Savor the Untamed Flavor

Untamed Chef is a restaurant/take-and-bake/interactive cooking experience rolled up in one

Rebecca Hearn with customers in the kitchen at Untamed Chef

Preparing meals for family and friends has always provided comfort and joy to Rebecca Hearn. As a child, she and her aunt would spend entire days planning and prepping family feasts. “This is where my passion for cooking began,” she explains. She attended culinary arts school in the early 2000s, and later pursued a business degree and went to work at Caterpillar, where she stayed for 14 years. 

But Hearn always dreamed of owning a restaurant, and in February 2018, she and her husband Bryce opened Untamed Chef—a restaurant/take-and-bake/interactive cooking experience rolled up in one. Her travels to Asia and the Middle East inspired many of her dishes, which she passes on to customers along with her motto: “Savor the untamed flavor.” 

As head chef, Hearn helps her customers explore cooking techniques in a fun, participatory atmosphere, while challenging them to step out of their comfort zones. “I enjoy giving them the stepping stones to go beyond where they might have expected their culinary skills to take them,” she explains. “Our customers have repeatedly told us how at home and comfortable they feel creating meals with us.”

But you don’t have to cook when you visit—many people simply relax while Hearn prepares their meal, while others choose from an array of take-and-bake options. “These are becoming very popular for busy families that need a little help creating healthy and flavorful meals,” she adds. Untamed Chef also offers private classes and events, catering, delivery and more. Located at 7338 N. University Street in Peoria, it is open seven days a week. untamedchefcooking.com

This article originally appeared in Peoria Magazine.

The Sweet (& Tangy) Taste of Success

For as long as she can remember, Brenda Lovingood has been making barbecue sauce for family and friends, slathering it on chicken wings, pork and meatballs. She had toyed with the idea of selling her homemade sauce for more than a decade, but life always got in the way. Both she and her husband Tony had full-time jobs and were busy raising their 11 children, while running a catering business on the side. “It always got put on the backburner,” Brenda recalls, “until one day I just decided I was going to do it.” 

That day finally arrived in 2016 after she attended the Women in Business Success Conference organized by Doris Symonds, who had been encouraging her to bottle her sauce for years. “It was like a one-stop shop,” Brenda says of the conference, where she gathered information about marketing and finances. “It was also the kick I needed to get going.” In addition, she and Tony met with Kevin Evans, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bradley University, who helped them strategize their objectives and establish the business. 

Converting the Masses
Lovingood Foods was formed in July of 2016, and within two years, the couple was selling cases of their barbecue sauce to local and regional stores including Hy-Vee, Alwan & Sons Meat Company, Save-A-Lot, and Haddad’s. “We literally walked into stores with a sample tray so they could taste the product,” Brenda says, and their hands-on tactic worked. They now drive to King’s Food Products in Belleville, Illinois—where the sauce is produced in large quantities—every three weeks to pick up cases for delivery. Read the rest of the article here.

Breathing Life into an Historic Building

When Raphael and Katie Couri Rodolfi purchased the F. Meyer Block Building on Adams Street in 2017, they acquired a little slice of Peoria history. Built in 1885 as Meyer Hardware, the structure has seen its share of tenants over nearly 135 years, weathering economies good and bad. Having set up their own ventures in the building—alongside a pair of other businesses—the Rodolfis are in it for the long haul.

The entrepreneurial couple has longed to open shop in Peoria, initially setting their sights on finding a location along West Main Street near their home. When they couldn’t find the right space for their needs, they expanded their search to the Warehouse District.

“We really liked everything that was happening down here. The city had redone the streets, making it more pedestrian-friendly. Sugar [Wood-Fired Bistro] was established and Zion [Coffee Bar] was moving in,” Katie recalls. “So all of that felt more like ‘city life.’ We lived in Chicago for a number of years, and Paris on and off, so we appreciate pedestrian-friendly cities and all the joy that can come with that.”

The addition of rehabbed loft apartments within walking distance—including Cooperage 214, Winkler Lofts and Persimmon Lofts—also sealed their resolve to put their roots downtown. Shortly after purchasing the building, Raphael moved his video production company, Videogenique, into one of the open office spaces. “The structure has a lot of character, which is 100 percent what we love about it,” he explains. While his large, open space on the first floor remains largely unchanged, he quickly went to work updating the other spaces to accommodate potential tenants. “We made mostly cosmetic changes like painting, tearing out old carpet and replacing acoustic ceiling tiles with metal tiles. It made a huge difference.”

Read the rest here.