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Oasis Newsfeatures

The Kitchen Scientist

Tara Hayes

"You'll never really learn how to cook simply by replicating recipes. Learning the science behind the food makes one a better, more confident cook. Exploring new foods is the key to learning about the world we live in. Why limit your mind and your tasebuds when there are so many intriguing foods and flavors to experience?" - Tara Hayes

This is the food philosophy of Tara Hayes, The Kitchen Scientist. Her philosophy is deeply rooted in her native Mississippi.

Mississippi is a land of opposites. In many ways the state still rolls to the slow 19th century rhythm of the river, the mighty, muddy Mississippi for which the state derives its identity. Yet it's cities - Jackson, Tupelo, Biloxi, are teeming with the vibrancy of the 21st century. Warm sun-soaked summers of heavy, sticky air gradually give way
to pleasant, placid winters. Noted author James Cobb describes Mississippi as "the most southern place on earth." And with this status comes a culture of it's own, with a distinct history, culture, and cuisine.

Tara Hayes is symbolic of such opposites. The daughter of an air force recruiter father and a school-teacher mother, Tara moved around a lot as a child, but eventually found her way back to Mississippi where her roots run deep. If cooking was to be a career for Tara, you couldn't tell early on. As a child, she showed little interest in the kitchen. She preferred scampering around her grandmother's farmstead in Morton, Mississippi, climbing trees and catching tadpoles. Tara's maternal grandmother raised 10 children, on the lean years of the post-Great Depression South with simple but nourishing recipes.

"Everything she touched was magic," Tara says of her grandmother's culinary skills. Taras grandmother, typical of many women of the time and era, cooked by feel and instinct. She whipped up mouth-melting meals of cornbread, fried corn, jarred preserves, hog head cheese and teacakes. The romance of these meals would one day lead Tara back to the kitchen.

Tara didn't learn how to cook until after college and in graduate school, newly married, and tired of eating sandwiches. Six years later, she is an honor graduate of a cooking program, and helps to teach others about food. Not bad for a tom-boy who was never allowed in the kitchen.

Tara has a master's in plant and soil science, a bachelor's in biology, an associate's in hotel/restaurant management, as well as an associate's in the culinary arts. She gained cooking experience as a short order cook, assistant pastry chef at an artisan bakery, and as a test-kitchen assistant in a food research and development facility. Tara now resides in Natchez with her husband.

We hope you enjoy this website and take the time to enjoy a fascinating culinary journey.