Introducing Dale Mackey for The Commissary
We at the KaTom Blog are thrilled to introduce Dale Mackey, an artisan, community builder, and writer whose businesses exemplify a new approach to foodservice in our increasingly mobile world. Dale will be posting regularly here in the KaTom Blog’s newest feature, The Commissary. Like a real-life commissary where people go for provisions, this space is stocked exclusively with stuff you need: in this case, trusted information and lively inspiration from the fastest lane of the foodservice industry. Enjoy!
When I was little, I loved keeping my mom company in the kitchen while she cooked. At age five, I took cellophane-wrapped slices of American cheese, carefully unwrapped them, and tore them into tiny little squares. I took the wooden step stool and made it into a “cheese stand,” onto which I carefully set the bright orange cheese squares and encouraged my mother and sister to buy them for five cents each.
When my mom made pies (which she did often), she’d save the extra scraps of dough for me. I’d take jams, bits of fruit, or whatever else happened to be available and make my own tiny little pies that tasted even better to me than my mother’s full-sized versions.
It should come as no surprise, then, despite early dreams of being an actress and a college education in English and theater, that I spend my days making and selling pies. In 2012, I started Dale’s Fried Pies, a mobile pie stand in Knoxville, Tennessee.
When I began, I had virtually no experience in the food industry. I loved to eat and I loved to cook, but I knew from friends who’d opened restaurants and food trucks that too often, making food for a living can often deplete the passion that leads people to choose a culinary career in the first place. Making food that delights your family and friends is quite a different thing from serving hundreds of people a day, balancing your finances, and navigating the difficult landscape of certifications, insurance, and permits.
But so far (knock on wood), I’m lucky enough to have maintained my love of food. I still love making it, I still love eating it, and I’m happy to report that despite the long hours and countless frustrations, I also love the daily work of running a small culinary business. And that’s why I’m writing. As someone with firsthand knowledge of how daunting, exhilarating, exhausting and rewarding running a food business can be, I thought it would be fun to share some of my experiences. I’m pretty psyched to have a space to talk about what it’s like to start a food business from scratch, and how to keep momentum going.
Since I started my business, I’ve begun retrofitting a mobile food trailer and I’ve bought an old, dilapidated building now on its way to becoming a full-fledged commercial kitchen. None of it’s been easy, and the learning curve is steep. I’m excited to share some of that process. I’m also going to write about my favorite recipes, resources, kitchen tools, and people who are doing amazing things with food.
So, that’s me. I’d love to hear what you’re curious about and what questions you may have as a home chef, or as someone who is thinking about tipping a toe into the waters of culinary entrepreneurship. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to getting to know you.
Photo by Shawn Poynter