Second in a series
As Sampson County’s United Way prepares for its upcoming fundraiser, a dinner event named “Outstanding in Our Fields,” the five chefs chosen to prepare the special meal are hard at work too.
One of those chefs is Patty Tarr, a self-described “foodie” and the woman behind the delicious fare at the Ashford Inn, which she owns and runs with her husband Mason.
“Ever since I was young, I wanted to own a bed and breakfast. I’ve just always liked to cook and I love to entertain,” said Tarr, a New Jersey native, about how her interest in cooking began.
“I just love to play around with food. I have never had any professional training, but I can usually figure out a recipe,” said Tarr of her natural culinary gift. “Usually I can just think up a dish and know when something is going to be good.”
Although she began her career in finance, Tarr often used her abilities in the kitchen to help prepare meals for her family, an experience that helped prepare her for her work now at the Ashford Inn. “When my mom got older, I started doing the big family parties,” Tarr recalled.
Whether she is cooking meals for the family or preparing food for a party at the Ashford Inn, Tarr is used to feeding crowds of people, a good thing since United Way is selling 100 tickets to their fundraiser.
“I’m in charge of the cocktail hour which I’m really comfortable with,” noted Tarr of the part she will play in United Way’s dinner event. “It’s easy to prepare for. We’ve done weddings with 100 people before so that’s not a problem.”
Although she’s keeping her exact plans for the cocktail hour a surprise, Tarr revealed that her food, which is always fresh and made from scratch, will be unique, including the way in which it will be served.
“Something that we like to do that you don’t see much is butlered hors d’oeuvres which we’ll be doing for the United Way event,” said Tarr. “I just think it’s something special, something elegant.”
Special is an appropriate description of United Way’s “Outstanding in Our Fields” dinner event, and Tarr is likes how United Way is making the fundraiser one to remember.
“I think the VIP ticket offering is a nice idea. I really like that it involves us, the chefs, bringing our parts of the meal out to this select group because people like to talk to and get to know the chefs,” said Tarr. “I know that I like it whenever we go to Southern Exposure and Joanie [Babcock] comes out to speak to us.”
As much as she is looking forward to preparing her own part of the dinner, Tarr is equally excited about sharing the kitchen with the other four chefs involved.
“I’m really looking forward to working with this group of chefs. It’s a fun, talented team,” said Tarr. “It’s also exciting that everyone is only making one dish apiece, so you know that everyone is really going to bring their best game and create something that is just going to knock people’s socks off. That element makes it really exciting.”
When the chefs met at the Ashford Inn last week for their first official chefs’ meeting, Tarr was impressed with everyone’s accommodating attitudes and team spirit.
“I was really excited when everyone [all the chefs] agreed to be the team,” shared Tarr, meaning that the chefs will help each other plate and do final preparations of their dishes. “That’s cool that they are willing to do that.”
Being able to count the chefs among her friends adds a meaningful element to participating in the fundraiser.
“I’ve known Debbie [Valenti] for a while. She has actually been a guest chef here [at the Ashford Inn] a couple of times which was really fun,” recalled Tarr.”I’m also good friends with Joanie. I met her when we went to her restaurant, and since getting to know her, I’ve helped her out with a couple of events. I told her I’d even wash dishes if I could just be in the kitchen with her and watch her cook. I think she’s very talented and really creative.”
Mostly though, Tarr is honored to be a part of United Way’s “Outstanding in Our Fields” fundraiser. “United Way meets here [at the Ashford Inn] regularly, so we’ve worked with them before and they really seem to like our food. And, of course, we have always supported them and their efforts. I think they have come up with a wonderful idea.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.