A love of good food and a good story inspired today’s FACE of Memphis to start her business. Andrea LeTard started her multifaceted food business as the author of the blog Andrea’s Cooktales. Catering, teaching classes and consulting opportunities soon followed as news of her talent spread. She has just penned a delightful new cookbook called Andrea’s Cooktales: A Keepsake Cookbook. It has some twists that make it a fun one to not only cook from but to read as well. Her journey has been a “tasty” one — and we think you will savor getting to know her. Meet today’s FACE of Memphis, Andrea LeTard.
When did you start cooking, and why do you enjoy it?
Unlike most people who cook for a living, I actually didn’t step foot in a kitchen until my late 20s. A short time after my husband Tres and I got married, my grandmother gave me our family heirloom cookbook. Some recipes in it dated all the way back to the 1800s — and some of those recipes were things I craved on a regular basis but only ever got to eat at the holidays. I was so intrigued by the book and couldn’t wait until the next Christmas for her famous holiday ravioli, so I gave cooking a whirl. I immediately fell in love with being in the kitchen and realized even some of the most difficult recipes came very easy to me. It was then I became obsessed with cooking — it’s all I’ve thought about since then.
How did you come up with the idea for the blog Andrea’s Cooktales?
As I flipped through the pages of my family cookbook, looking at old family pictures, discovering unique ingredients and reading through a chapter called “Depression Years,” it hit me: there’s a story behind every recipe. For every recipe that exists today, there are numerous stories and small pieces of history that played into its creation. As I started writing my own recipes, I kept seeing that same pattern. Every recipe I created was influenced by a childhood memory, a vacation taken, a night with my husband, fun with my friends. It was then, I started calling my recipes Cooktales and decided to start my blog, Andrea’s Cooktales.
What inspired you to write a cookbook?
After I started my cooking career, I knew a cookbook wasn’t far behind. I have a masters in journalism and have always been a writer at heart. I was a content editor and writer for a website for six years out of college and then almost immediately after that, I started my blog. Growing up, I wrote short stories and said one day I wanted to be a published author. I just never in a million years thought my first book would be a cookbook. But I also had no idea I would fall in love with cooking at an older age. My two loves are cooking and writing, a combo that just took me a little longer in life to find out.
Tell us about the other food services that you offer as part of Andrea’s Cooktales?
I offer personal chef services, so I menu plan, shop, cook and deliver meals for families every week. I also offer what I call “small party boutique catering” services so I cook for parties or gatherings of 30 people or less. Some of it’s more catering-style or freezer meals, but I also offer an array of elegant cocktail platters — all perfect for people who love to entertain but don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. I do cooking classes regularly at The Mighty Olive. I also offer recipe development services and write recipes for multiple publications.
Describe your typical day.
Literally, it is different every single day. But every day, no matter what, it starts with me sitting for at least an hour with a cup of coffee. It’s my quiet time, and I can’t start a day otherwise. Then I officially start my day, which usually includes a trip to the grocery store, then a day in the kitchen. My weekly clients, recipe development with Soli, writing recipes for multiple publications each month, occasional TV appearances, cooking for evening events like cocktail parties and cooking classes and blog writing all play into what keeps me busy each week. And the past year, the cookbook has deeply made its way into my schedule.
Do you have a favorite dish to make? And if so, why do you love it?
There are two and they aren’t related in any way. 1) Fried chicken. It’s one of my favorite meals to eat, and I love taking the time to cook fried chicken on the weekends — ignoring the mess that comes with it. Chicken and waffles is my “death row meal!” 2) Homemade pasta. I love the extra effort and love that goes into making pasta from scratch, and I do it often. It’s actually easier than most people think, and it’s a blank slate once it’s made. There are a million different pasta dishes you can make and pretty much none of them are not delicious.
What has been the most exciting part of running your own small business? What has been the most challenging?
The most exciting part has been starting with a business plan in mind, but seeing it evolve into something much more than what the plan was in the beginning.
The most challenging — time!!! There’s never enough each day.
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be …
Teleportation, hands down. I think most people who adore travel would say the same.
If you could go back in time to when you were starting your business, what advice would you give yourself?
Tres’s aunt, an entrepreneurial woman, gave me the best advice ever when starting my business that has lived up to its truth. She said: Be patient — don’t expect business to be booming the first year, but be prepared for all the work to come in several. That has been so true. The business comes, but with time, patience, diligence, faith and constant enthusiasm. Not to mention, the area of work that becomes the most successful for you and what you’re most passionate about may not always be what the business started out as in the first place.
What is something people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m obsessed with rock and roll music, and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t have one of my ’80s hair band or ’90s grunge-alternative playlists going. I don’t listen to very many bands that were created past 1999! Tres and I love buying old records for our turn table and inviting friends over to have drinks and jam out. Rock music might be my second greatest love behind food.
What inspires you?
Travel — in food and in life. Nothing will quickly educate you like traveling somewhere you’ve never been before and being open to eat their culture and cuisine, no matter how odd you may think it is. Some of my current favorite foods are things I turned my nose up to before. People don’t believe it now, but I used to be a picky eater. Life’s too short for that. Trying new things has made me wiser, and it has played a huge role in Andrea’s Cooktales, the cookbook and the business.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
It’s okay to find your calling later in life. I feel like you start actually thinking as an adult in your 30s, so it’s perfectly okay to start the career you actually want then. Two of my biggest food inspirations didn’t start cooking until later in life – Julia Child in her 40s and Ina Garten in her 30s. It’s never too late!
What are three things you can’t live without?
My husband, food and travel
Thank you, Andrea! For more information about Andrea’s Cooktales, visit andreascooktales.com.
And thank you to Mary Kate Steele for the beautiful photos.
Want insider tips from financial experts? Read our new Q&A series, “Ask Reliant,” in which Reliant’s dynamic team of financial experts cuts through all the dizzying fiscal jargon and delivers practical answers. Approachable financial information has never been easier! Click here to read the first article in the series.