We are happy to welcome a blog series from The Maker City featuring some of the Knoxville area’s outstanding makers – artists, crafters and custom builders. This month’s post introduces three area makers who excel at the art of food.

Lana Sharp of Byte Sized Cakes and More

Born and raised in Alcoa, TN, Sharp moved to Knoxville in 1992 to work, get married and raise a family. She discovered her artistic side while helping her kids with school projects. She has run Byte Sized Cakes and More for four years. “I don’t have time to sit down. I never thought that it would take off like it did.”

How did you get started as a baker/cake maker?
My sister Tyra passed away in 2013. We were very close; I lost my best friend. She was the baker of the family. I got some of her cookbooks and started to bake the things she baked and it gave me that connection to her. I took cake decorating classes and did a lot of YouTubing. My family were my guinea pigs!  

What do you make, and how do you do that?
I do baked-fresh, custom cakes with molded fondant, as well as smaller items like cupcakes. My customers often send a picture for me to get an idea, but I don’t like to mimic because that’s somebody else’s work. I just take off with it. And you’re going to get more than you expected! 

Where are your products offered for sale?
Everything is custom ordered on my Facebook page.

Jon Newman of HenHoc Deli and Butcher

Brief bio:
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI, Jon Newman grew up making sugar cookies and cornflake wreaths on his mom’s kitchen table. He studied food science and culinary arts, then came to Nashville for a butcher shop opportunity, eventually relocating to Knoxville. He has always loved food and cooking, and has never practiced any other career. “It’s a passion you can’t turn off.” 

How did you get started as a butcher?
I went to Grand Rapids Culinary School for pastries, but there was so much math it was mind boggling. The anatomy of animals -- the muscles, the vascular system -- got me interested in butchering. I’m self-taught. And now I deal with percentages and grams -- what frustrated me in the beginning is what I do all day long! 

What do you make, and how do you do that?
Yesterday we had 2000 pounds of beef come in and two whole hogs, head on. We do whole lambs, whole chickens; we’ll take one giant fish and break it down and sell it. You pull four filets out of some fish. The charcuterie side of the business is another way to completely utilize the whole hog -- prosciuttos, salamis, rendered fat for biscuits, chicharróns. I buy local animals from local farmers, humanely raised. If you want an honest steak, we’re the place to go.

Where are your products offered for sale?
We’re going to be really reliant on OliBea breakfast restaurant -- the owner Jeffrey DeAlejandro is my business partner -- and social media: Instagram and Facebook

Allyson and Chris Virden of Olde Virden’s Tennessee Pepper Co.

How did you get started as a pepper maker? 
The idea for Olde Virden's was conceived while we were managers at LeConte Lodge in the Smokies. We used to have a homemade pizza night with the crew. When they brought out the generic crushed red pepper, Chris asked, “Do you think a better tasting and spicier version of crushed red pepper would sell?” So we put it to the test. Six years later, we are in over 300 stores, sell online, and sell to numerous chefs who use our product in their recipes.

What do you make, and how do you do that?
We specialize in dehydrated chili pepper blends. We work with a local farmer and process the peppers within 24 hours of them being picked, for a much more flavorful and fresher product. We also make prepared food products showcasing our peppers. Our Red Hot Cheese Straws and Dehydrated Pineapple Jerky are both very popular.

Where are your products offered for sale?
We sell our product at the Market Square Farmers Market, over 300 stores including The Visit Knoxville Gift Shop, and online. We have a retail page on our website that will tell you the closest retail location for your zip code.

For more on The Maker City food makers, please click here.
For more on where to find goods by artisans of The Maker City,
please click here.