Tamara Wise’s kitchen emits delicious, tantalizing, inviting aromas every hour of the day. Depending on the event or occasion, she is preparing food to serve. Whether grating garlic, sautéing shrimp, roasting peppers, drizzling salad dressing, or creating magic on a cake plate or stand or cookie sheet, she performs each step effortlessly. Cooking to her is almost like breathing.
“I have a hard time following recipes,” Tamara says and smiles. “In fact, I’m not good at it at all. I like adding in spices and flavors to suit my taste and what my friends and family like.”
Of course, each dish she prepares is stirred, baked or roasted with a loving spirit and served with her open, giving heart. The most important recipients of her creations are her husband, Bart, of 27 years and two children, Jonathan, 20, and Jordyn, 24.
“I actually met Bart when I was working for the Overland Park Marriott,” she says. “One of my employees introduced us when they invited me over for dinner.”
It makes sense that they met over food. Tamara earned her degree in Restaurant Management from the Culinary School at Metropolitan Community College in the early ‘80s. Her interest in food began when she and friends went out to eat. She decided, “Hmmmm….I could make this.”
She went home and tried to emulate the flavor, and obviously her end result was tastier.
The idea to go to college came after she worked as administrative assistant at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which did not suit her at all.
One of her professors was a chef for Eddie’s Catering, so she worked for him and was also a line cook at Adams Mark Hotel, which helped pay her bills through college. She then went to work at the Marriott on the Plaza, then Overland Park Marriott, where she held the roles of assistant night manager, front desk manager, and housekeeping manager.
Dipping her toe into hospitality exposed her to details of how large amounts of food were prepared.
“I went to work at Houlihan’s corporate office and was part of their big layoff, and that is when I decided to begin cooking at home,” she says. “Bart got to experience some of my early attempts, and some didn’t turn out so good, like the beef tips I tried one time, and afterward he asked me to please not make that again.”
She is quite humble, and everyone who has been lucky enough to savor her culinary masterpieces would concur that heaven hits the tongue each time. She shares her food for an annual New Year’s Day brunch with countless friends, and through the year organizes weddings, birthdays, baby showers and more.
“We have had friends’ weddings in our backyard, and I once made a wedding cake that looked like a tree stump!” she says.
She remodeled her kitchen in 2012, adding an industrial sink with extra faucet to fill pots; an island with yet another sink and cooking space; a professional-size refrigerator to hold countless ingredients; and a pantry to stock the variety of olive oils and such that she needs on hand at any given moment.
In this space, she drinks her coffee, and dreams. Whether it’s preparing breakfast sandwiches for the VFW, chili for the Elks Lodge, food for a day on a friend’s boat on nearby Lake Lotawana, or camping in their fifth-wheel camper, her relationship with food has created a close-knit family beyond the table. Isn’t that what breaking bread is all about?
Roasted Hatch Chile Shrimp Sauté
Tamera shares a recipe that is sure to entice the taste buds. Enjoy!
- 6 large Hatch chile peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
- 3 Tbsp. water
- 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- 1 lb. medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
Place all of the above ingredients (except shrimp) into food processor and blend until smooth.
Place shrimp in container with lid. Pour marinade over shrimp; mix and place in refrigerator three hours or overnight. Coat large sauté pan with grapeseed oil over high heat. Place a single layer of shrimp into sauté pan, sprinkle with sea salt, cook for two to three minutes per side.
- 1 c. white quinoa (rinsed and drained)
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
Combine all ingredients in 2-quart pan. Cook 10-12 minutes.
- 1 bunch baby spinach (washed and dried)
- 1 clamshell of strawberries, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. pomegranate pearls
- 2 Tbsp. toasted sliced almonds
- ½ c. olive oil
- ¼ c. Banyuls wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together and pour over spinach salad.