Todd Zimmer started cooking at age 5 because he liked his eggs a certain way. He hasn’t stopped cooking or experimenting with flavors in the 42 years since then.
Zimmer is the creator of Zim’s sauces and spices which now can be found on the table and in recipes at restaurants across the Kansas City metro. For Todd and his wife, Janet, Zim’s is a side business that is done in small batches and with a lot of personal attention.
The Zimmers live in Roeland Park now, but the Zim’s sauces and the flavors have their roots in Buffalo, N.Y. That’s where the first chicken wings or Buffalo wings originated at the Anchor Bar. It’s also where Todd grew up and started working in restaurants during high school and college. And, it’s where he learned to make the sauce that would make his chicken wings a hit.
The sauce business, which is a side venture to his 25 years working for Huhtamaki as a graphics specialist, started simply enough when Zimmer brought his wings in for birthday parties at work. That led to a request from a friend for bottles of the sauce to give away as Christmas gifts. Then came the labels illustrated by another friend.
Work brought the Zimmers to Kansas City in 1997, a time when, Todd says, “few places here had good wings.”
Zimmer began tweaking the recipe, making it by the gallon. That led him to Original Juan’s in Kansas City in 2010 where the recipe was worked out and sauce is now made in 204 gallon batches. Juan’s produces the original Bufsas Mild sauce – one of four sauces at different heat levels. Todd personally bottles and labels the sauce, and in a commercial kitchen adds the ingredients to produce the hotter varieties: Kiksas, Nuksas and BLAKSAS. He also is producing two types of balsamic vinegar and a variety of spices, including his own Moroccan blend.
The first customers for Zim’s were The Record Bar and The Brick, places where Todd has photographed bands (another project and another story), often wearing his kilt. The Brick even carries a menu item called Zims Wings.
Today, Zim’s can be found in at least eight restaurants and nine retail stores across the metro – or online.
One of the biggest outlets for Zim’s sauces, though, are bands that have the sauce labeled with their own branding and sell it at their tour stops. The Midnight Ghost Train from Topeka is one of the top sellers of Zim’s rebranded sauce.
The Zimmers’ two boys, Austin and Ian, 12 and 10, aren’t ready to try the sauce yet, Todd says. “They know someday they are going to like it.”
Zimmer still likes to cook. Besides Kansas City steak, a favorite is Moroccan and Tunisian food – and he has a spice for that.