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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

From passion to paycheck: Tanorria Askew invites you to her table

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Carmel resident Tanorria Askew started her cooking journey at what she calls “The Culinary Institute of My Parents and Grandparents.” Now as a top nine contestant on the competitive cooking show MasterChef, she has come a long way from her humble beginnings.

The winner of MasterChef’s $250,000 prize has yet to be revealed, but Askew’s goals are much bigger than reality television fame.

Askew moved to Indiana when she was three years old. A graduate of Lawrence Central High School and IUPUI, she has fond memories of cooking with friends and family as a child and young adult. Her elders taught her that cooking was a tool that could be used to show love and compassion to others.

“My family was known as the people who entertained. If someone was sick or shut in we would end up bringing them a meal. Growing up I was always picking green beans with my grandmother or stirring cake batter,” Askew said.

As an adult, she spent 15 years working at a local credit union. She loved her job and was moving up the ranks in her career. Despite this, she still felt a pull to venture into cooking full time.

“When you’ve got the urge to do something, no matter what that is, at some point you have to take that step. I knew food was what I was meant to do. I had a conversation with God and I was like, if I’m gonna do this I’m gonna make something out of it.”

Askew launched Tanorria’s Table, where she offers her culinary expertise to families in a variety of ways such as hosting cooking parties and crafting meals as a personal chef.

“Everything I offer is custom to you. It’s all about building a relationship. I find out what people like and don’t like and I walk you through a three course or four course meal. It could be for a girls night in, a couples night or a birthday.”

What started as a five-year plan to transition her cooking business into her full-time career accelerated abruptly when her friends convinced her to take a trip to Chicago to audition for MasterChef.

“It was like a whirlwind after that. I made myself a list of goals in order of importance. Goal number one was obviously to win, but I also had to find a cute boy and make the top 10 on my list. It felt good to check top 10 off the list in my journal.”

Askew attributes a huge part of her success to her willingness to take a chance, but also feels taking risks doesn’t come naturally to her. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she says that she takes very little risks to make sure every move she makes is calculated.

“I had it on my heart for the past five years to make a change in my career, but I only believed in myself for the past three years. For a while I didn’t believe making a living through food was possible for me. A big part of those five years were me being chicken.”

Since taking a risk she has had tremendous success with MasterChef and Tanorria’s Table. Chef Gordon Ramsay particularly favored her shrimp and grits recipe, saying her rendition of the popular dish would go down in history as the best.

She has advice for others who want to turn their passion into a paycheck.

“I learned that the most important thing you can do is get the heck over your fears. Be strategic. Find out what your niche is and think about why you want to do what you want to do. My ultimate goal is to show love and build community through food, and the best way to start doing that is by building relationships with people.”

Tanorria’s Table offers cooking parties, freezer meals, personal chef service and meal plans. For more information visit tanorriastable.com.

The next MasterChef episode will air Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central time after a two-week hiatus for the Olympics.

Tanorria’s MasterChef Shrimp and Grits

Grits

3 c Polenta

1 c Milk

3 c Chicken Stock 1/2 c Butter

1 Tb Salt

1/2 c Heavy Cream

Shrimp

1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 lb Andouille, sliced

1/2 c Green Bell Pepper, chopped

1/2 c Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1/4 c Onion, chopped

2 cloves Garlic minced

1 lb 21/30 ct Shrimp, peeled and deveined (tail on optional)

1 Tbs Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 Lemon, tested and juiced

1 c Chicken Stock or White Wine

1/4 c Heavy Cream

3 Tbs chives

Okra

Okra, sliced

1 c Buttermilk

1 c Cornmeal

1 c AP Flour

1/4 c Corn Starch Canola Oil

INSTRUCTIONS: Heat medium pot to high heat. Add chicken stock, milk, salt and butter. Let come to a boil. Quickly whisk in polenta and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer until thick while stirring occasionally. Finish with heavy cream. While polenta is simmering, heat skillet to medium heat. Cut andouille and add to skillet. While andouille is browning, cut peppers, garlic, onions, and chives. Remove andouille from skillet with slotted spoon. Add peppers, onions, and garlic to the same skillet. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then season with Old Bay and smoked paprika. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then squeeze in lemon juice. Pour in chicken stock and let simmer 2-3 minutes. Add heavy cream, then add shrimp and cook until it is just starting to turn pink. In a medium pot, add canola oil and heat to medium-high heat. Soak okra in buttermilk for 1 minute. Remove from buttermilk and drain slightly. Coat with cornmeal mixture. Shake off excess cornmeal and place okra into hot oil. Cook until browned and remove from heat with a slotted spoon. Season with salt. Garnish completed dish with chives.

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