The enticing aromas of his mother's authentic Mexican cooking still resonated for Javi Nava.
The Brandon resident lived in Arkansas as a youth after leaving his native Guadalajara, Mexico, and he recalls waiting for Lupe — now 88 and still cooking — to finish dishes such as enchiladas and refried beans and rice, which she almost always paired with homemade salsa.
"I remember the smells," said Nava, who moved to Florida in 1977 and spent 22 years with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office where he was a deputy working in corrections.
In 2009, Nava decided to make some salsa at the urging of his co-workers. A year later Javi's Authentic Salsa was popping up in most farmers' markets across Hillsborough County and four Whole Foods stores.
He recently learned his recipe would be in 156 Winn-Dixie stores as part of a program that began in 2014 called Winn-Local.
Nava emerged from a field of 60 entrepreneurs who pitched their ideas to Florida's third-largest grocer.
"The odds were against me this whole time," said Nava, who remembers his long path to citizenship and joining the HCSO. "The odds were always against me coming from Mexico."
Since retiring from the HCSO in 2013, Nava has grown his salsa business more than 100 percent, taking it from his kitchen to an FDA approved facility.
Nava said he has plans to make the product kosher and organic certified in the future. Javi's Authentic Salsa, which unlike other brands includes oregano — a nod to his mother's unique ingredients — is available in mild, medium, hot, and super caliente. Visit Javi authenticsalsa.com for more information.
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