When the chips were down, Clear Lake mom made her own
Veronica Hernandez grew up in Rio Grande City, where authentic Tex-Mex cuisine was in easy reach, especially thick and crispy tortilla chips.
After marriage and a move to Florida 21 years ago, she couldn’t find a decent chip. A subsequent move to Chicago certainly didn’t solve the problem. The tortilla chips she’d grown up with were nowhere to be found. There was only one thing to do — she began making her own, giving them to neighbors and serving them at parties.
Those tortilla chips were well-received. Her friends and family encouraged her to sell them, but Hernandez was busy raising three young sons.
Then, in 2012, her husband’s job took them to Houston, where the family settled in the Bay Oaks neighborhood of the Clear Lake area. Although Hernandez was back in Texas, she was miles from Rio Grande City and the good tortilla chips of her youth. She tried various brands and ate at many Tex-Mex restaurants, but the elusive chip she craved was nowhere to be found.
Her children were older, so Hernandez, who everyone called Vee, decided it was time to start cooking and she launched Vee’s Chips.
She rented space in a commercial kitchen, obtained all her certifications, made labels and began selling her chips at local farmers markets. Then, Grand Central Station, a boutique in Seabrook, began carrying the chips. Next, the Silver Bee Boutique in Friendswood placed an order. Not long after, Nana’s Attic, a gift shop in League City, just had to have them, too.
“It was all word-of-mouth,” Hernandez said. “People who bought them started serving them at parties and everyone wanted to know where to get them.”
Why all the hype? Well, the thickness of the chip is key, not to mention the flavor and freshness.
“You never have to worry about your chip breaking when you dip into the chunkiest salsa or guacamole,” Hernandez said. “I cut the tortillas into long, wide strips before frying, so you can even break one in half to avoid double dipping.”
Thickness aside, the flavor is distinctive.
“I use only corn tortillas, fry them in small batches, then generously sprinkle them with my special secret spices,” she said. “They are a combination of salt, sugar, chili, lime and other things that make them so flavorful.”
Once the chips have cooled, she packs them in cellophane bags with zip lock tops that keep them fresh for weeks. The bags are filled to the brim with a solid pound of chips.
“When you go to the grocery store, most chips come in 12- or 14-ounce bags with more air pockets than chips,” she said. “With my chips, you get just the product, so the price is higher. Plus, they’ve not been sitting in an 18-wheeler for days waiting to be delivered. I make them fresh and deliver them fresh. Even my online purchases are sent out promptly.”
Aside from the traditional chips, Hernandez offers Cinna-Strips, made with cinnamon, honey and brown sugar. Cinna-Strips dipped in dark and white chocolate are also popular, but are only available locally. She also sells her homemade guacamole and two kinds of salsa — regular and cilantro — as well as a cilantro pesto by special order.
Recently, the Hampton Inn and Candlelight Inn in League City bought small gift bags of Vee’s Chips and Cinna-Strips that go into special handouts for elite members. The new Holiday Inn underway in the same area also has contracted with Hernandez for similar packages.
“I want to be in Central Market next,” Hernandez said. “I will continue to branch out into smaller stores and boutiques as well, because I want everyone to be able to find the kind of chips they deserve to be eating.”