‘Taste the Difference’ Offers Eclectic Food for the Soul

‘Taste the Difference’ Offers Eclectic Food for the Soul

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. --  It’s a family affair at Taste the Difference Take Out and Catering.

Last April, Terri Davis partnered with her daughter and son-in-law, Nicole and Billy Miller, to open the takeout soul food restaurant at 307 Old York Road in Jenkintown.

The restaurant, which is open from 12 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, also serves as the site where Davis turns out fare for weddings, showers, anniversaries and special events.

Taste the Difference’s takeout menu boasts a selection of soul food including fried chicken wings, fried whiting, beer-battered catfish fingers, Memphis-style ribs which are accompanied by cornbread and side dishes such as collard greens, string beans, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato soufflé, and red beans and rice made with smoked beef sausage.

Davis said the soul food aspect of the business evolved after they opened the restaurant.

“We had to figure out what we were going to do once we moved into this space because there are many restaurants in this area. It’s like restaurant row and we didn’t want to compete with them and we wanted at the same time to be able to carve our own niche,” said Davis, who is a board member of the Jenkintown Community Alliance.

The storefront restaurant is decorated in earth tones to create a warm, welcoming environment for customers.

While soul food is available for take out, Taste the Difference offers a vast array of customizable menus for weddings, corporate and special events. Among their signature offerings is the martini potato bar, where guests can choose to top garlic mashed or sweet potatoes served in a martini glass with chicken Marsala or seafood Newburg and other fixings.

“You literally have an entree in a glass,” said Davis, who has almost 20 years of experience in the catering and food service sector.

Becoming a managing partner of Taste the Difference signifies Billy Miller’s first foray into the realm of catering. Miller, who has a background in advertising, public relations and politics, has been instrumental in expanding the catering business into other sectors.

“She always cooks for the love. You can taste the love and the creativity,” Miller said of his mother-in-law’s culinary aptitude.

“I wanted to bring the tasty food that she does into the world of politics, which I thought was a natural marriage.”

“The business is challenging to say the least,” said Miller, who is Seth Williams’ political director.

“Dealing with food and dealing with catering is a totally different world. It’s a great feeling when you pull it off. It’s such a sense of great accomplishment.”

Davis admits she never set out to pursue a career in cooking.

“It was not my desire,” Davis said. “I just found myself in it and I found myself being really good at it and now it’s my passion. It’s my love. It’s my life.”

Now she’s looking forward to passing on her love for cooking to the younger generation. Davis anticipates her 11-year-old granddaughter may grow up to be a chef since she has expressed an interest in cooking and the workings of the catering business.

Davis initially started the business in 2005 with another chef, Sue Fields. She started out as a home-based entrepreneur that catered lunches for pharmaceutical representatives and doctors. After Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown started using Taste the Difference’s catering service in 2006, the business’ reputation started to grow throughout Philadelphia. Working with Brown represented the caterers’ first venture into new sector of business.

“She opened a lot of doors for us because no one had never heard of us since we were out here,” said Davis, who hails from Upper Dublin.

Councilwoman Reynolds Brown has utilized Taste the Difference for a number of events, including the annual senior citizens tour of City Hall.

“They’re consistent in the delivery of their service. They’re on time. I appreciate caters who give some attention to healthy menu selections for persons who are hiring them and they have some roasted vegetables that are out of this world,” Brown said of the catering service.

“They adapt to whatever our budget is. They will work within your budget, which is important.”

Taste a Difference has fared well despite the current state of the economy. Davis said this is due to many companies downsizing and electing to host smaller corporate parties instead of going to large banquet facilities or hotels for large-scale events.

The catering business serves as the training ground for culinary interns from The Restaurant School and the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Davis prides herself on ensuring that interns have a real hands-on learning experience while in her kitchen.

Taste the Difference also provides a venue for home-based retailers to display their wares. The shop is currently featuring a line of pickles, peanut brittles, nuts and desserts from A Little Taste of Tennessee, Inc.

“I wanted to provide an environment for other people who have been working out of their home to do something because I know how hard it’s been for me to find a space and to get my name out there,” Davis said.

“I believe that with everything you do, you’ve got to turn around, look back and grab somebody’s hand and by doing that you keep moving forward.”

Looking forward, the business partners are considering the possibility of bringing a second location to the suburbs by 2012.

“My vision for this business is to grow and expand but not to become a one of those huge catering houses because I never want this be about the business, I want it to be about the customer and when it stays about the customer, you don’t have to worry about the business,” Davis said.

“I want people to always walk away saying ‘wow that food was so good.’ I have found that a lot of time people lose something when it’s just about the business. It’s got to be about the food and the people.”