Taziki’s Keith Richards

Taziki’s Keith Richards

Jesus, Others and Yourself: Taziki’s Keith Richards

Keith Richards began his restaurant career cooking chicken in a K-Mart kitchen and waiting tables at Olive Garden. Today he serves as Chief Development Officer for Taziki’s, which he founded in 1998 with an original location off Highway 280 in Birmingham.

After a vacation to Greece in 1997, Keith Richards was inspired to recreate the same richness of community he experienced there in his home town of Birmingham. Opening his first Taziki’s restaurant in 1998 was a leap of faith quickly bolstered by the idea of giving back. Now with locations in 17 different states, Richards reflects on how his Christian upbringing contributed to his drive to succeed and his commitment to employing and inspiring special needs teens and young adults in the communities he serves.

Growing Up in Birmingham. An alumnus of Green Acres Elementary, Charles A. Brown Middle School, and Midfield High School, Richards grew up in Ensley and says his strongest memories of childhood involve being outdoors. “Back then, of course, we had no devices that would distract us,” he remembers. “We had an area called The Trails where we rode our bikes and shot BB guns and chased squirrels and went to the Boys and Girls Club. That’s all we did—that and play baseball. Church on Sundays. It’s almost like a country song.” Richards’ family attended Fairview United Methodist Church, and as far back as he can remember, every store in Ensley was closed for Sunday services. “Sunday was the Sabbath, and that was the day we went to Sunday School, went to what we called Big Church, and then at night we would have youth group.” Even on vacations, Richards says his family would find a place to worship.

In his teens, Richards worked at Camp Sumatanga, an experience that strengthened his faith and gave him a taste of servanthood and pointing others to God. “During those impressionable years—16, 17, 18 years old when some teens are starting to wonder—it grounded me even more.” His contributions to the spiritual growth of his campers, he says, was primarily directing them toward the Lord revealed in nature. “Scripture is so important, but my perspective was more of look what God has given us.

Keith and Amy Richards married twice in 1992—once at Peavine Falls at Oak Mountain State Park with a preacher but no paperwork, then again six months later at Canterbury United Methodist Church. They opened their first Taziki’s restaurant 20 years ago with the mission “to create an environment that combines extraordinary food with the meaningful human connection missing from much of society today — all to help people achieve a deeper, more sustaining form of happiness.”

Richards’ father, Joe Richards turned 79 this past November, and inside his birthday card Keith Richards wrote, “Thanks for being my hero.” “He’s the one I strive to be like, not only with his faith but with his heart, his goodness,” Richards says, noting that his mother passed away nearly six years ago. “We had a Bible School class at church growing up, and it was the J.O.Y. class. It stands for Jesus, Others and Yourself. That has always stuck with me. I saw my parents live that.”

Growing a Business. After jobs at a Kmart cafeteria and Olive Garden followed by a 10-year career at Bottega under award-winning Chef Frank Stitt, Richards and his wife used their home as collateral to build his first Taziki’s location off Highway 280. Richards reflects on how his parents’ example served as inspiration. “My father was a telephone lineman for South Central Bell / BellSouth, and I knew what hard work looked like. It was a leap of faith… We didn’t have the money. There wasn’t an option. We could not fail,” he recalls of Taziki’s beginnings. “Ultimately, however, the challenge was how do we start giving back? That was the first thing to do. How do we get into the community to let people know we are here and who we are? Faith has a lot to do with that. You pray for success; sometimes it doesn’t come, sometimes it does, but prayer and hard work is a great combination to reap rewards.”

Giving Back. Giving back for Richards started with a chance meeting with Shelby County Schools Job Coach Cindy Vinson while on a cruise vacation. Bored with the band playing one evening on the ship, on a whim Keith offered to stand in as a drummer. An experienced musician, while he jammed on stage, Amy Richards struck up a conversation with Vinson, who was sitting nearby. Vinson asked if Taziki’s would consider employment for students with special needs. The Richards said “Yes,” and since then Taziki’s has been helping local students and young adults with challenges realize their potential, earn a paycheck, relate to peers, and be a part of a team. Richards adds that meaningful employment also meant relief, in a way, for the students’ parents. “Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to the challenges that the parents of children with special needs have. Today, if I can allow that parent 12-15 hours a week to pray, yoga, tennis, whatever their passion is, then I’ll do it.”

