UNION — The opening of her restaurant “This-N-That Country Cooking” is proof to Tai Rice that if you dedicate yourself to hard work and putting God first a person can turn their life around and make their dreams come true.
Located at 719 North Duncan Bypass, Suite J, in Union Square Shopping Mall next to the old Union Square Cinemas, This-N-That Country Cooking opened its doors for the first time on Saturday, serving up a breakfast buffet that included bacon, sausage, salmon patties, grits, scrambled eggs, omelets, pancakes, hash browns, and “homemade biscuits made from scratch” as well as coffee, tea, orange juice, and strawberry lemonade.
The restaurant is owned by Taiwanna “Tai” Rice and is very much a family affair as, in addition to herself, the staff includes her husband, Joey Rice; daughter, Jameesha Peake; son, Edwin Kershaw; stepsons, Jamichael Owings and Javyon Rice; and aunt, Joann Spears.
While she has been cooking all of her life and has worked in the food industry for a number of years, Rice said this is the first restaurant she has ever actually owned.
“I’ve always loved cooking, I grew up with my grandparents in the country and I’ve been cooking since I was a child,” Rice said. “I went to school to become a chef; graduated from culinary school; got certified by the National Restaurant Association in Food and Safety Management. I’ve been a manager at several restaurants like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway, but I’ve never owned one.”
Rice said that owning her own restaurant is not only a dream come true but the latest in a series of achievements that began when she decided to turn what had been a troubled life around.
“Basically, I was raised up in the home of my grandmother who died when I was very young,” Rice said. “I spent some time in a home for girls and as a teenager and a young adult I got into a little bit of trouble. I had a child at a very young age and I quit school.”
Like so many troubled young people, Rice appeared to be on a path to nowhere, but that all began to change when she decided to change the direction of her life and began taking steps to do so.
“At age 25 I decided to change my life around,” Rice said. “I went back to school and got a high school diploma at age 25. From there I went to Virginia College and got a degree in Business Management, a license in Cosmetology, and became an ordained minister in Atlanta, Ga., where I lived for some years. I came back to Union where I ran a salon on Main Street called ‘Taiwanna’s Designer Images’ for many years.”
Rice added that she got her culinary degree from the “Butterfly Foundation,” which she described as a school for students with a troubled past. The skills she learned there would be put to use during her years working at other restaurants and are now being put to use in her own restaurant.
Open from 6:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday for breakfast, This-N-That Country Cooking is open Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. offering diners a menu that changes from week to week.
“We change it up every week,” Rice said. “We have fried chicken, our famous macaroni and cheese, and other side dishes like pinto beans, collard greens, cornbread, potato salad, yams, and different desserts including a variety of cakes, and ice cream sundaes.”
At the present time, This-N-That Country Cooking is open only on Saturday and Sunday, but Rice said plans are to expand the days of operation in the very near future.
“In two weeks we will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” Rice said. “Thursday night will be Wings Night, we’ll be selling different flavored wings. We’ll also have a salad bar, hot dog plates, cheeseburger plates, hamburger steak plates, taco salad, and ribs with my famous Tai Sauce on the side.”
Friday Night will be Seafood Night which will feature seafood dishes and there will also be a “Caribbean Night” which Rice said will feature Caribbean-style foods such as “Jerk Chicken and Ox Tails Beans and Rice.”
Owning her own restaurant is a dream come true for Rice, one that might have seem far beyond reach earlier in her life, but she said her experience has taught her that nothing is impossible if someone is willing to make the commitment, not only to realize a dream, but to change their lives in order to do so.
“People can change and you can do and be anything you want if you are willing work hard and put the Lord first.”
For more information about This-N-That County Cooking call 864-251-2180.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.