Through a friendship born on the sidelines of their daughters’ soccer games, Oakley’s Southern Delights founder Lee Oakley and ChefWorks Catering founder Jeannette Goddard discovered their mutual love of food. The women quickly formed a lifelong connection that led them to collaborate on recipe creations, which ultimately inspired their recently released cookbook, Tried and True: A Celebration of Food and Friendship. The 112-recipe cookbook is simple to follow and pretty to look at, without the highly stylized photos that can be intimidating. Plus, a portion of the proceeds go to The Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease. Please welcome our newest FACES of Nashville, cookbook authors and friends Lee Oakley and Jeannette Goddard.
What inspired your love of food and the pursuit of a culinary career?
Lee: I’m born and raised in Nashville. Growing up, I was in the kitchen with my mother all the time, especially around the holidays — cooking, but mostly baking. I really enjoy the community in a kitchen and all of the people who are in there. During my college years, I worked with a caterer here in Nashville, and that’s where I realized I love everything from prepping in the mornings to delivering to the cleanup. It also gave me great respect for Jeanette and what she and John did for 20 years [with their catering]. Back in 2012, I started a business — because of my love for food and the memory of my mother, who passed away too early. At Christmastime, she always made pickles and pepper jelly to give to her friends, and I would help, especially on the delivering part. So, I started Oakley’s Southern Delights with the pickles and pepper jelly as my first two products. I guess that’s where the pursuit of food came from and how it traveled with me.
Jeannette: I grew up in a family of wonderful cooks, and our family time centered around meals. Our whole family always had a sit-down meal at night — we all came together — and that’s when it started. I loved reading about food and preparing it. Every time I’d babysit, I’d go into the owners’ kitchen, trying to scrounge cookbooks to go through them and look for new recipes. I wrote them on three-by-five cards I still have today! It snowballed from there. I went to college, and I was originally going to be a special ed teacher. But when I got out of college, I worked in a restaurant for a year and met this girl, and she said, “I would love to open a business with you.” I thought that sounded like fun, so I did some research, and I found out that Nashville (at that time) didn’t have any specialty food stores. We eventually opened up the Picky Palate in Green Hills. That was when Green Hills Mall first became a mall, and Green Hills used to be a shopping center. We opened up our first gourmet food store. It was a little too soon for Nashville — no one had ever heard of sun-dried tomatoes or extra-virgin olive oil. Most of our clients were from the East Coast. Anyway, I helped her open up a store, and then I opened my own catering business. I met a chef, and he became [my] husband — everything around me has to do with food!
How did the two of you meet?
Lee: We met on the sidelines of our daughters’ soccer games and realized we have this fondness for food. Then our daughters became really good friends, and we came together to create food that creates joy.
Jeannette: It was always a big deal for us to eat after soccer games. Most people go to Subway. We were like, “Let’s go somewhere to get some good food.”
Lee: Our girls loved that part!
Jeannette: Our daughters were on a travel soccer team together, and they ended up going to school together. They’re still great friends to this day. Lee and I connected, and she found out I was a caterer, and she had all sorts of questions. She was really interested in it, and I loved that. She wasn’t just making conversation; she really wanted to know.
What inspired you to collaborate on the cookbook you released?
Lee: I was thinking about putting a cookbook together for my family, and really thought maybe Jeanette and I should do the cookbook together for both of our families. I’m really a baker, bread maker, appetizer kind of girl, and she does wonderful entrées. So, I proposed collaborating on a cookbook, and the answer was “yes.” We’ve been working on it since [November 2019], and it went to print in August.
Jeannette: It originally started as a family cookbook, but I have a lot of recipes from my catering days that people always ask me about, and Lee had all her new recipes from her products, and it just started growing. Lee loves to take pictures, so she started taking pictures of all the food we created. It started as a small thing and ended up being something major. We worked on it for almost a year, and it wound up being the perfect COVID thing. It filled up a lot of time — baking and cooking a lot. Our husbands ended up being the big beneficiaries of that! We quarantine-cooked together. We spend a lot of time with each other, so we felt comfortable.
Do you have favorite recipes in the book that stand out?
Lee: The Carrot Cake recipe, because it is one of my family’s favorites. That particular recipe I developed, but there are two from my childhood that I’m fond of because I made them with my mother: the Pound Cake and the French Silk Chocolate Pie.
Jeannette: One of my favorites, one of my most requested recipes when we were catering, is the Strawberry Vinaigrette. We had this Strawberry Fields Salad with this dressing on the side, and people would say, “I need the recipe for that pink, strawberry vinaigrette.” Well, it had no strawberries in it, but it’s very sweet. It was one of those recipes that people always asked for; it’s simple, but it’s wonderful.
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Is there a follow-up book in the works?
Lee: Funny you ask that; I’ve started a collection! Jeanette made a strawberry cake, which is not in the cookbook, and she sent us a piece. I had a nibble and said, “Oh no, do we stop production right now and add it to the first cookbook?” It was so good. So, we may need to have an addendum.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Lee: I’m not sure it was verbal advice. It was really the way my parents showed that they wanted me to feel very comfortable with who I am. I’ve felt pretty comfortable all of my life, and I think it’s because of the way my parents showed their comfort. We are who we are. That’s really what has given me strength through life.
Jeannette: I have three. First, “Whatever you choose to do, be the best at it.” Second, “Don’t live your life with any regrets.” Third, “Make sure you have money for whatever you buy; don’t go into debt.”
Outside of faith, family and friends, what are three things you cannot live without?
Lee: The enjoyment of creating and sharing food, I enjoy tennis — both socially and competitively, and books — both hardback and audible.
Jeannette: Traveling with my husband; I can’t imagine not being able to go places, see new things, and experience new cultures. Eating out at restaurants — I enjoy trying new ones, and COVID has been really difficult for me because I miss going out. The third is dessert. I’m a sweet freak, and I love sugar!
Thank you, Lee and Jeannette. To learn more about their new cookbook, including purchasing information, visit oakleyssoutherndelights.com. All photography was submitted.
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