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Meet the Producers: Michelle Miller and Jennifer Chapman

Co-owners of Millchap Purveyors, Charlotte, N.C.
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North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the country, so it’s no surprise that Millchap Purveyors in Charlotte, N.C., would turn to this delicious spud to produce a line of sweet potato crackers and granola. Owners Jennifer Chapman and Michelle Miller first hit the bakery scene five years ago selling gourmet cupcakes to a devoted fan base from their bakery Polka Dot Bake Shop. But since the introduction of their sweet potato line in 2009, the products have taken off, convincing the duo to sell the storefront this year and focus soley on their sweet potato snacks, which are proving to be just as much of a hit.

“We’re surrounded by sweet potatoes in North Carolina and we love experimenting them,” says Miller. “Sweet potatoes offer an earthy, slightly sweet base flavor to our crackers and granola, and baking our crackers and granola also allows the sugars in the sweet potato to caramelize, adding a crunchy, crispy texture to our snacks.” Baked and packaged by hand, the crackers are available in five flavors: Original, Rosemary & Olive Oil, Cracked Black Pepper, Chipotle with Smoked Paprika and Gluten-Free Cracked Black Pepper.

Chapman and Miller share more about talk about their favorite sweet potato products, their culinary idols and essential kitchen staples.

What’s your favorite flavor in your line?

Chapman: Cracked Black Pepper, with hummus.
Miller: Rosemary & Olive Oil, with brie. And we both live on our granola with Greek yogurt.

Who is your culinary idol?

: My grandmother. She made some amazing dishes and I never saw her measure anything. I still can't make cinnamon rolls as well as she did. Miller: My mother. We had a huge garden growing up, and we canned our own vegetables. My mother was very particular about how the vegetables were placed in the jars; not only did they have to taste good, they had to look good. As a child, I used to love going into our pantry and looking at the rows of beautifully arranged canned goods. Last summer, Jennifer and I canned tomatoes together, trying to carry on this tradition with our own families.

What's your guilty food pleasure?

Cheese. I'm in an aged gouda phase right now. And chocolate.
: Pimento cheese, on top of our crackers, of course. And an ice-cold glass of sweet tea.

Any interesting culinary experiences lately?

: I recently tried a ginger-blackberry dark chocolate bar. I was hesitant at first, but the flavor combination worked. It's interesting to see what the chocolatiers are combining with their chocolate.
: I ordered the recommended Salt & Pepper Crab at an authentic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. The dish was literally a whole crab deep-fried and placed on a plate. Everyone in the restaurant seemed to know how to properly eat the appetizer; it took me an hour to disassemble and consume the small amount of meat. By the end, I was exhausted and everyone else at the table had finished their entrees.

Aside from your products, what three items can you always find in your kitchen?

: Lots and lots of vegetables—we’re trying juicing—fruit and dark chocolate.
Sweet potatoes, bread-and-butter pickles, and a secret stash of gourmet mixed olives that I nibble on after a hard day.

If you weren’t a specialty food manufacturer, what would you like to be doing instead?

I'm concerned about the obesity epidemic and the healthy food choices our children make. I could see myself volunteering with several community organizations that promote healthy lifestyle choices through the school system.
Miller: Definitely something in the food industry. It’s in my blood. I could see myself working with the local co-op extension office championing gardening, canning and nutritional education to the community.


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