Photography by Jessica Turner.
BRYCE MURPHREE IS COOKING UP something new in the kitchen, but his creations aren’t for eating. The mouthwatering smells are emitted from food-scented candles the chef makes in recycled tin cans.
Murphree was in between jobs as a chef when he started making candles to give as gifts to family and friends. Unconsciously, he mixed essential oils and fragrances that smelled like the food he so often prepared in the kitchen. Customers were soon salivating over pineapple cilantro, orange chili pepper and applewood smoked bacon candles.
In 2018, Murphree and his wife, Maggie, founded Gluttony Candles and started selling the products online and at local farmers markets. The couple’s booth is popular among shoppers attracted to the bright colors and unique branding.
“I’m about bright colors, flavors and smells,” Murphree says. “With a can, I can color the wax, but you’re not going to see it if it’s sitting on a shelf.”
Initially, Bryce made candles in empty, uncrimped cans that he bought from the store. He worried that customers might cut themselves on the sharp edges and began testing a buffer. He melted crayons and hot glue sticks in the oven, then dipped his cans in the liquid to create an eye-catching runoff that brightens the packaging and protects consumers from craggy edges.
But the couple soon discovered that empty cans cost more than those with food inside. Murphree mobilized his contacts in the food industry and secured the donation of their empty canisters. When people started eating at home during the pandemic, he asked neighbors on social media to leave their used containers on his Ellsworth Avenue doorstep. Donate enough, and you may get a free candle.
He also accepts cans with the food still inside. He’ll give the contents to a soup kitchen or make something from the gift. Diced tomatoes are one of the cheapest canned foods, and he’s turned contributions into free salsa for donors.
“We like to give back as much as we can,” he says.
In addition to using recycled materials for candle jars, Murphree makes his product with clean-burning soy wax that emits less soot than traditional paraffin wax. Soy candles also burn slower, which means they last longer. Gluttony Candles yield a burn life of up to 75 hours and are as fragrant on the last burn as they were on the first.
More than 25 scents are available at any given time. The best-seller has always been the wild arugula, followed by other popular options like grapefruit mint, café latte and honey lavender. Seasonal fragrances, such as roast pumpkin and Christmas hearth, are introduced several times a year.
Only two candles, campfire and boot leather, are not food scented. They are marketed toward men but appeal to anyone who enjoys earthy scents.
“Everybody’s sense of smell is different and unique,” Maggie Murphree says. “They’re going to pick up different scents from every candle. Give them a whole lot of options, and you’ll have something for everybody.”
Read more about another East Dallas candle maker here or here, in our 2020 gift guide.