Local DJ Turns Love Of Hip-Hop Into Gourmet Popcorn Sensation

Friday, May 4, 2018 || By Elizabeth Abunaw || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Chris Benjamin serves a patron at Benjamin’s Gourmet Popcorn in Broadview. | Elizabeth Abunaw 

Long known as DJ Chris (“Yo Favorite DJ”), Chris Benjamin is looking to become another favorite for Chicagoland residents: popcorn purveyor.  After operating on Facebook for four and a half years, he opened his brick and mortar shop, Benjamin’s Gourmet Popcorn, 1426 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Broadview, last November.

Originally from Maywood and a graduate of Proviso East High School, Benjamin has been a mainstay in Proviso Township for decades.    

“I coached in the community for 20 years,” he said during a recen interview. Benjamin added that the number of youths he’s coached in football and basketball numbers in the thousands.

Benjamin said that his foray into popcorn was prompted by what he saw were changes in the DJ industry. He said that, after deejaying for 30 years, technological advancements — including the introduction of many computer programs and apps that eliminated the need for two turntables and scratch skills — had opened up the field to countless new competitors.

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Chris Benjamin at the DJ booth inside of his Broadview gourmet popcorn shop. | Elizabeth Abunaw 

Faced with an evolving industry landscape, Benjamin decided that he needed to do something different.

“Popcorn is my favorite snack,” he said, explaining his reason for starting his gourmet popcorn business.

“Benjamin’s Gourmet Popcorn boasts seven flavors of popcorn. Beyond the common caramel, butter and cheddar that other popcorn shops offer, Benjamin’s customers can choose White Cheddar Bliss (which features a hint of pickle flavoring), Cheezy Hot, Creamy White Cheddar (a smoother take on an old favorite), and other unique flavors. Benjamin said that, ultimately, he plans to slowly roll out sixteen flavors in total.

“My goal is to be on ‘Chicago’s Best’ list by the end of the year,” he said, referring to the WGN TV show that features some of the Chicago area’s most popular restaurants.

Benjamin is so confident in his product that he insists customers sample a bit of everything. His self-assurance is not misplaced. When I visited one afternoon he had me try the Butta Butta, Cheezy Cheese and White Cheddar Bliss.

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Benjamin’s Gourmet Popcorn in Broadview opened last November. | Elizabeth Abunaw 

Benjamin’s Gourmet Popcorn is popped to airy, crisp perfection — no half-popped kernels in sight. The seasonings are potent without ever being overpowering. The White Cheddar Bliss is especially surprising as the cheese taste slowly gives way to a faint hint of dill pickle.

“There’s a lot of people doing popcorn right now,” Mr. Benjamin says, “but you’ve gotta make it right. You cannot rush it. You cannot rush gourmet.”

Besides popcorn, Benjamin’s also offers chicken chili nachos, a jerk chicken taco combo platter, and a loaded potato chocked full of chicken chili, mild sauce and cheese.

To wash it all down, Benjamin offers patrons his own lemonade and fruit punch featuring fresh fruit like strawberries, peaches, grapes and pineapple.

Benjamin said that people also come into his shop for the visual experience. The decor is a throwback tribute to the hip-hop culture that birthed DJ Chris “Yo Favorite DJ.”

Autographs from customers and supporters cover the white walls while a DJ booth, complete with turntables, complements the mixtape posters and album covers that line display cases.

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The many signatures of Benjamin’s supporters line the walls of his Broadview popcorn shop. | Elizebath Abunaw 

Benjamin said that the combination of great food, a visually arresting atmosphere and excellent customer service has made for a strong word-of-mouth operating.

During my visit, one customer, Peter, was sent by his wife to buy a bag of Benjamin’s mix. He purchased two saying, “She’s got her own bag. I’m not gonna eat none of hers this time.”

That was a good decision on Peter’s part. The one-pound combo bag I purchased was almost empty less than 15 minutes after I left the shop.

Even with his addictive popcorn recipes, Benjamin laments that his biggest challenge is people simply not knowing that the shop is there, open and ready to serve customers. Hopefully, that will soon change. VFP 

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