Each Monday in May, we are profiling mother/daughter duos who are making a difference around Louisville. We are excited today to introduce you to one such dynamic team that is changing our perspective on eating healthy on the go: Sandy and Mae Pike. You may have heard Sandy’s name before, as she started this little restaurant here called Jack Fry’s in the 1980s. She now runs Home Cuisine with her daughter, Mae, and they help Louisvillians eat healthier with their prepackaged fresh meals. The offerings cover a variety of special diets, including vegan, paleo and gluten-free, and they can either be delivered to your door or picked up at Rainbow Blossom. Talk about convenience! We sat down for a cuppa coffee and a lesson in food, and we learned all about how food connects people.
You both had success in your prior careers. Tell us about your past lives.
Sandy: In 1980, I moved my daughters to Louisville from San Francisco and immediately saw that the restaurant scene here could use some fresh ideas, and I had a head full of them. I opened Jack Fry’s with the wide-eyed optimism that you can only have if you have never worked in a restaurant before (I had not). Jack’s was a hit from day one, and having the real Jack upstairs as a supporter was probably the only thing that saved me. After Jack went into a nursing home, I sold my interest in 1987 and was lured to Main Street by the History Museum. All I can say about that was Louisville wasn’t as hip as it is now.
My next venture was Home Cuisine, and this business is absolutely my favorite business so far. I am able to create, help people, work with my family, and meet new and interesting people every day! We are the only company in Kentucky delivering fresh, healthy meals right to people who need them. It is beyond rewarding to have a client say, “I have lost 100 pounds,” or “my doctor has taken me off of 10 of the 12 medicines I have been taking,” or “I truly have never felt better just by changing my diet.”
Mae: One summer, when I was 28, I ran away from home. I wanted to live on the beach, and an opportunity to hang out in Sarasota presented itself. I accidentally fell into my dream job (at the time) and became the event coordinator for the Chiles Group on Anna Maria Island. It was really fun, and I met TONS of people, attended parties all the time and learned the foundation of running a business.
Sandy, how did you end up in the food business?
I was a young, stay-at-home mom with two daughters 13 months apart, so I decided to teach myself how to cook. The food scene in the Bay Area at that time was astonishing. What is now farm-to-table here was in full force 30 years ago in Berkeley. We had a huge garden, and I had never tasted “real vegetables” before actually growing them. When we moved home to Louisville, I saw great opportunity to bring exciting things that were going on out west here.
Mae, how did you end up working with your mother?
Around the time that I was thinking of leaving the beach, Home Cuisine was growing like a weed. My mother was at a point where she really needed a partner to handle all of the changes in the business. I had considered moving to the Pacific Northwest at the time, but decided to come home and help my mom out for a while. Now we are partners, and I have been in Louisville for almost eight years. Best decision of my life.
What is the best thing about working together, and what has been the biggest challenge?
Sandy: Best? We are just alike. Worst? We are just alike.
Mae: The best thing is that we can be TOTALLY honest with one another. The worst thing is that we can be TOTALLY honest with one another.
What is the secret of your success as a team?
Sandy: We have different talents. Mae never met a stranger, and people gravitate to her. She likes talking to people and is interested in every story. I have the luxury of setting her loose as the face of our business, and I know that she will be great. As I tend to be a little more introverted, I take care of the behind-the-scenes portion of the business. It really works out well.
Mae: We both know our strengths and weaknesses and allow ourselves the luxury of doing the things that we are good at. I really enjoy interaction with our clients, staff and the community, and my mom is a little shyer. She really likes keeping up with the day-to-day operations, making sure that every “i” is dotted. I am not even close to being that organized.
What was your relationship like when Mae was a child?
Sandy: We have always been close, and there is something really special about Mae. She is funny and compassionate and sees the world in her own way. Courtney, Mae’s sister, sort of completes our little circle. I am lucky. I have had a lot of fun with my children, and we are all great friends.
Mae: I was, and still am, the biggest “Momma’s girl” around. As we get older, we have truly become friends, and I value my mom’s opinion and thoughts so much. I am also realizing how lucky I am to have a mom who I really LIKE.
