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Culinary Calling

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Complete nutrition is always on the menu for personal chef Gwen Huffman.

NOLMHuffmanEDITSome of us are lucky enough to know what we want to do from an early age. Personal chef Gwen Huffman is one of these fortunate few. “I became interested in cooking when I was a child, actually,” she says. “When I got married, I had three sons. I was a stay-at-home mom and just loved cooking.”

Hundreds of home-cooked meals later, her lifelong enthusiasm for the kitchen spurred Huffman to learn more. “I decided to start taking classes at Delgado [Community College],” she says. “I took several cooking and catering classes at Delgado in the evenings, and started a catering company in 2002 with a cousin.” The company was called Bon Vivant Catering; when the partners parted ways, Huffman set out to make the cooking experience more personal for her clients. “We split, and I decided to do my own thing as a personal chef,” she says. “I’ve been doing that since — and cooking for families, children, people with health issues, athletes.”

She founded Foodtique in 2008, offering her culinary services to anyone who wants to eat better but may not have time to cook. Clients can choose from different menus or create their own, and they receive neatly labeled, delicious dishes that can be easily reheated. “Most people just want to eat healthy meals,” Huffman says. “I cook their meals, and I package them up, and, when they get home from their busy day, all they have to do is heat them up and enjoy them.” Bonus: She also takes care of the dishes.

The chef particularly enjoys working with clients who have dietary restrictions or special nutritional requirements. “I’ve gotten into this niche of cooking for people with particular needs,” she says. “My clients have the option of choosing their own menus, and I have some that have health restrictions or dietary restrictions from their doctors.” She’s recently noticed an up tick in the number of clients eating gluten-free and Paleo diets.

Huffman also cooks for local athletes, including New Orleans Saints players Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks. “I was watching a Saints game with some friends and family, and Mark Ingram was doing particularly well,” she recalls.

“They were all joking, ‘I don’t know what you’re feeding him, but I’d love to get some of that!’” Ingram has told her she’s the “‘fuel that feeds the body,’” she says. “I can’t take credit for it, but it is fun.”

Huffman’s business offers her plenty of chances to connect with her clients, which she says is one of the best parts of the job. “I love what I do,” she says. “I love working with different people; meeting people from all walks of life. I’ve been working for some families for years, and I get close to the children and watch them grow up.”

She often cooks multiple meals per day, visiting Whole Foods and other markets to pick up fresh ingredients prior to arriving at her clients’ homes. Lately, she’s been considering how to grow her business, while maintaining the personal touch that makes Foodtique unique. “I work as a personal chef, so I cater to people’s personal needs,” she says. “So, doing that, I can only have a set number of clients. But I have been thinking of expanding and growing my business to serve more people with the same needs.” foodtiquenola.com