Fresh from the fryer

[Gramercy, LA] — Here in the Big Easy, it’s all about the spice. From Po-Boys to potato chips, the proper seasoning is essential. So little wonder that our favorite chip comes in a variety of tastebud-tantalizing flavors, with imaginative names like Spicy Cajun Crawtator, Voodoo, and Cajun Dill Gator-Tators – along with the old standbys like Regular, Jalapeno, Salt and Vinegar, and Mesquite Bar-B-Que, among others.

“New Orleans is probably our largest market,” Rod Olson, president of Zapp’s Potato Chips tells me. “We sell more chips in the French Quarter than Frito-Lay does. Po-Boys and Zapp’s go together, Muffalettas at Central Grocery and Zapp’s go together.”

Zapp’s processes about 120,000 pounds of spuds and fries them in nearly 8,000 pounds of a peanut oil blend each day. The potatoes are sliced thicker than most chips and go right into the fryer. “The key to that is you load all these wet potato slices [into the fryer] in less than a minute,” according to Olson. “That drops the temperature of the oil, and it’s that temperature drop that creates the curl, the crunch, and the flavor is basically from the peanut oil blend.”

The result? “It’s the best-tasting chip made,” Olson claims. “And that’s the mouthfeel and the taste that derives from the peanut oil. And then the seasonings on them, none of them are cheap. They’re selected because they taste good, and as much as possible we try to have interesting flavor combinations.”

Adding that Cajun spice!

Ron Zappe founded Zapp’s Chips in 1985 after his oil-field equipment business tanked, along with the price of crude oil in the early ‘80s. He converted an empty car dealership in St. James Parish into a chippery, installing two small fryers and a packaging machine in the former showroom. Ron passed away in 2010, and Rod Olson – who started with the company its first year as the New Orleans distributor – became president.

At the beginning, Zapp’s produced only regular and jalapeno-flavored chips, but before long, Ron Zappe developed a recipe with spices reminiscent of a crawfish boil. He called the new flavor Spicy Cajun Crawtator, and today it’s one of the company’s best-selling varieties.

New packaging emphasizes connection to New Orleans

Over the years, the company has added flavors, some more popular than others. “We did a Key Lime flavor…that was one of our most limited editions,” says Olson. “And twice we’ve done pizza flavors that just haven’t taken.”  But the company still gets requests for past favorites like Honey Mustard, Bacon and Cheddar, and even Sizzling Steak. And the newest limited edition – Baby Back Rib (!) – will be hitting store shelves this week.

And Zapp’s is currently phasing in packaging with styling cues emphasizing its Crescent City connection. The updated design features a French Quarter-style signpost, with the package’s distinctive bright, vertical stripes embedded with a subtle fleur-de-lis design. The new tagline reads “New Orleans Kettle Style.”

Take my advice, and get thee to a chippery. Zapp’s doesn’t offer public factory tours, but you can buy the chips throughout Louisiana, and in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle, as well as online and through mail order.

Olson’s advice? “Buy more chips!” he says cheerfully. “We’ll make more, it’s Mardi Gras!”

 

Zapp’s president Rod Olson

The essentials:

Zapp’s Potato Chips:

www.zapps.com

1-800-HOTCHIP

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh potatoes before washing and slicing

 

Chips are fried a batch at a time in peanut oil

 

Yum, fresh chips!

 

Spices added in tumblers

Who dat make the best chips?

 

 

About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer specializing in motorcycle touring and travel. He is regular contributor to Harley-Davidson's HOG Magazine, and his travel features appear regularly in motorcycle magazines and other publications.

View all posts by Glen Abbott »

10 Comments
  1. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy

    January 24, 2012

    I love trying new flavors of chips. Any time I see a new flavor I must buy it. I’ll be on the lookout for these the next time I’m back in New Orleans!
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..An afternoon on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, Miami

  2. jenjenk

    January 21, 2012

    i looooooooooove zapps!!! can’t wait to eat all the great food from Louisiana…and have myself an abita! 😉
    jenjenk recently posted..Photo Friday: Japanese Wedding Couple in Traditional Dress

  3. Laura

    January 19, 2012

    Yum! I could really go for some salt and vinegar chips right about now! I wonder if Zapp’s will ship to Mexico… 🙂
    Laura recently posted..Five Reasons to Visit Los Cabos

  4. Great, now I’m craving potato chips! Would love to try these chips.
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Early One Morning in Innsbruck

  5. inka

    January 19, 2012

    I normally don’t eat that stuff because of the calories. BUT…even I couldn’t resist chips called voodoo.
    inka recently posted..Backpacker alert! Tree houses in Olympos/Turkey

    • Travelin' Gringo

      January 19, 2012

      Inka, I’ve never really been a potato chip person either, but something about these chips is addictive!

  6. Cathy Sweeney

    January 18, 2012

    Definitely yummy. How fun that you got to get an insider’s view of the chip factory. What’s the voodoo chip? (sorry if I just missed it in the post)
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Beatles on the Reeperbahn

    • Travelin' Gringo

      January 18, 2012

      Hi Cathy, the Voodoo chip is covered with a blend of 5 different spices. Pretty good, but my favorite is still their regular chip.

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