good time to give it a go,” Ferri said.

Soon after, Ferri ended up getting another day job, accepting a position as CEO of the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

“(It) keeps me from getting in trouble,” Ferri said.

Thanks to his work at the zoo, he was able to integrate into Tijuana Flats.

“She was our former head of development and marketing at the zoo and she had a friend at Tijuana Flats,” Ferri said. “She tried my first sauce and said, ‘You wanna go drop it?’ I put it down. I got a call about a month later.

Now the chain stocks Ferri sauce, buying in bulk for its restaurants.

Despite this, it was when Hotter Than El appeared on the Internet talk show “Hot Ones” that things really took off for Ferri, with orders from all over the world. He also loves to see celebrities scowl at the scorching of his sauces.

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“Sometimes it’s hard to believe. Especially when I see celebrities on YouTube, on “Hot Ones”, try my sauce and give positive comments. I mean, it’s a total race, ”Ferri said.

In the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Ferri talks more about starting his business and his love for spicy foods. He also shares samples of some of his sauces with Lisa Bell and Candace Campos, who don’t share his heat tolerance.

Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out his children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome”.


Florida Foodie is a bimonthly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it, and the impact it has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

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