About the Chef
Chef Tarsha Gary—taking quick steps forward on a path to achieving notable mention amongst her fellow Houstonians. Emerging specialized as a Pastry Chef & Baker from the wing of internationally acclaimed and locally revered Chef Eddy Van Damme [Head of Pastry Arts Department at Houston Community College; and Author of “On Baking” awarded “Best Professional Cookbook in The World” by Gourmand International—2005 Switzerland. “On Baking” is a resource referenced by various Schools of Culinary Arts across the country and in Houston]. “Looking back, I know that I was divinely paired as student to teacher with Chef Eddy. He gave me confidence and fostered my creativity. Perhaps most importantly he told me [taking note of my “diva tendency”] that I didn’t have to start at the bottom and that I could create my own opportunity at the top if that better suited me.”
Creating an opportunity was second nature to this former journalist (radio talkshow host/producer KPFT 90.1 FM and columnist for Black & Single Magazine) and wearer of many hats. Soon after, with several emails exchanged and phone messages left, Tarsha found herself waiting 45 minutes in the lounge of “Noe Restaurant & Bar” –Omni Hotel Houston to interview for 2 hours with “The Great Gadsby”—[2008 Chef Owner of "Bedford" in Houston: 2007 Food Network Iron Chef America Challenger (aired in March 2007); awarded in Houston for “Best New Restaurant 2004” and “Chef of the Year 2004” by “My Table.” Noe also awarded “Best of the Best” by “Robb Report” and the “Houston Chronicle”; Gadsby's accolades are numerous—easy to find other Gadsby ventures in Los Angeles, Chicago and upcoming New York]. At end of day, student chef Tarsha Gary became the student of Chef Robert Gadsby, garnering a coveted spot as one of the few to be allowed in the high profile, internationally acclaimed chef’s kitchen to complete her pastry chef graduation requirement. “Chef Gadsby has taken my awareness to another level completely. It’s difficult to detail how his influence has refined my thinking about food, concepts, and the potential of my own abilities. Chef Gadsby continues to mentor me and I am grateful for the opportunity to experience such privilege.”
Having completed her Pastry Chef Degree, Chef Tarsha spent a short time producing and plating desserts for banquet bookings at the "Downtown Aquarium -Houston" under the direction of Executive Chef Dwayne Gale [Chef Gale is currently the acclaimed Executive Chef of “Eyes Over Texas” in San Antonio, TX]. “My experience at the Aquarium was quite different from my experience at Noe. It was a valuable opportunity to gain the hands-on exposure of ‘what it takes’ to meet high volume demands for which the Landry’s Inc. empire is known.”
Getting back to four-star dining, Chef Tarsha moved on to take a Pastry Chef position at simply upscale “Aries” under the direction of the infamous Chef Scott Tycer [noted “Food & Wine” favorite and owner of Houston hotspots—“Kraftsmen Baking,” "Textiles," “Gravitas,” and former "Aries"]. “Aries was an exceptional building block for me. When I joined the ‘all male’ corps at Aries my female presence changed the dynamic of the kitchen and those guys (absolute professionals) changed me, toughened me up and made me “put up or shut up.” I learned a lot and made good friends. I have a genuine admiration for Chef Scott Tycer, perhaps because we are very close in age, his example of excellence and achievement casts an air of tangibility on my solo aspirations.”
With the decision to throw her own hat in the ring, Chef Tarsha Gary became Chef/Owner of “CRAVE” – gourmet bakery & catered café a full scale catering and event planning company. At present Chef Tarsha has many catered events behind her ranging from exclusive to corporate events and is looking forward to bringing “CRAVE” –the restaurant to life in the near future. “I am an entrepreneur by nature, so it was only a matter of time, experience and exposure before I would have to give it my best shot. I am excited about the future and am confident about my presence and what I bring to the “table!”
In July 2008, Chef Tarsha launched "COMMUNITY KIDS COOK W/ CHEF TARSHA" a month-long summer cooking camp for youth ages 10-16. The camp is ahealthy food education program with a mission to combat childhood obesity while promoting healthy food education and practical hands-on culinary exposure with a core focus on urban community youth.
