Farmer's Market Insider: Jeremy Rhodes of Geek Eats

First off, tell me where you’re from and how you first came to discover a passion for hummus.

I was born and raised in the Little Rock area but did a 6 year stint in Missoula, Montana in my 20’s. I can safely say it formed a lot of who I am today. […] I remember first being turned onto hummus back when I was working at Wild Oats years ago here in Little Rock. They used to make some sort of hummus in the deli. I also remember seeing one of those Fantastic hummus mixes in the box. It was basically powder that you mixed with some other stuff. I distinctly remember saying to myself “I should try to make this some time.” It would be at least five years later when I finally made my first hummus.

How did your first attempt go?

I made it in my new blender at the time and promptly burned out the motor. Luckily, the company that I bought it from replaced it. I still have it, but I don’t make hummus in it anymore. I got a big food processor a bit later and I started making hummus in that. I’d bring it to parties and people were into it.

At what point did you decide to take it into a business venture?

I was always fascinated with the farmers’ markets in Missoula. Saturday was a huge market day there. There were two farmers’ markets and one craft market each three blocks apart running five blocks. It was a big scene and it was fun to be a part of it. I always wondered what I could do to be on the other side of the table. When we came back to Arkansas, we started to go the Bernice Garden Farmers’ Market. I had some friends selling there. One of those friends was Stephanos from Mylo. It was when we had him over for dinner one night and he tried some of my wares. He correctly predicted that I could sell it all at market. A month later we had a stall at Bernice and a month after that at Hillcrest.

Speaking of, how do you like our farmers market circuits?

I like what we’ve got. We’ve got several healthy markets and some others that are budding. But I do hold up that Gold Standard in the Missoula markets. There seemed to be a huge community to support it and it was a gathering place to eat, drink and be merry. We have some great customers at our markets but the Little Rock area is so spread out and it’s hard for farmers to connect with all its residents. They can’t go to five markets a week and understandably customers aren’t going to drive a long way to get to a farmers’ market. I’d like to see one of the markets step up and be more of a meeting place and event center. More live music and places to sit and gather.

What are your basic offerings? Do you have a favorite flavor you make?

I have what I call the staples: Original, Chipotle, Carrot Curry and Fresh Rosemary Black Bean hummus as well as a Cilantro Almond Pesto. I also have 10 or so rotating flavors. When I first started making hummus 8 some odd years ago, I experimented with Chipotle, I keep going back to that one. So I’d say that’s probably my favorite. But recently I’ve also been digging my Spicy Curry.

How do you experiment with new flavors?

When I was first selling hummus I think I only had three or four flavors in my repertoire. So I started experimenting with things I could find at the markets or at the store. I feel like I have a pretty good head for how flavors mix and meld. I love just walking through aisles and finding combinations that sound good.

Do you have plans to take Geek Eats to the next level?

As for where Geek Eats goes next, that’s a tricky question. I’d love to own a restaurant. I have a few concepts in the ether. I think they are some ideas that Little Rock would gulp up. But like I said, I’ve got a full plate right now. I’ve got a young family and want to concentrate on them right now. If I had more time, some smart investors and some good people to work with I’d open a restaurant tomorrow.

What do you think of our food/drink scene?

I think our cities have a lot of things going for them. It’s worlds different than it was when I was growing up. We’ve got some passionate people with great ideas. But we have some ebb and flow. It seemed the food truck scene was more vibrant a couple years ago. The food industry is hard and it’s harder to stay in it. But for every great restaurant that closes, it seems like we’ve got another one or two to fill the void. Hopefully it continues. I think, though, we, as a society, have to change our norms about how we consume food and how much that food costs. We’ve been so used to paying bottom dollar. That won’t cut it if we want to keep the great entrepreneurs in business, from the local ranchers to the chef wanting to use that rancher’s meats.

What are some of your favorite places to visit food/drink-wise, locally?

With two rug rats and two businesses it’s hard to get out a lot. We go to David’s Burger a lot because the 3 year old can get what he wants. And boy, do they make a good burger. If we get a date night we’ll often go to Zaffino’s or Big Orange. I try to spread my beer money out to all the local breweries, but if I’m honest it’s probably a little lopsided towards Flyway.

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