Q&A with Miss Vickie: Creator of Legendary Potato Chips!
Vickie Kerr has always been passionate about preparing nutritious meals for her family. It was her desire to make a healthier snack for her four young children that resulted in the recipe that launched one of the most successful potato chip brands in North America. Now, after more than thirty-five years preparing food for her family in her kitchen, Vickie Kerr has written her first cookbook and is ready to share her family recipes with us.
Miss Vickie’s Kitchen will be available in Canadian bookstores on September 12th. It is released October 20th in the US. In anticipation of the release date we asked Vickie several questions so we can better get to know the creator of the legendary – and delicious – potato chips!
How did you come to start the Miss Vickie’s brand of potato chips?
In 1987 I was a young mother concerned about what our four young children ate and I had the idea to create a natural potato chip recipe using the potatoes my husband Bill grew on our farm. In those days mass produced potato chips were cooked in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil that contained BHA, BHT as preservatives and anti-foaming agents. In my recipe I decided to leave the potato skins on, slice them thickly and cook them in 100 percent pure oil without preservatives and sprinkle them with the sea salt that I used in my own kitchen.
How did you learn to create such a successful business?
It was an unlikely time to start a business because in 1986-87 we lost half our potato crop due to weather and our house burned down to the ground which meant we lost all our possessions. I had to learn to overcome obstacles.
Creating the potato chip recipe with the highest quality all-natural ingredients was the first step. Initially, my plan was to sell Miss Vickie’s Chips only to health food stores and fresh produce markets in our neighbouring towns and villages. I couldn’t offer my customers terms at first because I had no operating line of credit to speak of for my start-up business. So I delivered them fresh weekly to the store-door and guaranteed their sale 100%. Thankfully, the local stores supported me and agreed to the terms. They saw their sales increase every day and I never had any returns to refund!
Where did you grow up? How did your hometown (or other places you have visited) inspire your cooking?
I was influenced by the vast culinary options from a variety of cultures while growing up near Montreal, Canada: an international city. To my mind, even basic, simple food was prepared to perfection there. To this day, my memory of the finest, freshly made French fries comes from tasting them from the roadside Chip Wagons that dot the Quebec countryside.
Do you like to travel? If so, what is your favourite city?
I am a traveller at heart. I love to visit other countries and cultures and I am always curious to learn about the foods they prepare when they share a meal around their table. I’m more comfortable in the country than the city but my favourite city is Paris, France. I love the bread, wine, cheese and pastries!
When you’re not cooking, how do you spend your time?
I love to dance, listen to music, hike, swim and meditate. Writing poetry to express my feelings is really a pleasure for me, too. I spend time loving my first grandchild and am blessed that I can hold her every day.
What’s your favourite recipe to cook from Miss Vickie’s Kitchen?
My favourite recipe for a meal is my Montreal Garlic Spare Ribs.
My favourite dessert to make is Carrot Cake.
What type of food makes you think of family?
Potatoes and cake always make me think of family. The potato farm was a huge part of our life and we ate potatoes with every meal in those days. And birthdays are usually celebrated in a big way in our family. I still bake the favourite birthday cakes for my four grown children, whenever I can.
You currently split your time between Arizona and Ontario. How do the two compare with regards to food?
Arizona offers fresh lemons, grapefruit and oranges, all winter. Chilies and peppers are readily available and great to inspire new dishes. There is a long growing season for the home gardener, almost all year long. Herbs like rosemary, mint and basil can be plucked to add to a meal in an instant!
In Ontario I love the summer and fall when the produce is ripe, fresh and abundant because it is a joy to eat local, fresh-picked food as well as put up preserves for winter. It gives me a delightful sense of the changing seasons.
What’s the one piece of advice that you would give aspiring cooks?
Remembering back to when I was a novice cook, I’d recommend collecting several glass or Pyrex bowls of different sizes. Sometimes the best bowls are the older ones and these might be found at antique or thrift shops.
A wooden spoon, spatula and measuring cups and spoons are really a must… don’t forget the rolling pin!
And lastly, bring your heart into your kitchen whenever you prepare food for yourself and others.
Preparing food with your love will always make it taste the very best, regardless of the recipe you follow!