Paducah Life Magazine

All in the Family
Holly Heath and her extended family find food to be the source of not only good eating but good living

Paducah Life Magazine May/June 2011
By Vicki  Hunkler

Since the term “bucket list” evolved into social conversation a few years ago, many people talk about the vacation they’ve always wanted to take, others dream of having a daily massage, while some adventurous souls hope to someday climb Mt. Everest.

For many of us, just coming home to a healthy, delicious meal prepared by your own personal chef would be enough.  If that’s for you, then Holly Heath might be the answer.

Holly grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, “eating the best food in the world in a place where practically everyone was a foodie,” she said.  “My father was well-known for his cooking and inspired all of the family to not only cook, but to experience the true pleasure of feeding others.”

Etouffee and jambalaya were frequently served to Holly and her family.  All of her brothers can cook. One who lives in Knoxville is on his way to becoming a personal chef; another brother (Tim Heath in Paducah) is especially interested in Cajun cooking and is also available to teach Cajun and Creole classes, and her sister-in-law, Yolanda, owns Heath Health Foods on Lone Oak Road.

Although Holly didn’t aspire to being a chef, she decided after going through a couple of life-altering catastrophes that helping people through healthy eating was very appealing.

Holly was a corporate accountant at Enron in Houston and went through its monumental collapse and saw the suffering it caused those who worked there. Then Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Texas, and she saw both cities change dramatically. Her mother was in Baton Rouge and she lived in Houston when the crises happened. “A wave of crime hit; the traffic was awful, and again, people were suffering. I vowed then that I would spend the rest of my career doing work that would help people and make them happy.”  Her idea for a career in food was launched.

She won a scholarship to the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, studied hard, and began her work as a personal chef eight years ago.  Meanwhile, Yolanda Heath and her family had moved to Paducah and had really grown to love it. Holly said, “It appealed to my mother and me because of the small town feel, plus it is very friendly, so we decided to move here, too.” Holly explained.

Today, Holly splits her time between Paducah and Nashville.  She teaches cooking classes at Whole Foods and at the Brentwood Library in Nashville and has appeared on several TV programs. “I would love to teach classes here in Paducah. I could do that in someone’s home on a one-to-one basis or as a group. A group cooking class is a great idea when you are hosting your next party!”

Cooking parties, says Holly, are fun and economical, “The parties can be held in your own home with your friends, usually 4-8, and I use all unprocessed foods, void of artificial colors, chemicals, and preservatives.”

Holly does all the shopping, chopping, planning and clean-up. “The host and guests leave with up to 30 meals for about $6 each. You can have a healthy meal for the same cost as a fast food meal!” She will also include a cooking demonstration at the party.

A few years ago Holly found food to be a healthy means to a better way of life. “I became came increasingly lethargic and had other painful symptoms,” she related. “Nothing I did seemed to help. My sister suggested I try to alter my diet and eliminate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.”

It worked and today Holly tries to be a good resource for the gluten free community by teaching and speaking on the topic, and creating great gluten free recipes. She also includes information on chemicals in fast food.  “I’ve done lots of food research. What’s in our food supply is scary!” she said.

Holly’s clients are both single professionals and busy families with little time to shop and prepare meals. They want to eat healthy, but simply don’t have the time to do so, she said. “I prepare meals according to their specifications and package them for easy heating and clean-up.”

Drs. Jennie and Jay Brien and their young daughter, Kara, are such clients.  “We come home from work, boil water, drop the food in it, and in 30 minutes we have a healthy, delicious meal,” Jennie said. “Kara loves fresh veggies, broccoli, green beans, and carrots. She especially loves the fruit that Holly prepares for her.”

“It’s hard to control caloric intake and eat healthy if you are eating out all the time,” she explained. “Holly’s service is like having restaurant quality meals at home, but custom made for us. Plus, it’s very affordable.”

Tasty shrimp or fish tacos, chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, and Cajun cooking are just a few of the Briens’ favorite items on the meal plans Holly prepares.

So, if having someone cook for you has just moved up on your “bucket list,” healthy chef Holly Heath just might help you check that one off.

