APPLETON (NBC26) — Yaw Asare was born in Germany, spent most of his childhood living in Ghana, then came to the United States when he was 18 years old. After graduating from Lawrence University, he fell in love with Appleton and never left.
A couple years ago, Asare asked his mother back in Ghana how to make peanut brittle, and it turned out he would only need four ingredients: peanuts, salt, sugar and water. Originally, he just wanted to make the brittle for himself; as a child, he grew up eating it as a snack, and longed to recreate it. After messing around in the kitchen, he allowed his friends to sample his creation, and they told him it was so good, he should start selling it. They wouldn't stop talking about how it didn't stick to their teeth, said Asare.
“I was trying to figure out what to call the product," he said. "Initially, I was going to call the product 'The B.B.O.E.,' which is 'The Best Brittle on Earth.’”
Ultimately, he decided to name the brittle after himself; ‘Sharay’ was his childhood nickname. He started selling Sharay's Ghana Style Peanut Brittle at farmers markets with his business partner, Orson Fournillier, who is originally from Trinidad. This summer, it was challenging not being able to offer samples for people to try, due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Asare got creative.
“For people to really sort of get enthused about the product by sort of giving the narrative as to why we think our product is so great," said Asare. "And I actually got pretty good at doing that and just explaining it to them just really simply.”
Sharay’s Ghana Style Peanut Brittle is available to order online, but you can also find it on the shelves at 20 different stores all over Northeast Wisconsin. One of them is Postal Express & More in Appleton.
“I think we started with maybe ten or 20 bags," said Robin Gallucci, store owner. "Within a week, we were already doing a re-order.”
Customers will put the brittle in Christmas or Valentine’s Day packages, she said.
“It was absolutely delicious and it didn’t stick to your teeth," she recalled of trying it for the first time. "That was the first thing that we were super excited about.”
During this black history month, Asare is grateful for this community’s support, he said.
“To me personally, I’ve always had a pretty good experience here in Wisconsin," said Asare. "But you do see things on the TV that always make you wonder, 'Hey, could it happen to you?.’ You just never know.”
He hopes people continue to get out their comfort zones when it comes to trying new food.
“Food always brings people together," said Asare. "It's a conversation piece. If you sit down over a good meal and you have good open conversation, I think relationships between people from different races would actually be phenomenal."
If you would like to give Sharay’s Peanut Brittle a try, a lot of the stores that sell it have free samples. Here is a full list of all the businesses that carry Sharay's:
- The Free Market
- LexMax African Caribbean
- Blue Moon Emporium
- Postal Express & More
- Rx Link Pharmacy
- The Meat Block
- Simon's Cheese
- Copper Rock
- Cedar Creek Marketplace
- Jacob's Meat Market
- Great Harvest Bread Co.
- Cedar Ridge Crafts & Gifts
- Red Oak Winery
- Vern's Cheese
- Menasha Market
- Wagner Market
Fond Du Lac
- Produce With Purpose
You can order online here.