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.