By Jamie Shafer
“Cooking is my happy place,” she said. Life in the kitchen has always been central for Tanorria. On her website she shares, “Growing up, my family was always the family who did the entertaining and the cooking. I got to witness, firsthand, how food can show love, compassion, unity, and fun.”
One day Tanorria received a Facebook message from a friend encouraging her to pursue MasterChef. Tanorria had come to the friend’s mind because they were making meatloaf on the episode.
“My friends say that my meatloaf is so good they want to rub it on their face,” Tanorria joked.
Leap of Faith
Tanorria admits that her first thought was that she couldn’t compete on the show, yet she was intrigued to study season 6. When a commercial popped up for auditions in Chicago, she was determined. Several things lined up in order to make the trip possible, including a friend who was able to provide her with an apartment within walking distance of the auditions.
Escorted by a couple of friends from church, she headed down the streets of Chicago wearing 5-inch pink stiletto heels and toting an insulated food container that was larger than a camping cooler. Her audition entree? Pan-seared salmon with maple bourbon sweet potato mash and zucchini. It was a hit.
Stepping up to the challenges presented by the show’s judges, Gordon Ramsay, Christina Tosi, and others, Tanorria blossomed under the pressure, exuding tenacity and peace. When asked about the judges, she describes Ramsay as “dreamy” and Tosi as “kind, encouraging, and blunt,” which she appreciated. During episode 2, Ramsay paid her a high compliment: “Young lady, that will go down in history as the best shrimp and grits, and you’ll be tough to beat.”
And she was, earning a spot among the top four contestants. Throughout the experience, Tanorria focused on bringing her best culinary skills and a peaceful spirit.
“I took my Bible with me and brought Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, and that is really what drove me every day.” She also spent time praying and journaling. “God had something to say to me every single day. It was, ‘Girl, I’ve got you. Girl, don’t worry about this. Just have joy. Or I am your peace.’”
Love Through Food
Before appearing on MasterChef, Tanorria worked at a credit union for almost 15 years. After the experience, she sensed it was time for the next step in her journey. Surprisingly, it was her church family at Mercy Road Church in Carmel, Indiana, that pushed her to pursue cooking as a passion. She serves as hospitality team leader, which means she is either coordinating or preparing food as it is needed.
“My church allowed me to do food when I wasn’t working my 9 to 5,” she shared. “I developed a sense of community with these people who pushed me to change my dreams. It helped me realize that my dreams didn’t have to be this typical 9 to 5. You grow up doing what you’re supposed to do. You go to school, you get good grades, you go to college, you get a good job, you develop a career. But I saw all of these people serving the Lord in these very unconventional ways. And for me, cooking was unconventional, based on my previous point of view. But I learned that you can show people Christ’s love through food!”
Showing love through food has taken shape in various ways, with the first being her business, Tanorria’s Table. She often says, “If you want to know who I am, have a seat at my table.”
Tanorria’s Table offers a broad range of services. From affordable, healthy freezer meals to cooking parties to personal chef services, she builds relationships through sharing her cooking passion. Busy families sometimes purchase freezer meals or those who want to help someone in need but don’t feel confident in their cooking skills. One appreciative client remarked, “You’re helping to keep us out of the drive-thru!” Her website also features a blog and tempting recipes.
Tanorria’s passion extends to changing the world through sharing Christ and food. She continues to serve at her church as well as partner with organizations that support and feed the homeless in Indianapolis, such as Food for Souls and Horizon House.
Her passions are summed up in Psalm 107:9, which she has tattooed on her wrist: “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”
Learn more at tanorriastable.com.
Jamie Shafer is a communications strategist for Fishhook Communications in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.