Local woman hopes to open healthy food restaurant downtown

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald   6/15/16

Vallejo native Tirzah Love is all about helping people eat healthy and enjoy it.

The Benicia resident is already a popular caterer with a growing clientele and now she’s trying to open an eatery in downtown Vallejo. She’ll call it Tirzah’s Kitchen, she said.

The deli inside 301 Georgia St. had to close when the operator was diagnosed with cancer, building owner Jim Barcewski said. He said he’s eager to have Chef Tirzah reopen the place.

“She has all the required licensing and is an active caterer,” he said. “She has experience and a lot of enthusiasm. She has the right energy and that’s why I chose her. My building has 90 offices and they keep bugging me to get the deli open again.”

Love said she has a Kickstarter campaign underway to raise the money needed to make the necessary changes to the site, hire help and put down a deposit, so she can realize this dream. She said she needs to come up with $20,000. As of Wednesday, she’d raised $3,400, with less than 30 days to go.

Being a healthy foods chef was not Love’s original plan for herself, she said, but was born out of love for her son.

“I was a fashion major in college and I have a degree in fashion marketing from Brooks College in Long Beach,” she said. “I started to focus on food after my son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I did some research and saw a link between autism and food and I started experimenting with adding and removing foods.”

Love said she found that packaged, processed foods were the main culprit, and started learning to create meals her family would enjoy that don’t include unhealthy ingredients.

“We eat a lot of organic foods, raw fruit and vegetables, and we’ve cut out dairy and gluten, because he’s allergic to those. He’s also allergic to dogs, cats and hazelnuts.”

The change in diet made a dramatic difference in her son’s behavior, she said.

“He’s 13, now, and was on the honor roll this year,” Love said. “He’s thriving. He’s a great kid.”

The healthy meals became the norm in the Love household, and when friends and relatives started tasting samples, she began getting requests for recipes, she said.

“People started saying I should become a caterer or open a food truck,” she said.

Following a bout with depression, a friend suggested she snap herself out of it by doing what she enjoyed most — cooking, Love said.

“We created a blog — Tirzah Poetry and Catering, and started posting pictures of what I was cooking, and then someone asked me to cater their wedding and I did, and it was exhilarating, and I’d found my passion.”

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So she “took a leap of faith” and quit her “day job” in the insurance industry and went into chefery full-time two years ago, Love said.

“The day I put in my notice, I got a winery in Green Valley as a client,” she said. “I’ve been chefing for them for two years.”

Through connections, she also became personal chef to three NBA players and their families.

She makes healthy to-go meals for members of her Benicia gym, the Training Loft, and delivers free to Vallejo and Benicia.

Love said she thinks a casual dining, healthy food option for people in downtown Vallejo is just what the doctor ordered. Here, she will offer salads, sandwiches, wraps and a couple of hot meal options, to-go meals and also prep for her catering jobs. There will be vegan and vegetarian options and she plans to work with Vallejo Together to find ways to help feed Vallejo’s homeless population, she said. She also envisions teaching cooking classes at the site, holding poetry nights and displaying the work of local artists.

“Food is like my art,” she said. “I like to switch it up. It’s not just for me, it’s for a better Vallejo.”

One of Love’s clients, Myka Sponslor, said she does “excellent work.”

“Great food. Healthy, organic. I love it. We need more of it. I can’t wait for the restaurant. I hope it happens. I will be a weekly customer without a doubt,” she said.

Longtime acquaintance Sallie Parkin said Love’s meatloaf and vegetables meal is “delicious,” and, so far, her favorite Chef Tirzah recipe. She said she sees Tirzah’s Kitchen as “something healthy that Vallejo really needs, considering all the fast food places we have. A place to pick up, or to deliver heathy food is great. To be able to go somewhere and get healthy organic food. Cooking classes, helping the homeless. All that in a person and a restaurant is amazing. She’s got such a vision. It’s against the grain of what Americans usually eat. She’s fulfilling a dream for the community as well as herself. It’s like what your mom always said, eat your vegetables. That’s what she’s trying to say. Eat your vegetables.”

Using only fresh, organic fruits and veggies and lean meats, the GMO-free, healthy recipes Love creates work for people with diabetes, gout, high blood pressure, MS and other chronic conditions, Love said.

“This is more rewarding than sitting at my desk, working on hospital contracts,” she said. “If I can help, it makes me feel good. This is my purpose, to help heal people through good food.”

To contribute to the kickstarter campaign, go to  www.kickstarter.com/projects/2029017481/tirzahs-kitchen

For information, call, 704-8323 or .