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cheese, please

August 12, 2014



For many Southerners, it’s not a celebration without cheese straws. But if you aren’t up to the challenge of making your own buttery, cheesy snack, buy a bag or box of the must-have party classic from Georgia’s Chinaberry Foods.

The company: Started in 2005, Chinaberry Foods is based on Thomson, GA. The bakery (off I-20 at exit 175) is a popular stop for Atlantans heading to Charleston.

The name: The company is named for the Chinaberry tree, which grows freely in Georgia.

The founder: Tommy Samuels. After retiring from the travel and hospitality industry, Samuels started baking and helping his wife with her antique business in the old family house. Eventually, the bakery expanded. Now it occupies the entire space.

Top treats: Cheese straws. Loyal customers say Samuel’s “secret” recipe is a perfect blend of sharp cheddar cheese, butter – and bite. Prices range from $9.95 for a six-ounce bag to $22.95 (plus shipping) for a white tin. The tin, which holds about six dozen of the wafer-like cheese straws, is a favorite for holidays and hostess gifts.

 But they’re square: Despite the name, cheese straws come in various sizes and shapes. Samuels discovered the square shape worked best for shipping nationwide, which is 75 of 80 percent of his business.

Where to buy: In the Atlanta area, buy cheese straws at Lucy’s Market, 102 West Paces Road, ( or visit



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