Rad Dads

“Rad Dad Feature: Johnny McLaughlin”

We take our hot sauce seriously at Modern Day Dads, very seriously. So when I tell you that Johnny Mclaughlin is a fine artist, I want you to know that I mean it. Johnny is an artist and craftsman both, of all-natural artisan sauces and spice blends. He and his wife Nicole own and operate Heartbreaking Dawns, a specialty hot sauce company that will leave you burning for more.  Having appeared in 2012 on Food Networks hit show “Chopped”, and CNBC’s New Hit Show CROWD RULES!, this guy knows his stuff.  In addition to staying busy pleasing the taste buds of those searching for the finest sauces on earth, he is also an enthusiastic father to a seven month old little girl.

We were lucky enough to be able to get a hold of Johnny for our “Rad Dad” feature, and were overwhelmed with the insight and inspiration found within his answers.  I hope you enjoy his spicy answers because Johnny is a modern day dad in the truest sense of the phrase.

1. Tell us about what you do, who you are, and how you balance your career with being a dad?

My name is Johnny McLaughlin and I live in Mahwah, NJ with my wife Nicole and our 7 Month old daughter Riley. As the owner of a Specialty Hot Sauce Company, I am grateful to have a flexible enough schedule to really enjoy time with my daughter. When Heartbreaking Dawns Hot Sauce was launched owning a business that I was so passionate about made it exceptionally easy to incorporate work into my everyday life. When you enjoy something so much it hardly becomes work. Thankfully the business has grown and it continues to be just as enjoyable. Most all of the work that needs my attention now takes place on the weekends and late at night, of course it’s still quite a bit of hard work and long hours, but I can fit it where appropriate. My wife’s career path is in Psychological Counseling. That takes place during the week, so I’m with Riley most of that time. I work from home which also makes it very easy to balance. During the days it’s all about spending time with our daughter, keeping up on the house, making dinner. I’ll fit in some work while Riley’s napping and then finish up at night after everyone is asleep. I’m kind of like a stay at home dad that moonlights as a business owner. We are also very lucky to have a couple of Grandmother’s very close who will drop everything to spend time with Riley while I pack in a massive day of catch up when needed.

2. What does being a modern-day dad mean to you?

Being a modern-day dad seems to put a spin on what fatherhood really means in this new world. There’s such an evident switch in roles, lifestyles, the way we live our lives, and our surroundings. These can transform the entire family experience. My wife is finalizing her education for a career in counseling, I am self employed and work a flexible schedule from home. Both of us have a good amount of time to spend with each other, with our daughter, being a family. I get to take Riley with me just about everywhere I go, we can spend whole days together just doing stuff and I have so much I want to share with her. I’m not sure if there is any other time in history that “this” is doable. We all get to be such a part of each other’s world, every second. It really is wonderful.

3. How did becoming a father change your life?

It really blew my mind when I realized that everything people had said about “it changing your life” was completely true! I immersed myself in the experience from day one. My wife and I went to the doctor together, you name it, I made it a point not to miss a beat. I think it’s during that time that I really went through an emotional change. I became aware that my life was about to change forever and I was ready for that but even still I couldn’t comprehend how I would feel when Riley was actually born. Everything else really did become just a little less important. She’s my priority 24 hours a day. While I have a number of other things that need my attention, they’re things that can wait, they’re things that will still be there. I do what I can to not miss a moment of her life. It already goes so quickly!

4. Whats the greatest part about being a dad?

For me one of the best parts is knowing that everything in the world is 100% brand new to my daughter. Everything she sees is for the first time, every experience, image, the whole world. It give me the chance to get excited about everything all over again. The chance to re- live the world, this time sharing my knowledge, joys and experience with new life. That means so much. I find myself thinking about old hobbies, old books, old records….things I haven’t thought about in years in a whole new light because it now becomes important to share all of these things with my daughter….When you pair that up will all of the brand new things that I now learn and see with her, well it’s just amazing! It makes everything completely brand new for me as well.

5. Can you share a funny story about being a father?

I think of one of the first days her and I were spending alone after she was born! I gave her a bath and picked out here clothes. I thought she was the cutest thing in this shirt that I thought had cupcakes all over it. I was posting pictures and showing her off. It was no where near Christmas, but it was brought to my attention that the Cupcakes were Christmas Ornaments..When it was pointed out, they were REALLY Ornaments and it was a Very Very Very Holiday Shirt. I always laugh at that because everyone said that is was such a “dad” thing to do. I am confident I always dress her cute these days, holiday or not.

6. What advice can you give any new father out there?

Do everything you can to enjoy, laugh, learn, love and be with your child. You need to be their hero! Live up to that every second of the day.


Thank you so much for your time Johnny!  You are a master of your craft and an inspirational father.  Your outlook on life is a reflection of your sauce line, full of flavor! 


Use the code “dads” for 25% off any orders of HBD sauces and blends here:



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