Mary Drennen and Tiffany Davis know food. Mary attended the French Culinary Institute, now known as the International Culinary Institute, in New York City, while Tiffany gained her culinary expertise at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston. Both of them landed in the test kitchen of Cooking Light magazine and have been lighting a fire ever since. Their latest venture, Nourish, has them preparing healthy, clean meals for on-the-go folks. Nourish meals are currently available at St. Vincent’s 119 and Neighborhood Barre in Lakeview, with online ordering and delivery options coming soon! Welcome, Mary and Tiffany!
How did you get your start in the catering business?
Tiffany: Mary and I got started in the events catering business together at the same time. We both worked in the test kitchen at Cooking Light magazine and my cubicle was in front of hers. Our personalities are not alike, but we hit it off immediately, and one day, after three years of working together, decided we wanted to have a more creative outlet, so we jumped into catering head first!
Mary: We actually came up with a name that day and went with it. Looking back now, I am amazed we jumped in so fast. That was 2007, and we have shared a bank account, business and great friendship ever since.
Tell us about the biggest roadblock you’ve overcome.
T: We agreed that our biggest roadblock along the way over the last seven years has been a fear of failure. Multiple times a week, we’ll remind ourselves to “let go and let God.” It has really illuminated our path.
M: Especially as we’ve planned, prepared and are about to launch our new brand, Nourish. Our entrepreneurial story is similar to many others: a lot of planning, a whole lot of hard work and sweat. But we constantly are putting our trust that God has a bigger plan and purpose for us than we could ever imagine!
Do you have a favorite cooking memory or kitchen disaster story you’d like to share?
T: One of my favorite memories is our first event back in 2007. It was a cocktail party we did at Mary’s parents’ house for all of their friends. Her mother hired a professional bartender and let us take over her house for preparation. We worked so hard to cook all the food and set it up, and we didn’t have time management on our list! By the time the guests showed up, we hadn’t showered or put on makeup. We were hyped up on adrenaline and so green about catering. Overwhelming and exciting all at that same time.
M: That party solidified our entrepreneurial spirit, and we haven’t given up yet. And we still have a print of the invitation from that party that we are planning to frame and put in our new office.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given … or a favorite quote?
M: Tiffany and I share a strong faith and have committed Romans 8:28 to prayer each time we celebrate a success or process a disappointment:
“And we know that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love him, and have been called according to His purpose.”
What is your favorite luxury or indulgence?
T: Thanks to Mary, we share a common indulgence: getting a really great piece of clothing from Marella in Mountain Brook Village. April and the staff always take care of us!
Did you have a mentor along the way?
M: We have been blessed over the years to have so much guidance from our families. But beyond them, Hatton Smith with Royal Cup has been my mentor for years! Every important business decision I’ve ever made, I’ve discussed with him, over coffee of course! He calls me his “mentee.”
T: For me, I have to say Phillip Rhodes at Garden & Gun has been a great mentor and confidante. We have shared a lot of struggles and successes over the years.
Favorite Birmingham restaurant(s)?
What upcoming local event are you most looking forward to?
T: The biggest food event on our personal calendar is the launch of our Nourish brand this month. We should resurface after the first quarter of next year.
When you’re not in the kitchen cooking, what is your favorite thing to do to relax?
M: We focus a lot on team building, and that starts with us. When we get a rare break from the kitchen, we like to have pedicures and drink wine together. It gives us a great chance to discuss everything from our kids to what happened at work that day. With our busy schedules, sometimes that’s the only chance we have to talk!
What books are you currently reading?
T: I am reading Emily Griffin’s The One & Only, which Mary passed to me.
M: And I’m slowly getting through Boundaries with Kids by Cloud & Townsend. If you haven’t read the Boundaries books, you should! They will change your relationships completely!
Favorite vacation spot?
M: Every time I drive into the driveway at my parents’ home in Highlands, N.C., I immediately feel relaxed. It is the only place I can completely check out from work and relax with my family. No internet, no phone, no email!
T: My favorite family vacation spot is Serenbe Farms in Georgia. It is where I got married and a very serene place to visit, just as the name describes. And the food is fantastic!
Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?
T: I am never on time, and Mary does not clean up after herself in the kitchen. After so many years, we have gotten used to each other’s quirks. We just don’t get worked up about them. She knows I won’t be on time, and I just clean up right behind her.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding friends, family and God.
M: Fresh herbs, lululemon and laughter. We share laughter until tears come almost every day.
Thanks for sharing, ladies! And a huge thanks to our awesome photographer, Beth Hontzas!
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