Back in November I got a new follower on Twitter who piqued my interest. Her name was Amanda Varnell and her website was http://dishtpass.com. I was intrigued by the domain name and decided to do a little investigation…and discovered that Dish T’Pass was the name of a catering company and soon-to-be-cooking-school in Chattanooga. How had I not heard of this before? I sent Amanda a direct message and we decided that it was imperative that we get together for a chat. I headed down to their location on 6th Street that weekend (Small Business Saturday, to be exact) with my camera in tow.
Sarah Hooper, Amanda’s business partner, was not there when I was visiting, but Amanda was kind enough to give me the rundown of exactly what it was they were trying to do. Dish T’Pass began as CookingLIVE, a catering & cooking instruction operation that Amanda started in 2006 and Sarah joined a little later down the road. After several doors of opportunity shut, it became apparent that the proverbial window had been opened at the former location of the St. Barnabas nursing home, which was being turned into the Chattanooga WorkSpace-a space for local artists. Food is art, of course, and Amanda and Sarah immediately fell in love with the well-worn kitchen, seeing beyond the ceiling caked with grease from years of use and the industrial-sized fryer to see the potential of a space that, it turns out, was perfect for their dream to become a reality (I took “before” pictures but they did not turn out well).
Dish T’Pass opened for business in this location in December 2012. Because of all the construction in the WorkSpace, they couldn’t immediately begin offering cooking classes…but this provided the perfect opportunity for them to really begin expanding their catering business. They have built up a sizable clientele among the downtown lunch crowd, with several offices coming to them again and again for their fabulous boxed lunches, which include amazing sandwiches (made on Bread Basket bread), chips, fruit, a scratch-made cookie, and a drink.
Eventually they were able to open their space up to begin serving lunch from each day, including sandwiches, salads, and a hot option. They do their best to accommodate their customers special requests, something that they are, as moms, used to doing. The food that they serve is made from scratch, with love, and Amanda and Sarah are determined that while they want their business to grow, they never want to get to the point where the quantity affects the quality of the food they are able to provide.
A very attractive feature of Dish T’Pass is their FoodLove case. Teeming with small, single-serving items like Coke products, fruit, and Greek yogurt as well as family-sized servings of stuffed peppers, “Olive You” bread, baked potato halves, and take & bake cookie dough (made in-house, of course), the FoodLove case was a study in resistance for me. I already had dinner planned but so badly wanted to bring home some of their smoky chicken salad or maybe some of their bacony pimento cheese for dinner. I did not do so that day, but I plan on going back for lunch very soon and will probably be bringing home a few things from the case when I do.
Since construction has slowed on their building and they have firmly established their catering business, lunch service, and grab-and-go case, Amanda and Sarah started in May focusing on building their cooking school. They have a variety of classes on the schedule, including a grilling workshop, a kids’ camp series, and several teen classes. Their classes geared toward kids and teens are meant to be fun but also provide real, functional skills that can be applied to getting an actual meal on the table. And guess what!?! Yours truly may be teaching a food photography class soon!
Dish T’Pass has been a true labor of love for these ladies and when you talk to them about it you can sense that this place is a part of them.
It’s truly the fulfillment of their dream. From their beautiful logo and the handwritten chalkboard calendar in the kitchen to the floral table runners and the scratch-made items in the FoodLove case, Amanda and Sarah have thought out every detail of this space, this menu, this business…and it shows.
Dish T’Pass is located at 302 W. 6th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 (in the Chattanooga WorkSpace building and former location of St. Barnabas). They are located toward the back of the building on the side and have their own separate entrance as well as some parking spaces allotted for them. You can call them at 423-309-5353 or email for more info at Foodlove@dishtpass.com. You can read more about Amanda and Sarah, check out their class schedule, and find out details about their catering services, menu, and boxed lunches at their website, http://www.dishtpass.com. You can “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Pinterest.