Walking up the path to Cheryl Barnett’s home in the Kirkwood neighborhood feels like magically traveling over four state lines where railroad crossings are for Whistle Stop Cafes and mayonnaise is more a ‘way of life’ than a sandwich spread. Cheryl Barnett is an Alabama raised ‘momtrepreneur,’ with big Southern dreams and a healthy obsession of pimento cheese. And she is the force by the suddenly popular MyThreeSons Gourmet.
I got to know Cheryl while sitting in her traditional living room, walled with oil paintings of her three sons, as she took me back to the place where her pimento cheese obsession began many years ago, in Tallassee, Alabama. It was there that she met her best friend on the first day of fourth grade and was welcomed into the Emfinger home as an extended family member. She frequented their home throughout grade school for many reasons – friendship, family – and Mrs. E’s pimento cheese – the so-called condiment that would turn out to be her destiny.
Mrs. E made everything look easy and Cheryl grew up with the domestic dream of being just like her. After finishing her undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama, Cheryl moved to North Carolina to attend dental school and Mrs. E sent her “recipe” north. Throughout the next 10 years Cheryl followed Mrs.E’s recipe – she became an orthodontist in the New York based Orthodontics clinic, started a family and a practice, created a home in Greensboro – and made pimento cheese in her kitchen for her three sons.
But just as in cooking, Cheryl ran into challenges. Ten years ago she was forced to retire due to chronic back injury. Determined to set an example for her sons, she started the pimento cheese factory she always dreamed of. She recognized an teachable moment – when faced with challenges she decided to pursue her lifelong passion. MyThreesSons Gourmet Pimento Cheese was born.
MyThreeSons Pimento Cheese tastes like home – like the good summer days of running through rainstorms barefoot and homemade bagged lunches packed for school. It is made just like your mother’s with sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos and special spices just up the street in the Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship.
MyThreeSons’ growth has been tremendously fast – from a few local Fresh Market stores to covering the state (and most of the South) in four major grocers. You can find Cheryl’s Pimento Cheese in Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Foods Grocery Stores.
In celebrating mother’s day this past weekend, I was taken by Cheryl’s story – that the recipe for being the perfect mother isn’t only about making the best pimento cheese – it’s about being a dreamer and a doer. I’m sure Mrs. E would agree.
After a dinner discussion with many pimento cheese experts – I found that everyone is a pimento cheese expert! “There are as many varieties of pimento cheese as the people who make it,” says my new friend Emily. From traditionalists to those who brave new twists, there are few that don’t find memory on this Southern treat.
With summer in mind, I created a different version of nachos on the grill using MyThreeSon’s newest pimento cheese – Spicy White Cheddar. While Martha Pearl
in “My Mother’s Southern Kitchen” might call my grilled pimento cheese nachos a sacrilege – I’m a risk taker and think this recipe is delicious twist on an Alabama turned Greensboro treat.
Grilled Spicy and Smoky Pimento Cheese Nachos
- 16 ounces blue corn chips
- 2 ears fresh corn, husked
- 1 sweet onion, cut into large slices
- 1 red pepper, cut into large pieces
- 1 container, My Three Sons Spicy White Cheddar Pimento Cheese
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 3 radishes, julianned
- 1 small tomato, chopped
- 1 avocado, chopped
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- hot sauce or pickled jalapeno, to taste
Preheat your grill to medium heat. Husk corn and cut onion and red pepper into large slices. Toss corn cobs, onion and red pepper in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill vegetable trio until charred. Allow to cool to touch, chop onions and pepper, and remove corn kernels from the corn cobs.
Create a tray for the nachos by overlapping two sheets of aluminum foil. You can use cookie sheet as a mold if you need a guide. Place the aluminum foil tray directly on the grill and top with a layer of corn chips. Add a third of the Spicy White Cheddar Pimento Cheese on top of the chips, then the grilled vegetables and top with the remaining Pimento Cheese. Close the grill and allow the cheese to melt and warm the nachos.
Once the cheese is melted, carefully pick up the tray and transfer the nachos to a large platter. Top the nachos with scallions, tomato, radishes, avocado and hot sauce. Feel free to add any other toppings you may enjoy – local chorizo, bacon or seasoned grilled beef would make an excellent addition!