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Tennessean Article

Chef Holly Heath’s joy is helping others

November 17, 2010

HOLLY HEATH
CHEF AND OWNER AT YOUR TABLE PERSONAL CHEF SERVICE


Before cooking, Holly Heath worked in corporate accounting at Enron. Yes, Enron. But after the company crumbled around her — and after she won a scholarship to the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York — Heath turned from numbers on spreadsheets to those on measuring cups.

These days, Heath serves as a resource through her in-home personal chef services and cooking classes for people struggling with food allergies.

How did you learn to cook?
On the technical side, I learned by studying at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. On the personal side, I really learned to cook from my father. My father was the best cook I have ever known. He taught me to not only love working with food, but to love the gift and get true pleasure out of feeding others.

How did you end up specializing in gluten-free food?
When I moved to Nashville almost three years ago, I became increasingly fatigued and experienced a host of other painful symptoms. About a year and a half ago, I found out the culprit was a gluten allergy. (Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley and rye that is present in many foods.)

I knew by experiencing it firsthand how painful, even debilitating, food allergies can be. Through this, it’s become my mission to help others, whether it is those with celiac disease, those affected by autism, or those who just want to avoid gluten.

Tell us about one of your favorite gluten-free dishes.
Chicken marsala. It was a favorite dish of mine prior to my allergy, and I have learned through substituting gluten-free ingredients it can be just as delicious.

What could we always find in your home refrigerator?
Lemons and limes, Dijon mustard, garlic and white wine (for cooking, of course!).

What ingredients could you not live without?
Gluten-free flour, tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), gluten-free chicken broth, Celtic sea salt.

If you could choose your final meal, what would it be?
My final meal would have to be a very simple homemade hamburger and fries. With a gluten-free bun, of course.

— JENNIFER JUSTUS, THE TENNESSEAN

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Brentwood Home Page Article

‘In the Kitchen with …’ goes gluten free

By Susan Leathers

A personal chef. The notion of having one sounds wonderful. Being one isn’t so bad either. Holly Heath has been working full-time in kitchens for eight years, after reprioritizing her life when former employer Enron imploded. The former corporate accountant decided to follow her real passion and enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

She returned to Houston, Texas to pursue her new vocation. Five years ago change came again after Hurricane Katrina displaced her extended family, many of whom lived in Louisiana, to Kentucky. She has spent the past two-and-a-half years building her AT Your Table Personal Chef Service and reputation here. That has included TV appearances on Tennessee Mornings and Talk of the Town and leading cooking classes. She has several of those coming up. The first is Thursday at the Cool Springs’ Whole Foods store. The second is Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the Brentwood Library.

Holly’s appearance at the library follows several other “In the Kitchen with…” classes the Concord Road library has sponsored in the past year, further redefining its role in the community.

“The Brentwood Library is a gathering place,” Library Director Susan Earl said. “We are fortunate to have wonderful partnerships with local chefs and grocery stores to provide quality instructors to our community.

“Our ‘In the Kitchen with…’ series has proven very popular over the last year. From preparing holiday food gifts to canning this year’s peaches, there’s a lot of variety available.  Whole Foods has been a fantastic support as well, sharing samples of products from around the world.”

Gluten-free cooking, which is gaining interest across the country, is the focus of her September classes. The subject’s become a personal passion ever since she discovered her own allergy to gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. She quick to note, however, that she can cook anything for clients, and does.

Gluten has been linked to a variety of digestive diseases and many people are starting to limit their consumption of it or give it up entirely, she said. For those worried about given up fiber, Holly explained you “not cutting back on fiber, just what provides it.”

“What I’m trying to tell people is all you have to do is substitute,” she said. “You can eat what other people do.”

At Whole Foods, Holly plans to feature “great classic pizza crust, a seafood fettuccini, a ‘green shake,’ and maybe a Panini.”

At the library, the menu is likely to include Cold Quinoa Salad. Quinoa is “an ancient grain that’s easy to prepare. It’s gluten-free and high in protein too.” She said she plans to bring some of her favorite gluten-free products to share with the class too.

The 90-minute Whole Foods classes are held in the store’s upstairs demonstration kitchen. They’re free “and you get to taste everything,” Holly said.

She expects the library classes to run about the same length, but added, “I’ll talk until they kick me out!”