In October 2008, Chef Tarsha was honored by Houston Citizens’ Chamber of Commerce as a "2008 Pinnacle Award Finalist." Chef Gary was identified as one of Houston’s Top 15 African American Business frontrunners.
In January 2009, Chef Tarsha began the soft launch of her lastest venture "ECOTONE" -a “green” vision catalyst offering sustainable solutions via organic approaches to meeting the needs of urban communities, organic commerce and ecological global enrichment. The mission: To facilitate an ecologically sustainable urban agricultural system whereby a community-based infrastructure is established, collectively tended and matures to thrive independently via intergenerational activity, tangible skill sets, community ownership and entrepreneurial projections.
In May, 2009, Chef Tarsha took pride in receiving such a significant accolade when she was awarded an Honoree distinction identified by The Houston Business Journal's: "Top 40 Under 40" List (part of their Celebrating Enterprise highlight throughout professional industries in Houston. This list identified Houston's top 40 business professionals under the age of 40 selected out of 250 nominations to represent the finest young hotshots to watch--- "The ones who are Playing to Win!" "Wow, its so exciting to be recognized on this platform and to have taken a place alongside 39 other outstanding young professional Houstonians. It's true, hard work always pays off!"
In June 2009, Chef Gary partnered with Neighborhood Centers Inc. in their 107th Anniversary Year to bring “Community Kids Cook..” to the youth population as a summer long cooking camp featured at Harbach Ripley and The Bridge center locations.
In November 2009, Gary is honored to make the national list of “40 Under 40 Chefs” highlighted as a national ranking publicized by the Mother Nature Network for her diligent work in the “farm to fork” movement waving over the nation. Gary was excited to be listed #12 (one spot below President Obama’s personal chef).
In November 2009, Gary receives notable highlight in local newspaper with a feature article by the African American News & Issues, “Hope Grows Here” –article features the ground breaking of the ECOTONE St. Charles Street Urban Community Garden and how Gary has worked hard to positively impact the community directly with the gardens construction.
In February 2010, Gary received notable highlight in a feature article by the Houston Chronicle, [Faces In the Crowd Section (Midtown)] “Local chef touts garden-fresh food” –article features a background on Chef Gary and the highlight of her latest venture build-out success of ECOTONE’s St. Charles Street Urban Community Garden located in Third Ward, Houston, TX.
In May 2010, Gary is honored to be awarded and recognized by the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas receiving the distinction identified as a “Texas Blazing Star!” Gary was humbled to be awarded and proclaimed such a distinction (one of twelve women entrepreneurs awarded throughout the State of Texas and she was the only African American selected). Gary joined her fellow Honorees for an awards luncheon at the State’s capitol- Austin, Texas. “I left this awards ceremony with my piece of the State capitol floor (limestone –award) simply astounded to be pedestaled in the company of such tremendously high achieving and successful women. It is amazing and absolutely empowering to know I have been included amongst them. I’m refreshed and energized with a more pronounced conviction for a future of success!”
In June 2010, Chef Gary is engaged by the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital to offer a special summer session of “Community Kids Cook w/ Chef Tarsha” summer cooking camp. Gary jumped at the opportunity to impact a select patient population with critical dietary and nutrition needs
In June 2010, Gary and her ECOTONE St. Charles Street Urban Community Garden project received featured media coverage on “Going Green” w/ Yolanda Green broadcasted on KIAH Channel 39 Houston. (Media clip is currently uploaded on the stations website under the “Green” section
July 2010, Chef Gary has begun teaching her annual run of “Community Kids Cook w/ Chef Tarsha” summer cooking camp series and is currently engaged by the City of Houston and will featured the program at Third Ward Multi Purpose Center and Fifth Ward Multi Purpose Center.
In October 2010, Chef Gary will be honored by Bank of America in its 2010 Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Awards recognizing outstanding charitable organizations and local heroes working to improve Houston communities.
When asked for the key to her success she responds frankly:
“Fearless Determination!!!” —Chef Tarsha Gary