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    Restaurateur Mahadevan ropes in Tim Caldwell to train the boys at SPASTN, in the art of making everyone’s favourite snack

    With a group of eager young learners huddled around him, a chef is busy mixing a fresh, piping hot batch of popcorn covered in a gleaming layer of caramel sauce. He must work fast if he is to ensure that no two pieces of the snack are stuck to each other, as the caramel cools and solidifies. We are inside the cozy see-through Taramani-based production facility that is both the kitchen and sales counter of Eddie’s Pop Corn. And with two successful batches of classic and spicy cheese popcorn behind them, the team is working on their first sweet flavour, caramel. The sweet flavours are the toughest, says Tim Caldwell, the popcorn expert from Chicago, who restaurateur M Mahadevan has roped in to train the boys from SPASTN. Just like at Copper Chimney and Pizza Republic, these boys with special needs will be at the helm of his new brand of gourmet popcorn named after the American township, Edison in New Jersey, where it is registered.

    Taste & feel
    “You have to blend sugars, corn syrup, glucose, etc, till you get the right taste and mouth feel,” says Caldwell, whose 20 years of being in the popcorn industry and consulting for international brands like Frito-Lay, has taken him to Vietnam, Shanghai, France, Brazil and even India. “I worked with WOW Popcorn in Mumbai around two years ago,” he smiles, as we inspect the next batch the boys present to us. “Good taste and mouth feel, but the colour of the previous batch was better,” says  Mahadevan, who shares that when Eddie’s launches (perhaps in a couple of weeks, from around `49 onwards), they will offer flavours like Lemon Chilli, Jalapeño & Cheese, Curry & Caramel, Guntur Chilli and even one with Strawberry. Caldwell’s face lights up at the mention of strawberry. “People look at popcorn very lightly and even the makers stick to the usual flavours. But it is actually an open canvas. You can put anything on it and I love the creativity of the team here.”

    Headed to Dubai
    As the team heads over to Copper Chimney next door for a quick break,  Mahadevan shares that besides the airport, Hot Breads and Nuts ‘n’ Spices outlets in the city, Eddie’s will be travelling to Dubai, where it will be available at nearly 200 petrol stations that Hot Breads supplies sandwiches to. That’s why he’s pulling all the stops to ensure the best possible packaging for the ready-to-eat product. “The bags need to have a sunlight and moisture barrier and should also be resealable,”  Caldwell points out, explaining that popcorn must be stored air tight, and for not more than a day, if it is to stay fresh. “We’re also looking at offering the Caramel & Nuts popcorn in glass jars that can be gifted,” Mahadevan shares, adding that the popcorn, made only with French and American corn,  might also be available online in a couple of months. On that note, we’ll leave you and head back for more tasting with the team.
    Ryan Peppin

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