Roy and Sarah Belesario picked a sweet time to get into the peanut butter biz.

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This article was published 30/4/2021 (216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Roy and Sarah Belesario picked a sweet time to get into the peanut butter biz.

The married couple launched Chap’s Hand Crafted Peanut Butter in June 2020, the same month an article with the headline "Peanut butter popularity spreads during COVID-19" (we see what they did there) appeared in a Texas farm journal.

In that particular story, a spokesperson for America’s National Peanut Board reported that sales of peanut butter had more than doubled since the onset of the coronavirus. He attributed the reason to people staying home more often and looking for quick meal options, adding, "We have been asked how business is and, while you never wanted it to be because of a pandemic, peanut butter is booming right now."

From left: Roy and Sarah Belesario with their children Russel, 2, and Riley, 5; the couple met after moving to Winnipeg separately from the Philippines.</p>

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

From left: Roy and Sarah Belesario with their children Russel, 2, and Riley, 5; the couple met after moving to Winnipeg separately from the Philippines.

The Belesarios couldn’t agree more. In a little under a year, they’ve gone from selling their additive- and preservative-free peanut butter exclusively at weekend markets to seeing their product carried by eight different Winnipeg retailers, including Sweet C Bakery, Generation Green and, beginning this weekend, Jardins St-Léon Gardens. Also, they recently signed up with goodlocal.ca, an online shopping platform that promotes Manitoba-made goods, everything from soup to, now, peanuts.

"It’s all happened so fast we have to pinch ourselves sometimes to know it’s for real," Roy says, seated next to his wife on a park bench down the street from their home in Island Lakes. "As stores continue to reach out it gives us more and more confidence that, despite all the hard work that’s been involved, our decision to start a little company of our own was the right one."

Roy and Sarah, in their mid-30s, were each born and raised in the Philippines, her in Pasig and him in Muntinlupa. They met through a church group in 2014, three years after she moved to Winnipeg and a year after he arrived here. Sarah’s father died in 2019, at which point they returned to her hometown to spend a few weeks with family. Near the end of their trip, Sarah’s mother gave them a care package to take back with them. Included were jars of homemade peanut butter prepared with a recipe that had been in their family for generations.

Five-year-old Riley clearly approves of his parents’ peanut butter, which is available at local markets.</p>

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Five-year-old Riley clearly approves of his parents’ peanut butter, which is available at local markets.

"Like a lot of kids I knew, we never ate store-bought peanut butter, not even once. First because it was so expensive, having been imported from the States, and secondly because we couldn’t imagine how it could be better than what our mother and grandmother made," Sarah says.

Turned out, her mother sent them home with so many jars of peanut butter they gave some away to friends. The lucky recipients told them how much better it was than the commercial brands they were used to. Also, why weren’t they selling it? That gave them an idea.

Roy, a dispatcher for a major delivery services company, spent much of his spare time in the fall of 2019 doing their homework; fine-tuning the recipe (the original was too sweet for his liking), figuring out where to source peanuts from, investigating what type of equipment they’d need and learning about licensing and permits. Once he’d dotted the Is and crossed the Ts — that would have been around December 2019 — they dubbed their business RK Specialty Foods, RK for their sons Riley Kurt and Russel Kade, and their peanut butter Chap’s, after Sarah’s grandmother.

Roy spent much of his spare time in the fall of 2019 doing homework, including where to source peanuts from.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Roy spent much of his spare time in the fall of 2019 doing homework, including where to source peanuts from.

"My grandma’s name was Chrispina, and her nickname was Pining," says Sarah, a full-time accountant. "Her niece and nephew called her Tiya Pining, or Aunt Pining, which was later shortened to Tyaps, pronounced like Chaps. That’s where the name comes from."

Unlike Sarah, Roy didn’t grow up helping relatives make peanut butter from scratch. Suffice it to say, he was a little surprised how much work was involved when they did a test run in January 2020, in a commercial kitchen located in Cook’s Creek. Using a cast iron cauldron they bought for that express purpose, he roasted 25 kilograms of shelled nuts, making sure to stir the lot every 10 minutes or so by hand to prevent ones on the bottom from getting burned. He let everything cool down before adding canola oil, salt and sugar, the only ingredients they use besides peanuts.

Next, he spent a few hours grinding the mixture, again by hand, a small batch at a time, until it reached the desired consistency. Finally, during their 12th hour on the job, he and Sarah poured the finished product into individual containers, 25 kilos of peanuts netting them about 100 500-gram jars of peanut butter. They advertised the end-result on their social media feeds and boom, within two hours, they were completely sold out. Same story with run No. 2 a couple weeks later.

Chap’s Hand Crafted Peanut Butter, which comes in sweetened and sugar-free varieties, is available in close to 20 stores around Winnipeg.</p>

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Chap’s Hand Crafted Peanut Butter, which comes in sweetened and sugar-free varieties, is available in close to 20 stores around Winnipeg.

