Caruthers shares joy of cooking with ‘Taste of Gourmet’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Becoming a gourmet consultant evolved naturally for Tammy Caruthers. It is a new experience for one used to the 8-to-5 office routine, her full-time schedule for many years. But the new job suits her well.

Caruthers has joined Taste of Gourmet, a company based in the Mississippi Delta. She knows the owners, appreciates their history and has sampled their food many times in the well-known Crown Restaurant, which opened in Indianola in 1976.

&uot;The Roughton family started Taste of Gourmet in 1996,&uot; Caruthers said. &uot;These are easy and they are delicious. People who can’t cook can do this, and it tastes like gourmet food.&uot;

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The packaged foods, many of them to be mixed with a few simple ingredients, include everything from appetizers to condiments to main dishes and desserts.

There is cocoa mix and gourmet coffee; fudge pie mix and beer bread; catfish pate and black bean chili mix. Further, the products are free of artificial flavorings or artificial ingredients. They include items that are fat-free, low in sugar, low in sodium and low in carbohydrates for people who are careful about their diets. And all the products are manufactured in Indianola.

Caruthers showed off a steaming pot of soup, the best-selling of the company’s soup mixes, Southwest Soup. Filled with tomatoes, corn, bell pepper, onion and jalapeno pepper, the soup took minutes to prepare, she said.

&uot;You just empty the mix into the pot, add a few ingredients, stir and cook for about 30 minutes,&uot; she said.

She pointed out the Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette dressing, used in the family’s restaurant to toss with romaine lettuce, strawberries, melon and croutons.

On her stove was a Delta Fudge Pie hot out of the oven and prepared from the gourmet mix.

Many of the foods freeze well, she said. She also showed a tin filled with sweet potato muffins just out of the oven.

&uot;I’ve had one tasting here in Natchez, and two bookings came from that,&uot; she said. &uot;Getting the word out will be mostly from word of mouth.&uot;

The Caruthers family moved to Natchez earlier this year when Steve, her husband, was sent to fill the Entergy customer service position vacated by Forest Persons, who retired. They have one daughter, Ann Carraway, who attends First Presbyterian Play School.

Tammy Caruthers grew up in Hazlehurst, attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College and then Delta State University, where she received a degree in accounting.

&uot;I’ve worked mostly office hours for the 17 years we’ve been married,&uot; she said. &uot;But now with a 2-year-old, I didn’t want the 8-to-5 job. I want to do the whole mother thing but also provide income for the family. I think this will be successful.&uot;

She loves to cook, she said. Showing others how to make delicious foods with ease is a great way to make a living. &uot;Also it’s a great way to meet people and make new friends.&uot;

The business works this way: She finds or is contacted by someone who would like to host a party. The host gets 10 percent of all the sales made at the party plus products at half price.

&uot;The host provides me with the names, addresses and phone numbers of the people she wants to invite,&uot; Caruthers said. The party usually includes 12 to 15 people.

&uot;I mail out the invitations and bring all the food &045; just a bite of 14 to 16 of our products.&uot;

At the party, guests may order the foods they want to purchase. They also can select foods to be mailed at later dates to family or friends as gifts. &uot;Everybody loves getting food as gifts,&uot; she said.

The company has been highly successful, Caruthers said. &uot;They are about 20 consultants away from 1,000,&uot; she said. &uot;And they are all over the United States.&uot;

Caruthers believes Natchez will respond to Taste of Gourmet. &uot;I think his business will fit well in this community,&uot; she said.