Former teacher uses catering business to bless others
WRITTEN BY JOHN FEW
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSHUA BERRY
Forever Grateful is not just the name of Madison’s newest catering and food truck company; it might be the perfect way to describe owner Lisa Grice. Equipped with a deep family heritage in New Orleans and county-style cooking, along with a passion for blessing others, Grice has been delighting the tastebuds of everyone who samples one of her culinary creations.
Forever Grateful Authentic Nawlins Food and Lagniappe provides food services including personal chef, catering, meal prep and delivery for all. “Our food is prepared with an authentic “Nawlins,” Creole, Cajun, Southern taste, full of spices and flavor,” Grice said. With such dishes as chicken, sausage and shrimp gumbo, red beans and rice, fried fish and pork chops, smothered chicken and rice, green beans with smoked turkey, cabbage and collard greens, it’s easy to see how Forever Grateful has become widely popular. Top that off with Grice’s homemade banana pudding –made from her momma’s recipe –or her eggnog bread pudding with pecans and rum sauce, and it’s enough to tempt anyone who has a taste for good Southern food.
For 14 years as an educator in the Madison City Schools system, Grice was passionate about her love of teaching and dedication to her students at Columbia Elementary School. She has been passionate in her desire to bless others through her God-given natural ability to create Southern masterpieces in the kitchen. Most of all, Grice said she has been passionate about her faith and devotion to God.
It was a leap of faith for Grice to leave her job as the assistant principal at Columbia Elementary School in July 2018 to purse her passion for cooking. She had been a fifth-grade teacher at the school until 2016, when she became an administrator after going back to school herself. “For me to leave the school system, for me to leave my students –it had to be a higher power,” she said. “I just felt God was leading me to a different assignment.”
“It wasn’t a good bye, it was a ‘see you later.’ I know I will be tied in with education in some capacity, but I don’t know what just yet,” she added.
Grice said it took that strong faith to embark on such an adventure. “I even signed up for an event that required a food truck in order to participate,” she said. “I signed up for it out of faith. A week before the event, I got a call from a lady who was in the food business as well. She had just found out there was a guy that had started leasing his food trucks out. I leased the truck and had no idea what I was doing, but I did it.” After that experience, Grice created her company, Forever Grateful. “It’s named this because I am so grateful God has put me in a position to do what I am passionate about and where I can be a blessing to people,” she said. “The doors have just been opening for us. There have been so many opportunities for us to be a blessing to people through our food.”
Last month, Grice participated in the Taste of Huntsville, an event supporting the Downtown Rescue Mission and Kids to Love. While there, she entered one of her favorite dishes –the chicken, sausage and shrimp gumbo –into a contest for the best quick entrée dish. It won first place.
“During the event a woman came up to our booth and said, ‘I remember you, but you might not remember me. It was your very first food truck experience. Do you have some of that bread pudding?’ I said,‘Ma’am, you know what? I do have a pan back here. Can you come back, and I’ll get it ready?’ She came back bringing other people with her, telling them, ‘This is the one. She had that great bread pudding,’” Grice said. “They all had some of the bread pudding and banana pudding and just hung out for a while. It reminded me how grateful I am –how blessed I am.”
Grice was born and grew up in New Orleans with the Creole influence around her, but she said her mother was predominately a good country cook. “She is a country girl,” Grice said. “I got the best of both worlds. We would eat Louisiana food but also a lot of country cooking. My mom would make homemade cornbread and collard greens, cabbage and smothered chicken and pork chops and wild game –you name it. I learned how to shuck peas. and Daddy would bring home a big ice chest of fish for us to clean … Mom would always cook it country, but at the same time, she knew how to put that twist to it to where it had that New Orleans flavor. My mom would take black pepper and salt, and maybe some onions, and cook collard greens in way that made you wonder what it in the world made it taste so good. She had her little secrets that she passed down.”
Grice’s aunts and sisters are New Orleans cooks as well, and she married into a family with great cooks to learn from. It is that influence that has shaped her own creations she offers through Forever Grateful. “Within our family, we all enjoy cooking with those amazing New Orleans flavors,” she said. “It’s all New Orleans style, but I got that soul food, country girl bonus.”
With the weather changing, Grice said she is going to start making a sopping peach sauce. “I take peaches and do something special with it, and you eat it with biscuits. We sop up the juices of thosepeaches with the biscuits,” she explained. “Everyone has heard of a peach cobbler, but once you get a hold of that sopping peach sauce with biscuits –mmm, it’s so, so good.”
She also takes pride in her New Orleans breakfast with cheese, grits and the NewOrleans hot sausage, as well her po-boys. “On our po-boys I only use New Orleans bread,” Grice said. “We have a fried catfish po-boy, fried shrimp and a roast beef po-boy. We have a hot sausage po-boy with sausage that comes straight from New Orleans.
“You name it, we can cook it,” she added. “What haven’t we cooked?”
Grice posts weekly, and sometimes daily, updates on Facebook where she will be located with the food truck. “We are currently looking for a place off Redstone Arsenal where more people can access our food truck. Madison Hospital has allowed our food truck to set up there before with great success,” she said. “From the moment we opened the window to the very end, we sold so much food. The banana pudding went in record time.”
When serving as a personal chef, “I talk with the clients and see what they like and don’t like, and then from there I purchase all the ingredients and all of my pots, pans and utensils and prepare the meal in their home,” Grice said. “I pack everything up, clean the kitchen, and then I leave. So, the meal is there, and so is the smell from it being prepared. You are in the comfort of your home, and you don’t have to clean up.”
Regardless of whether it’s through her services on the food truck, catering or meal preparations, Grice said clients might find a little surprise waiting. “You never know what you get because our tag-line is Authentic Nawlins Food and Lagniappe, and that lagniappe is that something extra good that you don’t expect,” Grice said. “It might be an extra piece of fish or something, or if God puts it on our hearts that the person ordering is having a rough day that day, I get off that truck, pull off my gloves and go out there and hug them. It’s whatever God lays on my heart to do … It’s a part of being able to serve and bless people. I never want them to be the same once they come to our truck or if we cater an event for them.”
Grice is also impacting lives through the people who work with her on her food truck. She has been inviting many of her former students who are now older to work with her. “If they will call me and let me know, I will hire them to work. That has been a blessing,” she said. “They get to spend some time on the truck working, and I get to talk to them and listen. I’m still ‘Momma Grice,’ but at the same time, they respect me enough to where they just pour their hearts out to me. I do believe soon that something will happen to merge my two passions together –teaching and food.”
Grice said she is especially blessed by the support she receives from her husband. They have two daughters and a 2-year-old granddaughter. “I don’t know God’s whole plan, but I do know he has given me an opportunity to impact more lives, and I am going to take and do it to the best of my ability –of course, with his help. I am forever grateful,” Grice said.
Find out more by going to www.forevergrateful613.com and by following Forever Grateful on Facebook. Grice can be reached at 256-274-1491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.