In the life-is-not-fair department, the untimely death of Austin’s hot sauce queen, Jill Lewis, is one of the most poignant recent examples.

Jill—who died on June 4 at the age of 53 after a shockingly brief two-month battle with esophageal cancer—was a friend of mine and one of the city’s best-liked businesswomen. With her husband, Kevin Lewis, she founded Austin Slow Burn, a maker of salsas and other chile-pepper-products (including a terrific queso). Its first product, Salsa con Habanero, hit the market in 1996. 

Jill liked to joke, if asked if she would recommend starting a business, that a person would be better off digging a hole in the ground, throwing a lot of money in it, and then doing something else. But in fact, Austin Slow Burn was a hit. It grew from humble beginnings, being made in a corner of one of Chuy’s restaurant kitchens (where Kevin worked), to become a statewide brand carried by Central Market, Whole Foods, and other stores.

Today Kevin Lewis is trying to put the pieces of his life and livelihood back together. In order to help defray Jill’s medical expenses, a fund has been set up by the Austin chapter of the women’s culinary service organization, Les Dames d’Escoffier (of which Jill was a member). You can contribute at  Of course, you can also help by buying Austin Slow Burn next time you need a jar of salsa or queso. Check locations here. It’s good stuff, people.