Eric Hallman & Piedmont Food


By Laurie Paolicelli

Gayle Jennings and King’s Pepper.

The genius of Eric Hallman and the Piedmont Food Processing Center (PFPC) can be understood through paraphrasing the poet W. H. Auden (if Auden had grown up in Chapel Hill): “Thousands have lived without basketball, no one without water, and also without food, and preferably healthy food made by real people.”

This is the simple, fundamental, and necessary task of Hallman and the PFPC. It’s a laboratory for making food, a community kitchen, a co-working space, an entrepreneurial incubator, and a business accelerator.

Located on a quiet road in Hillsborough, the PFPC is home to some of the coolest inventions in the food world, and by extension, home to some of the coolest inventors and entrepreneurs around — the people who bring new food products to market and help sustain what all cool cities have: a market for locally made products.

No offense to big box stores. But there’s something special about buying chocolates made down the street. Or fresh fruit just picked off the local farm and specially sealed for the season.

Eric Hallman, PFPC Director.

But don’t try this at home. You need help, lots of help, and that’s where PFPC comes in, with industrial-sized freezers, professional-quality stoves, and an encyclopedic knowledge of state regulations.

Orange County is chock-full of entrepreneurs, so why not entrepreneurial chefs? Commercial kitchens make great sense.


Ask Eric Hallman, PFPC’s guiding light.

Eric has served as the Executive Director of the Piedmont Food Processing Center for seven years. His career path has taken him far and wide, first as a research scientist, then as founder of a biotech company, a teacher, and as an elected official in Hillsborough. Eric and his brilliant wife Elizabeth, an entrepreneur in her own right, live with their hounds near downtown Hillsborough where you might hear him playing a flawless trumpet. Yes, he also plays trumpet.

Jazz Man: Portrait of Eric Hallman, Oil on Canvas by Thomas Stevens. Currently in a Private Collection. Click for more information on the painting.

And Eric is proud of the Piedmont Food Processing Center.

“Over the years we have had the good fortune to work with many amazing companies,” Hallman says. “We host the most respected caterers, your favorite food trucks, and a host of innovative product manufacturers. We welcome all sizes and shapes of entrepreneurs from those aiming for a national brand, to those growing a great local success story, to those with a weekend hobby,” says Hallman.

The facility has helped launch over 300 food-related businesses including several national brands, dozens of regional brands, beloved food trucks, and respected caterers.

Sue Ellsworth, WE POWER.

One of things Eric is most proud of is their focus on women. A non-profit that launched from PFPC is WE Power Foods. This organization assists women in the food industry by providing regulatory instruction, industry standards, and personalized guidance from inception to process to product. Founder and board member Sue Ellsworth says, “The challenge identified is the need to foster changes in the business environment to create a more equitable and safe space where all women in food businesses can succeed and flourish.” 


On October 13, Piedmont Food Processing Center will host Congressman David Price and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall to lead the celebration of its 10+1 anniversary. Joining them will be Senator Valerie Foushee, Representative Craig Meyer, and Chair of the Orange County Commissioners, and Renee Price. “We are thrilled that these public servants recognize the work that we do and will join us in celebrating the spirit of entrepreneurship here,” said Hallman.

The celebration takes place on October 13th from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm at 500 Valley Forge Road in Hillsborough. You will be able to tour the facility, meet the entrepreneurs, sample products, and visit their food trucks. The formal program begins at 2:00 pm.

Sealing the Season is easier at Piedmont Food Processing Center.

“I believe our success and longevity is due to the individual attention we provide our entrepreneurs,” says Sue Ellsworth, manager at the Hillsborough-based kitchen.

What makes Orange County unique is that it supports higher education on every level. We’re also a county that supports farms, some of the best restaurants anywhere, and individuals who want to make a difference. And yes, sometimes that difference is a great hot sauce, coconut spread, and cake.




Food entrepreneurs get help bringing their product to the shelves.

Want to Launch Your Own Product?

The Consumer Packaged Goods Bootcamp

Next Session Begins November 15th

This five-week course guides you through creating and launching a retail product. Learn about packaging, labeling, testing, regulatory requirements, costing, and more. At the end of this course you will be ready for your process approval and new product launch.



Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

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