For about as long as he can remember, Durham, NC’s Mark Overbay has had a passion for discovering new flavors, slowing down to savor every bite, and connecting people to the land, to better health, and to each other through food.
A lifelong peanut butter lover, Mark received his first lesson in handcrafted nut butter in 1999 while living in a rural farming community in Zimbabwe, where he was a Peace Corps Volunteer. Just after harvest, peanuts were roasted over an open fire and ground by hand between stones as coarse salt was added to taste. Some families added a touch of local honey to complement the salt and smooth out the texture. The deliciously fragrant, mouthwatering result was a revelation. Upon returning to the United States, Mark bought literally every brand of peanut butter he could find – dozens and dozens of brands – and nothing came even close to the fresh-roasted flavor he had experienced in Africa.
Meanwhile, he devoted the next 10 years of his professional life to promoting the connection between nutrition and health, advocating for a more just and sustainable food system, and growing the business of authentic, delicious products he believes in. In the fall of 2010, inspired to recreate that unforgettable peanut butter experience he had in Africa, he started roasting nuts and grinding them into fresh nut butters in his home kitchen. Experimentation with roast levels and different nut combinations led to recipes that incorporated local wildflower honey and sea salt, as well as a tremendous amount of positive feedback from friends and family. Mark and his fiancé, Megan, love to spend time in the kitchen together, so it was only natural that she started to use his new creations in her already locally famous baked goods and homemade energy bars. Inspired to share these foods with others and turn these passions into a business, Mark started Big Spoon Roasters in early 2011.
Big Spoon’s philosophy about food is based on the belief that food matters. It matters to our health, our happiness, and the well being of our planet. We believe that food should be delicious, nutritious, and good for all those involved in producing it. For us, cooking and sharing food with others is a great joy. We source ingredients from only trusted, transparent farms and producers that share this philosophy, and we buy our nuts locally and regionally when possible. Peanuts are a tremendous agricultural resource for the American Southeast, and North Carolina is ranked sixth in terms of peanut production. We are thrilled to be able to work with local and regional peanut farmers and to be a positive market force for sustainable peanut agriculture and transparent marketing.
The name “Big Spoon” is a tribute to Mark’s dad, Gary, of Kingsport, TN, where Mark and several generations of his paternal family grew up. One day, a six-year-old Mark walked into the family kitchen to find his dad having one of his favorite snacks – a big spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar. Mark blurted out, “big spoon!” and the nickname stuck. To this day, Mark’s friends from Kingsport still call Gary “Big Spoon,” and well, there was no question about what he was going to name the nut butter business.