When Flavia and Nicholas Barger met in Brazil eight years ago, neither partner of the now-married couple could imagine how their simple meet cute could lead to a burgeoning business opportunity.
Their company, Brazilian Munchies, was founded in part as a way for Flavia, as a newcomer to the United States and newlywed, to practice her English and meet people in the State College community.
“(Nicholas) said, ‘How about I make some munchies and you go to the farmers market ... and you sell and you’ll learn English because you’ll be in contact with people’ ... and that’s how it started. He started to cook, and I started to sell,” Flavia Barger said.
After starting at one market in 2013, they eventually expanded to the others in the region. Experiencing further growth, they expanded the menu and invested in Brazilian manufacturing equipment, so as to not make every one of the small snacks by hand.
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Four years later, the company is an LLC, and the couple has added a partner to the endeavor, Yamá Castilho.
The Brazilian “munchies,” as they’re called, include a wide array of savory treats. Pão de Queijo are gluten-free cheese puffs made from a yucca derivative and stuffed with a variety of items — cheddar cheese, sausage or even chocolate or dulce de leche. Coxinha are chicken bites, deep-fried dough with a creamy chicken mixture. The empada is probably familiar to most diners, similar to empanadas, hand pies filled with chicken, vegetables and more. On the sweet side of the menu are Brazilian candies, such as brigadeiros (a chocolate truffle), and churros.
All three partners say it’s rewarding to introduce their Brazilian favorites to State College locals who aren’t veryfamiliar with the country’s cuisine.
“We don’t have too many Brazilian people around (in State College),” Flavia Barger said. “(It’s) not like when you go to New York or New Jersey, where you have a huge Brazilian community. It’s Americans or people from other countries that aren’t Brazil, but we have a lot of customers that are Americans that really love our food (and) that’s the best part.”
Pão de Queijo are by far the best-seller on the Brazilian Munchies menu, they say, mentioning it’s an iconic Brazilian snack.
“If you’ve never been to Brazil, you’ll try it because it’s easy to eat. Everyone likes it. We eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner — any time in Brazil. Everywhere you go, any bar, any restaurant, they sell them,” Castilho said.
Brazilian Munchies has mostly moved on from the farmers markets and focuses on selling its products wholesale and catering. You can find the munchies prepackaged and frozen, ready to bake at home, with three vendors — Way Fruit Farms, Nature’s Pantry and Friends & Farmers. Catering and delivery is available through the Brazilian Munchies website and Facebook.
They have big goals for 2018 and say they’d love to get their own food truck in the future, to set up shop at festivals and large office complexes in the region. With their can-do attitude and excitement for serving State College with international cuisine, the goal certainly doesn’t seem out of reach.
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.