McElwains’ barbecue sauce debuts at Swamp

Part of the label for Florida head football coach Jim McElwain's new barbecue sauce, which makes its debut this weekend. [Submitted]

From job to job, as the pay scale changed and the family grew, Karen and Jim McElwain kept adding a little of this and a little of that.

And they kept hearing the same thing over and over from friends and family.

“Can we take some home?”

Finally, they have given in.

On Saturday at The Swamp, the McElwains’ special barbecue sauce will be launched. The sauce will be available at selected concession stands during the Florida-Tennessee game and will soon be marketed at Gainesville stores with an eye toward expansion statewide and nationwide.

“It’s a dream come true,” Karen McElwain said.

When the couple was in Year One of marriage and Jim McElwain was a graduate assistant at Eastern Washington in 1988, the tradition of the sauce began. Jim would create a batch from scratch and memory and as he went from one coaching stop to another the recipe would change.

“Everywhere we went, he’d add the flavors of that area,” Karen said.

Today, it is known as Mombo3 sauce, with the “Mom” part of the name being a tribute to Jim McElwain’s mother and the number standing for the McElwain children.

“When I think of the sauce I think of friends and family and being in a good place,” the Florida head coach said. “There’s a lot of love in that sauce.”

It wasn’t until recently that Karen McElwain thought it might be a good idea to market the barbecue sauce that had been reserved for special occasions because so many people wanted it.

“I told her, ‘If you want to do this, I’ll help you do it,’ ” business partner Marty Hurwitz said. “It’s her baby.”

Hurwitz, a former Hollywood agent who once represented Raquel Welch among others, had been friends of the McElwains for 10 years. An executive coach currently living in Sarasota, Hurwitz knew that there was more to starting a product line than slapping your name on it.

But he had also been at a number of the parties and dinners where Jim McElwain was in the kitchen putting the sauce together.

“The one thing you’ve never heard from Jim or Karen is, ‘It’s good enough,’ ” Hurwitz said. “That sauce has been tinkered with because they are not afraid to change things.”

He describes it as “perfume for the mouth. Sweet at first, then tangy and finally a kick at the end.”

But even with what they call a “small-batch mentality,” duplicating the formula for mass consumption wasn’t the easiest thing in the world.

While the formula was in the recesses of the football coach’s brain, Karen had jotted it down on a sticky note while giving it to a friend. The 16 ingredients remain a secret, but there are actually more in the sauce that will be sold because some of the original ingredients can’t be duplicated for sale.

With a marketing person and a chef on board, the “Mac and Blondie” sauce (she’s the latter) had to go through several taste tests over six months before it was ready to go.

“We would send a sample FedEx to the chef (Bill Schoenleb of Dallas) and he’d send something back,” Karen said. “Although one exploded in the mail.”

The McElwains plan to donate 10 percent of all proceeds from the sauce to charities. And this won’t be the last one.

Karen said she plans to soon market her special dipping sauce.

“This Mombo3 is the first of a family of sauces,” she said.


  1. I really hope this is a paid ad, and not the Sun promoting a side venture for an otherwise well-compensated, otherwise unproven head coach. As for the “10% to charity”, how about just give and be quiet about it?

    It’s pretty obnoxious seeing Coach Aw-shucks pushing a condiment when us team is in such shaky ground. I definitely won’t be sampling this hack sauce. Go Gators!

  2. Go coach the offense, coach McElwain. THE OFFENSE. Put some “sauce” in the damn OFFENSE! This story (or ad) is just flat out wrong when you consider how bad the offense is and that nine kids are suspended for trying to make some extra money, even if they went about it the wrong way. The players likely needed the money. The multi-millionaire McElwain family? NOT SO MUCH. This is just wrong. Period. And of bad taste, and I am not thinking of the sauce when I say that. Not interested in your sauce, coach. But very interested in the outcome of the suspensions and when, if ever, you will be able to coach up some very skilled offensive players. Wow, is all I can post about this.

  3. I love to see creative entrepreneurial spirit and action in individuals. It is very reassuring. If we could only see that form of behavior in our Offense. Then, we would have it made. Playing “Tight” is playing not to lose. Playing “Free” is playing to explore the possibilities of being better and scoring a lot of points. I wish he would run the Offense the way he makes Bar B Que Sauce.

  4. I am almost speechless that this is coming out now right after Coach Mac appeared to be so down because of the Hurricane victims and not to mention how badly this team’s offense has been over the past three years. Are you kidding me? Wow. yeah, let’s promote a BBQ sauce to fans who are big fans of the Coach. This makes sense. like he needs the money anyway.

  5. You know, I couldn’t sleep at night knowing and hearing the outpour of despair and disgust from the fans of the team I coach. You came in making big dollars, you just got an extension, Nussmeir just got an extension, for the love of God I can’t understand why, you feel you have time to promote barbecue sauce with the UF program being in the poor state its in currently. You are coaching a Championship, storied program. No wonder we’re losing. You need to have a sense of urgency mentality leading this program right now. This is absolutely sad just like this season will be and Gatornation is sick of it. We want to win. Fellow Gators, this guy is not a head coach and shouldn’t be. We are a laughing stock of a football program now. I’ve been bleeding Orange and Blue since 1983. I never thought I would witness anything like this, a dumpster fire that this so-called coach continues to pour gasoline on. It’s sad to watch Florida play. I don’t get butterflies and sweaty palms before big games anymore. It’s not fun anymore. It hasn’t been for seven years and I’m man enough to say this is the worst state this program has ever been in. People don’t respect us anymore. Fans of other teams, our rivals don’t respect us anymore. When the gators take the field now, my fist is under my chin. I don’t wonder if we’re gonna win now, I wonder how bad we’re gonna get beat and what the experts and critics and the fans are saying about us. I’m sorry yall but I want Coach Jim Macaroni out of Gainesville.

  6. Re-reading this, and I’m even more aghast. Dooley, this is a terribly, schmaltzy ad, and not a sports-interest column. Why did you agree to write this awful stuff? How is this remotely akin to journalism?

    Didn’t it strike you as odd that the wife of a head coach is using the home field concessions to promote their side project? I presume this was supposed to roll out during the sure win last week, but why did the university allow it, and why are you helping to promote it? Is there no pride left at the Sun?