Sandwiched between two dairy farms, at four years old my family moved to the farm where The Victoria House is now…

Yes, I grew up here. I have memories of the old Harris Family Farm on The Hiwassee River in Calhoun, Tennessee, but most of my childhood memories are right here on this farm in Riceville, Tennessee.

We were “the chicken farm” between The Barham Dairy and The Brady Dairy. They both produced milk for Mayfield’s Dairy Farm in Athens, Tennessee. We were the farm with five girls and no boys. The neighbors still called on us to help get their hay in. Those are some of the happiest days of my life…out-working the boys or at least giving them a run for their money. Those were the days that made me realize I’m happier in a field hauling hay, in a chicken house running five gallon buckets of feed in each hand, or knee deep in sopping wet chicken manure from a water spill at midnight. I’d choose all of that over sitting in an office everyday, punching a clock.

I was a senior at McMinn County High School in Athens, Tennessee about to graduate. I had no clue what I wanted to do after high school. Mr. Hudson, the school counselor called me to his office. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I did not know. He asked me a very key question, “What do you like to do?” I mentioned that I loved to cook. He asked me, “Have you ever thought about culinary school?” To that I asked, “What’s that?” He proceeded to tell me.

“Culinary” wasn’t a term used much around here in 1994. I had never heard of it. If I could hug Mr. Hudson’s neck now, I would. He pointed me in a direction I don’t think I would have found on my own. I thank the good Lord for placing him in my path.