SOUTHERN SPICE: Local nine-year-old discovers love for culinary arts, creates a product and successful new business

Published 2:00 am Friday, July 10, 2015

Cooking is an art, and it’s an art that requires a key ingredient. Now, there truly is a KEY. The key is KEY’S Southern Spice. KEY stands for Karen (Kari) Elizabeth Yarbrough, the creator of the spice.

Yarbrough is a 9-year-old Pike Liberal Arts student with a passion for the culinary arts. When she was 7, Yarbrough watched “BBQ Pitmasters” and found in herself the desire to create something.

“I saw my parents in the kitchen,” she said. “It looked fun and I wanted to try it. When I found out I was good at it, I started cooking pretty much every night.”

MESSENGER PHOTO/COURTNEY PATTERSON Kari Yarbrough created KEY’S Southern Spice, a seasoning or rub for a variety of foods. Her product is based on the love she has for her family and her faith in God.

Kari Yarbrough created KEY’S Southern Spice, a seasoning or rub for a variety of foods. Her product is based on the love she has for her family and her faith in God.

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And so it began. Her father Chad Yarbrough, vice president and commercial loan officer at Troy Bank & Trust, began to show her how to do things in the kitchen.

“We would turn the show on and sit on the counter in the kitchen, pausing and rewinding it when we got an idea,” Chad said. He said that when she finally discovered a recipe, she would write it down so she wouldn’t forget anything. That’s the same process she used in developing her spice rub.

“We put it on the meat and cooked it,” he said. “Her mom and I sat down to dinner that night with her older sister, we took a bite, we all looked at each other and said, ‘Wow!’

“It wasn’t just the first recipe that she came up with,” he continued. “She has tweaked it maybe even six times before she got to the one she is at now.”

They tested the recipe when they were tailgating before a Troy Trojan softball game, and another parent tried to buy it from her. At the time, she declined; however, now she has developed a name for herself.

KEY’S Southern Spice is a “blend and fusion of the South’s greatest flavors and traits,” according to Chad. The logo includes an old English key with a small cross and also a hint of the American flag.

“The little girl is very patriotic and proud of her home,” Chad said. He said the design was completely influenced by her, her love of family and her faith in God.

“I’m at a loss for words because I never imagined that a 9-year-old would be in the position she is in,” Chad said.

Yarbrough’s spice is now sold at Crawdaddy Camp’s in Troy and The Old Barn Restaurant in Goshen wants to use it.

Yarbrough said t her spice can be used on more than just barbecue. The spice itself is sold at a seafood market, so it can be used for that, along with vegetables, hamburgers, tacos and Yarbrough’s favorite – bacon.

Because her business is beginning to boom, Chad is teaching Yarbrough the accounting and marketing side, so that she knows more than just how to do the cooking side.

“I’m just so proud of her maturity level and the dreams she has set for herself,” Chad said. “What I see in her future is being someone that’s very God-fearing, loves her country and love her family. She will be a great role model and, at the same time, other kids can look to her down the road.”

Yarbrough said that she wants to go to culinary school in hopes of having her own restaurant one day, but she isn’t limiting herself to just that.

“I want a restaurant, but I have other things in mind that involve that,” Yarbrough said. “There are so many things I want to pick through.”

What Yarbrough really wants to portray through her product and her business is the message that she illustrates on her label.

“I think that everybody needs their family and God,” Yarbrough said. “Everybody needs that family feeling.”

And it’s that type of attitude that makes her father believe in her and in her success.

“She found something that she loves and he is passionate about, and she has fun doing it,” he said. “I think that’s what will make her successful.”

For more information about KEY’s Southern Spice, find them on Facebook.