Mooty’s Operation

I love new, healthy and innovative food items, and Mooty’s Tomato Chips fit that bill! They are a small food product company here in Asheville. They began, as many start-up food entrepreneurs do, working from an incubator site called Blue Ridge Food Ventures at the AB Tech school.

Founder and owner Nas Mouti was gracious enough to send me three different flavor packages: Naked, Olive Oil & Herbs and Green Tomato Hot Salsa. I waited to open them in my cooking class, and solicited opinions and input from my five class attendees.

Here’s the lowdown: Four of us agreed the herb-y flavored chips would be great on a pizza, or in a sandwich, as I used them (pictured below). One person likes the idea of using them in soup for extra flavor. One other woman really liked the Hot Salsa flavor and would “graze on a bowl of them”. However, we all agreed the dehydrated chips would be a popular ‘snack’ item, if they were a little thicker. The chip packages are already available for sale at the French Broad Co op, and the fourth flavor available is Parmigiano.

Nas invited me to visit his new facility, which I did recently. He converted a large basement space in his home into the working kitchen. He purchased 7 used dehydrators, set up his cleaning and flavor stations, and got to work.

Nas and his wife moved from Knoxville; he with a physics background and she with a degree in psychiatry. Nas tells me he’s always enjoyed cooking, and knew it was “cheaper to start a food venture than a tech company.” He also admitted as he got further along with his tomato chip business, he realized his naiveté to some of the other costs involved; distribution being a big one. While he also wanted to promote his chips as ‘organic’, there is a monumental certification process that ultimately comes with monumental fees of about $30,000.

“What the heck is a tomato chip?”

This is the question he gets often, and has had to educate people because there isn’t another dehydrated tomato chip product out there. But, he says once they taste them, they understand. The flavors are rich and concentrated, and without any added salt. He buys his tomatoes locally and uses one full pound to make each 6 oz. package of dehydrated slices, reminding me that tomatoes are 97% water.