Is your relationship different outside of work?
Sandy: It’s about the same. We can make each other double over laughing. But it’s getting harder and harder to play the “Mother is always right” card.
Mae: Not really. I would say that the “Mae and Sandy Show” is pretty much standard issue no matter where we are.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like?
Sandy: Nothing is ever typical. I come in pretty early, because I am awake at 6 a.m. every morning. I like the quiet time in the office, when I can really get things done. Once the business goes full tilt I call it a day. There is nothing more fun that playing hooky and picking up my three grandchildren for “Gram Time.”
Mae: Because we wear so many hats, you never know what each day will bring, but it is exciting and really keeps us on our toes.
What advice do you treasure?
Sandy: If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Never be late, it disrespects the other person’s time.
Mae: My mom told me once that you should never criticize a person for something that they can’t change in 30 seconds, and you should not beat yourself up over something that you can’t change in a day. Amazing words to live by.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ____________.
Sandy: A big mess in my purse. I carry everything around, because you just never know. The second I pare down, well, you know what happens.
Mae: Dogs. Janet, my little Shepard mix, and Gus, a Mastiff mix, go anyplace that will allow 250 pounds of big, black rescue dogs! They are both about 6 years old, and they are so much fun.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Sandy: My “hanging” days are long gone, but there is nothing that I would rather do than have my whole family over, cook a simple meal and listen to everyone laugh. If I had ever wondered what I had been working toward all those years, it is this.
Mae: I am a Highlands girl, and I love all of the groovy, fun things going on in my neighborhood. But this time of year, there is no place I would rather be than hanging out with friends on my deck.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Sandy: Churchill Downs. Most of my friends are involved in the horse industry in one way or another, so I enjoy a lot of perks through them. Plus, I usually win.
Mae: Derby, Derby, Derby!!!! Oh, and Forecastle.
Are you night owls or early birds, and what do you do during that quiet time?
Sandy: Definitely an early bird. The funny thing is, I get up so early and just putter around … coffee, check email, play with the dog and then, POOF! I am running late.
Mae: Absolute night owl, so when I am wide awake, the world is snoozing away. I am a big reader, so thankfully my quiet time activity is actually quiet.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
Mae: I LOVE Mayan Café. The food is always interesting, fresh and delicious, plus Bruce is a really nice guy. If I die and go to heaven, the lamb dish that he took off the menu will be available at every meal. (Hint, hint, Bruce!)
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Mae: I have a stack of David Sedaris books next to my bed and just grab one and open it to any page and guarantee myself a good laugh.
Lightning round! Give us your:
- Candy or junk food splurge — Sandy: potato chips, NOT the ruffled kind. Mae: bread pudding at Zanzabar. Thankfully, it is so rich that I can only have a few bites.
- Guilty pleasure song — Sandy: “American Pie.” Mae: “Sara Smile” by Hall & Oates. I was pulled over once for speeding, and the cop let me go after I explained that I got pretty excited because this (CORNY) song was playing. The truth will always set you free!
- Tearjerker movie pick — Sandy: Terms of Endearment gets me every time. Mae: Harold and Maude. I am choking up just thinking about it right now … a TRUE love story, set in Berkeley, CA, around the time I was born.
- Favorite cocktail — Sandy: Maker’s on the rocks. Mae: Black coffee, and keep it coming.
- Cartoon alter-ego — Sandy: Wilma Flintstone. Mae: I want so badly to write Jessica Rabbit, but reality forces me to say Bart Simpson.
What are three of your favorite things right now besides faith, family and friends?
- Teaching my grandchildren to cook
- My Schnoodle (dog) Sofia
- Trying to outsmart the squirrels around my bird feeders. So far, they are winning.
- Along with the rest of planet Earth, I have old Prince songs on heavy rotation
- Netflix is providing countless hours of “The Walking Dead”
- Those dogs … those funny silly dogs …
Thank you, Sandy and Mae, for sharing your contagious joy with us today. And thank you as always to Adele Reding for today’s beautiful photography.
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