Austin Living: Spice of Life

Published 6:16 pm Friday, November 25, 2022

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Hayden Lunt is highlighting the right recipe for your next meal

One year removed from high school and Hayden Lunt has a spicy take on life’s road and it’s likely going to involve food.

A driven soul and fast talker, Lunt has a lazer-like focus on his current business venture — a barbecue rub and finishing salts that fall under the business name of Cookin’ Outdoors.

“Seasoning, that was my go-to,” Lunt said, referring to his senior year at Austin High School when he was a part of Mower CEO, an entrepreneurial program that introduces students to the world of business. “I was always blending for myself. That has to be my business route and it’s kind of taken off from there.”

What a started as a Mower County CEO business has quickly expanded to a fully-fleshed out business. Eric Johnson/

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Lunt has made the best of his opportunities when they have come his way. Starting when he was younger, he took an interest in barbecuing and grilling along with his dad Jim Lunt.

That led him down a road of mini competitions between the two that sometimes included neighborhood competitions. It was enough to light the fire, so to speak.

As the interest grew, Lunt got a job at the Old Mill restaurant where a start as a dishwasher led to his current position in kitchen alongside his good friend and cousin Sam Hastings. Maybe that name has a ring of familiarity to it.

That’s because Hastings is the creator of Sam Sa’house, a line of hot sauces also created here in Austin.

“Really, he helped me up through the dishwashing and helped build that love of food,” Lunt said, crediting Hastings’ own love of food and drive. “Being mentored by him and working under him and just letting me kind of experiment. I was going to go in as an engineer and I really enjoyed that aspect, but food and taste has definitely brought a new passion to me.”

Hastings has proven to be a valuable asset for Lunt.

“I’m definitely grateful for everything he’s done as far as mentoring,” Lunt said. “We’ve clicked, whether it’s going places, growing off how he’s worked his way up. What things not to do and what to do. It’s helped with limiting failure. He’s never given me the easy route though or handed anything to me.”

Hayden Lunt has up his game and moved into the seasoning salt world. Eric Johnson/

His time in the CEO program and Hastings sparked that drive and from there came the barbecue rub and an insight into creating his own business. 

“Sam started his hot sauce so I was able to see how a small business starts from the ground up and I needed a business idea,” Lunt said.

To a certain extent, Lunt admits in taking the long road to Cookin’ Outdoors, embarking on a long trip of trial and error followed by figuring out for himself the correct way to go in order to keep his business moving forward.

That meant finding a location to bring his blends together.

“The process has been fun and interesting,” he said. “First, I had to start off and find a commercial kitchen.”

Lunt is currently calling the Austin Country Club home base and credits it for being gracious enough to let him use the spot.

After that it was a matter of finding the right balance of flavor and consistency.

“Right now I have just one spice blend. It took about 10 batches to really design how I wanted my levels and percentages so it didn’t cake up and had great flavor. I really focused on the low sodium feel so it’s not just going to be a cheap filler spice. That process has been awesome.”

After talking to Lunt for any length of time, you quickly determine he’s not ready to just settle.

Now that he’s feeling good about the spice blend, he’s turning to a new horizon — finishing salts with three flavors available: jalapeño, habanero and applewood smoked.

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“I’m really getting into the finishing salt game,” Lunt said. “That is my goal for next year.”

Lunt said he is ready to give people what they want. He credits the variable uses of the salts for the attention they’ve garnered. 

“I have found the finishing salts, people really dig them because they are unique,” Lunt said. “It’s pretty costly. I’m taking my time, controlling the growth. Definitely the finishing salt game has been cool.”

From the feedback he’s been given comes an insight of what the salts can be used for, which includes anything from finishing off the fresh cut of meat to seasoning margaritas.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s now turned into a job. When you’re hobby turns into a job it might be different, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m always going, but it’s super enjoyable. I’m learning as I go.”

To be sure, the salts and rub are the convergence of roads with a variety interests — food and business.

With an open mind, something he urges anybody to keep when looking for any new ventures, Lunt has more possible plans for the future that would make use of his love of food, and he’s not letting anything limit that passion.

“Kind of as far as it lets me,” Lunt said, referring to an end goal. “Whether or not it lets me open a food truck — there has been talk about that. Right now is definitely not the time. I’m just learning as I go. It’s a passion of mine and it mixes with my passion for business.”

“I’m keeping an open mind,” he added. “I would recommend everybody keep an open mind. Working for yourself can be tough and hard, but it’s super enjoyable.”

For more on Hayden Lunt and Cookin’ Outdoors visit him on F