By mid-March 2020 they believed in their product enough that Roy began contacting various farmers’ markets, hoping to land a booth when the snow melted. Everybody knows what happened next.

"As soon as COVID hit, it went from a question of when markets were going to open to whether they were going to be allowed to open at all," he says. "Toward the end of April we were starting to think about a Plan B when a person from the Bronx Park market emailed to say they were going to start up in June and were we still interested?"

Roy figures it was about six weeks after their first market when they received a message from the owner of Preserve by Flora & Farmer, a West End shop that sells a range of housemade jams, jellies and marmalades, along with a host of other local goodies. Apparently, a person who’d purchased their peanut butter had paired it with one of Preserve’s jams, subsequently telling Preserve’s owner it was the best PB&J sammie they’d ever sunk their teeth into and that she should stock Chap’s in her store.

Sarah scoops some peanut butter onto bread. The peanut butter is made using her grandmothers old recipe.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sarah scoops some peanut butter onto bread. The peanut butter is made using her grandmothers old recipe.

"When we first discussed making our own peanut butter, we talked about how great it would be to get it into stores one day. But did we think that would happen that fast? Not a chance," Roy says.

Jean-Marc Champagne is the co-owner of Fromagerie Bothwell, 136 Provencher Blvd. His shop began carrying Chap’s regular and sugar-free peanut butter a few months ago, after he discovered the couple on social media.

Fit for the King

Elvis has left the building; or has he?

According to a recent poll, four per cent of Americans — that’s 13.2 million people — believe the King of Rock ’n’ Roll is alive, kicking and viva-ing Las Vegas. We’re not here to argue, we loved him in the movie Clambake as much as the next person, but if there’s one way to lure him out of hiding, it could be with his preferred treat, a grilled peanut-butter-banana-and-bacon sandwich.

“How old would he even be, 90 or something?” Roy Belesario wonders, when asked if he’s ever paired Chap’s, his and his wife Sarah’s brand of peanut butter, with a hunka, hunka banana and bacon, the way Presley did/does. “I haven’t yet but a couple of weeks ago, we posted a pic on Facebook of a grilled peanut butter sandwich one of my cousins made using our peanut butter. I said I know it’s COVID and I can’t come over to try it, but if she leaves one outside the door, I’ll be right over.”

Here is a recipe for the Elvis, incorporating Chap’s sugar-free peanut butter.

Elvis has left the building; or has he?

According to a recent poll, four per cent of Americans — that’s 13.2 million people — believe the King of Rock ’n’ Roll is alive, kicking and viva-ing Las Vegas. We’re not here to argue, we loved him in the movie Clambake as much as the next person, but if there’s one way to lure him out of hiding, it could be with his preferred treat, a grilled peanut-butter-banana-and-bacon sandwich.

“How old would he even be, 90 or something?” Roy Belesario wonders, when asked if he’s ever paired Chap’s, his and his wife Sarah’s brand of peanut butter, with a hunka, hunka banana and bacon, the way Presley did/does. “I haven’t yet but a couple of weeks ago, we posted a pic on Facebook of a grilled peanut butter sandwich one of my cousins made using our peanut butter. I said I know it’s COVID and I can’t come over to try it, but if she leaves one outside the door, I’ll be right over.”

Here is a recipe for the Elvis, incorporating Chap’s sugar-free peanut butter.

Ingredients
• 15 ml (1 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 slices white bread
• 30 ml (2 tbsp) Chap’s Hand Crafted Peanut Butter (sugar-free)
• 1/2 large ripe banana, sliced lengthwise into four thin pieces
• 4 slices bacon, cooked
• 30 ml (2 tbsp) honey

Directions

Preheat a pan or over medium heat. Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread, and peanut butter on the other side. Place banana on top of peanut butter. Top with bacon and drizzle with honey. Top with the remaining slice of bread, buttered side up.

Place sandwich on pan. Cook until golden brown, three to four minutes per side. Remove, slice in half, and serve.

"We were surprised and delighted to find out someone was making a local peanut butter, and because we are all about supporting local, we reached out directly to them to see if they would be interested in having their products showcased and sold in our little shop," Champagne says when reached at work. "We love their peanut butter and our young daughter does, too; no sugar-added PB for her. We usually enjoy it on a sliced of toasted bread from one of our favourite local bakeries, with one of the many local jams and spreads we carry."

Besides slathering their peanut butter on toast, buns or pandesal, a traditional Filipino bread, they also recommend using it in hot dishes such as pad Thai and kare-kare, the latter a peanut-butter-and-curry-based stew they both grew up with. Roy adds the biggest compliment they’ve received to date is when fellow Filipinos tell them their product is like a taste of home, practically identical to what they enjoyed as a child.

"When they get in touch to say they tried our product and love it I still think it’s a dream," he says. "We’re humbled and and grateful at the same time."

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

David Sanderson

Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.