Jim Barkley’s culinary aha moment happened because of a simple wish: he was looking for something low-carb, cheesy and crunchy to put in his salad. “I wanted a crouton that tasted like the edge of pizza or lasagna,” he explains. He experimented with ingredients, made a few batches for himself, and thought nothing of it. Then something happened. “Six years ago I was super broke, so everyone got a container of my cheese crisps with a jar of tapenade for Christmas. And they loved it!”
Barkley started taking his new product with him everywhere; 11 years ago he brought the crisps to his first farmers market and sold 30 containers. The business really took off after that. Today, he has eight different flavors of the crisps: five of parmesan cheese and three of cheddar. The only ingredient besides cheese is seasoning. He continues to experiment with new flavors and hopes to introduce more crispy varieties in the future. The product sells in 30 specialty stores in Southern California, including Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese. Jim brings the crisps to the Larchmont Farmers Market every Sunday.
How does he explain the crisps’ success? Taste and luck. “I started selling at the height of the low-carb trend. The parmesan crisps are just one point on Weight Watchers. And the entire line is gluten-free, so there is another food trend.” The crisps have gotten their share of notoriety over the years, with an undeniable high moment: Star Trek Enterprise used them as an alien food. “After all,” says Jim. “Who doesn’t like crispy cheese?”