It's a family affair

It's a family affair

URBANA — There's soul food cooking in the kitchen, and the sisters are working quietly but efficiently.

Shrimp-and-chicken gumbo, a big plate of ribs, fish-and-fried-chicken combo ... Miranda Terhune brushes past her sister Lenoria working together in what ballet calls a pas de deux and the sisters call a lifetime of closeness.

They rarely speak a word as they cut, carve and carry dishes to the table.

From the kitchen, you can see that Fresh Ingredients is a good name for the restaurant and catering service at 1001 W. Killarney St., U, inside the Wyndham Garden Hotel.

The cavernous kitchen is full of fresh seafood and ingredients with an accent on Louisiana-style cuisine.

There's a side entrance that emphasizes that this is an eatery for the community, not just the folks at the hotel — a family concept that the Terhunes want to stress.

The Terhune family has at least three generations in the restaurant business.

Marcus Terhune has owned several places in the area; his father opened up Jim's Barbeque in Bloomington in 1969.

After 35 years as a successful chef, Marcus Terhune is now adviser to three daughters, Miranda, Lenoria and Jasmine Terhune, and their friend Dominisha Sayles.

Opened in February, the restaurant and catering business has an extensive menu with plenty of choices — including food you don't tend to find around here, like fried green tomatoes, frog legs and jambalaya.

Sayles, 28, who is the front person for the operation after meeting Marcus Terhune while working at another hotel, was an employee of an earlier Terhune food venture.

Fresh Ingredients has done a lot of catering, with an accent thus far on large church groups. Sayles says weddings and birthday parties have also been big for the new business.

Earlier, Marcus Terhune opened The Bayou in Monticello, which he said had rough going after 30 straight days below freezing and few customers who dared to go out.

Besides serving as an executive chef at the University of Illinois and a hotel chain, Marcus Terhune owned Bayou Express, a small Cajun-style eatery that opened in 2010 on Bloomington Road.

Elder daughter Miranda, 33, was head chef at Lincoln's Challenge, serving more than 400 people at some times, she said.

"I've been a cook since I was 17," said Miranda, who lives in Rantoul.

As they prepared the feast, Miranda talked about the dream of something that would bring everyone together.

"It's always been my father's dream to have us do something as a family," she said.

Culinary school graduate Lenoria Terhune, 24, who picked up some cooking tips from her mother as well, is working on a feast that includes gumbo, jambalaya, pork tenderloin and something the restaurant is becoming known for — fresh rolls.

"We bake all the bread fresh," Marcus Terhune said. "You don't have to go out of state to get a first-class dinner roll."

Jasmine Terhune, 26, said that watching her father over the years made owning Fresh Ingredients a dream for her.

She's a big fan of Louisiana-style cooking, a family tradition.

"It's something the community doesn't have much of," Marcus Terhune said. "What this area needs is a casual family place. We're putting a marquee up on the side entrance to let people know we're in the hotel, but we're also a community place. We want the people in the area to feel connected to us."

He said that people who come through the back entrance will experience the atmosphere of a small-town restaurant.

He said the hotel's new owners didn't want to be in the restaurant business, so when the large kitchen became available, it was a perfect match for his business — especially the catering part.

"We want this to be a steady, longtime business, and we're interested in catering to work sites, to make long-lasting connections," he said.

The family business is considering franchising down the road, Miranda Terhune said.

"With my wisdom and their youth, I think we've got a winning combination," Marcus Terhune said. "I think we're going to do great as a family."

A family recipe

A good soul-food meal just isn't complete without dessert. Marcus Terhune offers this dish for you to try yourself.

Sweet potato pie

Total time: 3 hours (1 hour, 40 minutes active).

3 frozen 8- or 9-inch pie crusts

4 pounds uncooked, unpeeled sweet potatoes

1 stick butter

1/2 cup finely granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)

3 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Hand-wash sweet potatoes. After a complete wash, boil until they are tender. Drain and allow to cool before peeling and mashing. Blend sweet potatoes in mixing bowl with blender to remove strings.

While cooking sweet potatoes, leave butter on counter to soften.

When potatoes are ready, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter with both sugars. Mix in blended sweet potatoes and continue to mix while adding eggs one at a time. Add milk, vanilla extract and nutmeg; mix thoroughly.

Pour mixture evenly over pie shells. Bake for 90 minutes at 350 degrees on center rack.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (3):Food, People, Restaurants