Tamara Mathis knows more about the color green than the average person.
From thick celery stalks and moist, leafy lettuce to fresh, farm-grown spinach, the owner of Tee’s Plentiful Salads & Catering has spread vegetables on plates throughout Flint for the past five years.
A former culinary arts instructor for Flint Community Schools, she’s skilled in creating many dishes.
“I always wanted to cook professionally,” Mathis says. “I’ve done every aspect of cooking and people loved my food.”
But whenever she was asked about her specialty dish she had to admit its preparation didn’t always involve turning on a stove. From her earliest days of catering Mathis has developed a home-based business that delivers about 1,200 salads a year to Flint-area customers.
A big part of Mathis’ challenge was persuading meat-and-potatoes lovers to rethink what salad is.
“These aren’t just your everyday salads,” she says. “They have meat and cheese. They’re knife-and-fork salads. That’s what I call them.”
While Tee’s selection of 60 menu items, including pasta and potato salad, rivals that of any similar restaurant, few offer delivery, as Mathis does twice a month. Tee’s Plentiful Salads & Catering distributes to local businesses and vends at special events like wedding receptions. Everything from menu standards like cobb style to barbecue chicken, shrimp Caesar and more are available.
Although it’s seldom first choice as a snack, let alone a meal, Mathis says the right salad, like a fruit mix, can encourage appreciation for healthier foods even kids can enjoy.
“It’s better than candy, it’s better than a donut,” she adds. “You want something sweet? Let’s get some fruit.”
Even colorfully presented vegetables and lean proteins can give kids a whole new appreciation of salad’s possibilities, as her 12- and 17-year-old sons have developed.
Visuals are important.
“You design it. Your bed of lettuce is in one spot, your cheese is in one spot, your ham is in another spot,” Mathis says.
More tips Mathis suggests for getting children to sample salads include:
- Add a favorite – Especially if it’s a food they’ve enjoyed in other dishes (like pepperoni on pizza) sprinkling a little on top of a salad can do the trick.
- Let them build it – Home salad bars spread on the kitchen counter like mini-restaurant displays can inspire creativity and experimenting with vegetables, spices and toppings more than setting a plate in front of kids does.
- Mess it up a bit – Ingredients like diced tomatoes, shredded cheese and other items that can be added by hand to lettuce or other greens are appealing to younger children. Getting their hands dirty and growing their own garden vegetables can also lead to more interest in what reaches the salad bowl.
“I used to do a junior chef camp,” Mathis says. “Whatever would make a mess is what the kids wanted to use.”
For more information about Tee’s Plentiful Salads & Catering visit “Tee’s Plentiful Salads” on Facebook