In 1853, Native American George Crum was working as a chef at Moon’s Lake House, a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. One day a diner at his restaurant sent back Crum’s french fries, complaining that they were too thick. Out of spite, Crum sliced a potato paper thin and overfried the pieces until they were crunchy, then gave them a good dousing of salt and sent them back out to the customer. Crum expected the chips to exact his revenge on the complaining customer, but to his surprise the customer raved about them. Before he knew it, Crum’s so-called Saratoga Chips were a hit with the resort’s patrons—so much so that he was able to open his own restaurant with the proceeds.
Saratoga chips stayed a local delicacy, mainly because of the tedious and time-consuming preparation process of hand-peeling and cutting the potatoes. But in the 1920s the mechanical potato peeler came along and revolutionized the process. Still, the snack wasn’t widely distributed until the Prohibition Era, when an intrepid salesman starting distributing the snack throughout the Southeast United States. His name was Herman Lay.