So what does a personal chef do when she’s not teaching classes? For Heath, it means a variety of things. She does currently serve as a “personal chef” preparing meals for a prominent Nashville family, but she also has designed “Dinners in a Dash Cooking Parties” and one-on-one and kids cooking classes. She also caters small dinner or cocktail parties.

To learn more, or to be in touch with Holly, contact her at atyourtablepcs@comcast.net and sign up for her monthly e-letter. If you want more information on gluten-free living, check out her Gluten Free in Tennessee blog at www.glutenfreetn.com.

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Paducah Sun Article

‘Desperate’ for dinner
Personal chef helps busy women whip up dinners

By Leigh Landini Wright

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

After a long day as a speech therapist at Lone Oak Elementary School, Kelly Walker doesn’t want to spend her spare time in the kitchen.

She would rather spend her time with her husband, 18-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter and eat at the table, not in the car or on the go. That’s why Walker and a handful of friends have jokingly dubbed themselves the “Desperate Housewives” when they meet once a month with personal chef Holly Heath to prepare five meals they can stash in the freezer.

Heath, a former Enron accountant turned professional chef, runs At Your Table personal chef services in Paducah and Nashville, Tenn.

“I take the meal out of the freezer the night before and then pop it in the oven put a couple of vegetables with it and we have a hot meal,” Walker said. “It’s a wonderful thing, and my kids love it.”

Becky Haus, development director at West Kentucky Community & Technical College, assembled a group of friends, all busy career women, to meet once a month in a home where Heath could demonstrate recipes, offer cooking tips and help the women prepare meals they could later cook at their homes.

The “Desperate Housewives” are Haus, Walker, Gina Leeper, Suzanne Farmer, Whitni Stratemeyer and Melanie McNeill, who met through a charitable organization. All but Leeper have children as well as careers. Farmer is public affairs coordinator at Lourdes hospital. Stratemeyer is a federal court clerk, and McNeill is a vice president at Paducah Bank.

Haus already knew how to cook, but she said the sessions have expanded her ideas. She splits the five meals in half to give her family 10 meals.

“I can make a couple of things over a weekend and put it in the freezer,” Haus said.

For Leeper, it’s the convenience of being able to quickly assemble a meal at home rather than eating out. With her schedule at Talbot’s and husband Bob’s calendar filled with his work as a chiropractor and state senator, she said they often don’t get home until the evening.

“I don’t like to eat out a lot,” she said.

Walker likes the convenience of the monthly meal service plus being able to control the fat and sodium content of her family’s meals. That’s something she can’t do when they eat out.

“I don’t think people realize how many chemicals are in (fast) food,” Heath said. “There are so few options” for eating out healthily.

Heath does all “chopping and shopping,” provides the heat-and-serve containers, plans the menus and provides the women with instructions. On a recent evening, Heath’s menu was brown sugar meatloaf, apricot pork medallions, southwestern chicken lasagna, chicken with artichoke cream sauce and baked ziti.

“These are recipes that I’d cut out of a magazine,” Stratemeyer said. “It’s wonderful that she (Heath) does all the shopping and chopping.”

As the women chatted about their lives, careers and children, they layered tortilla shells in the bottom of a pan and then smothered those with a spicy chicken, tomato, bean and corn mixture and layers of cheese. The lasagna must bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

“By doing this and going into someone’s home, I’m saving them 10 hours a week,” Heath said, estimating the time required for grocery shopping and meal preparation.

The women also have picked up cooking tips. Stratemeyer learned how to make homemade bread crumbs in her food processor rather than buying a box at the store. Heath also showed the women how to make meatloaf without having to mash the meat with their hands. Heath assembles the meatloaf recipe in a zippered plastic bag and rolls the ingredients around inside. No mess. After the women get home, they can place the meatloaf in a pan for freezing.

Heath was trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She has lived in Paducah for about a year. Like the “Desperate Housewives,” her job as a corporate accountant left very little time for cooking. She laughs that she didn’t learn how to cook until she was 32. She’s now 36. Heath also is a member of the Personal Chefs Network.

Holly Heath, At Your Table: 816-4320 or atyourtablepcs@comcast.net.

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