“They say God works in mysterious ways,” Keith Richard says of he and wife Amy being the parents of two sets of twins, one conceived with the assistance of fertility specialists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and another conceived naturally. “I think it was just something that God said you’re doing something right in your life, and I’m going to bless you again.” Seen here are Keith, Amy, Oliver (15), Charley (13), Margaux (13), and Maggie (15). Photo: Bernard Troncale

The Richards and Vinson also began the H.O.P.E. (Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment) program in 2012, which purchases herbs for Taziki’s restaurants grown by special needs students at area schools. Being taught how to grow, harvest and sell cilantro, rosemary, thyme, parsley and rosemary gives the students opportunities to practice social skills, learn the value of money, set goals, and follow through with plans. Richards is expanding the program to include at-risk students as well and hopes that in 2018 the program will become a nonprofit organization. He hopes that all of his friends in the Birmingham restaurant business will consider following his lead in cooking with locally grown herbs. “God has blessed me, and I’ve said a thousand times you have to give back. That’s the plan. That’s God’s plan. And, of course, I don’t do it for extra wing points or any kind of halo points. I do it because that’s the way that my parents raised me.”

Richards suggests that choosing to make 2018 a year for giving can be simple. It doesn’t require finding needs to meet worldwide. “In our own backyard, there are people that are hungry, people that don’t know Christ, people that are struggling on a daily basis that we can help,” says Richards. “Find something dear to your heart…what makes your heart flourish?”

 

  • Camille Smith Platt 

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35th Annual St. Nicholas Russian Food Festival

35th Annual St. Nicholas Russian Food Festival

Enjoy traditional Eastern European foods and pastries, drink Russian tea, shop in a Russian Beriozka store and tour the historic St. Nicholas church at the 35th annual St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church Food Festival. The festivities will be from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, November 4 and Noon to 5pm on Sunday, November 5. Signature to the event is the opportunity to sample such foods as pigachi, kolach, pirohy, varenyky, schi, borsch, kasha, blini, holupki, kolbasa and kraut, and halushky. St. Nicholas parish was founded over 100 years ago in Brookside by immigrants from Galacia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an area that is known today as Slovakia and western Ukraine. The church is located off U. S. Highway 78 West via Interstate I-59 or via Interstates I-65 and I-22. Learn more at www.stnicholasbrookside.org or call 205-285-9648.

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Garden Party: Taste of Hoover

Garden Party: Taste of Hoover

City Scene

Enjoy Taste of Hoover October 12 at Aldridge Gardens, 3530 Lorna Road, Hoover. Many new restaurants are taking part in the event this year including Metro Diner and The Boot at the Grove.

The 6th Annual Taste of Hoover is an opportunity to try delicious dishes from about 30 of Hoover’s best restaurants and caterers in the beautifully lighted setting of Aldridge Gardens. The bonus is your support will help the not for profit Gardens to be maintained and continue to offer services and events throughout the year. The event October 12 from 5-8pm comes complete with white tablecloth settings and live entertainment by Jackson Ulmer. Tickets are $40 for Aldridge Garden members and $45 for non-members. Purchase tickets at www.aldridgegardens.com. Tickets will only be available at the gate if the event is not sold out. †

 

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Experience Greece at the 45th Annual Greek Festival

Experience Greece at the 45th Annual Greek Festival

Experience Greece without the Airfare!

The 45th Annual Birmingham Greek Festival will take place at 307 19th Street South, 35233. Visit www.BhamGreekFestival.com for a detailed schedule of festival activities including live Greek music.

45 years ago, the Ladies Philoptochos Society hosted the first annual Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral Greek Food Festival which has blossomed into one of the Southeast’s premier annual cultural events. The 45th Annual Greek Festival is set for September 21-23, 2017 from 10:30am-10:00pm in downtown Birmingham. Enjoy delicious Greek cuisine, indoor and outdoor dining, live Greek music, authentic Greek dancing performances, and a Greek Market Place. While at the festival, be sure to take a free guided tour of the church which is one of the oldest Greek Orthodox parishes in the United States and offers a breathtaking example of Cathedral Byzantine architecture. Admission to the festival is free and food plates are individually priced. Free festival parking is available one block away from the church in the former Liberty National building on 3rd Avenue and 20th Street South and if you don’t have time to attend the festival, Drive-Thru Service is available all three days from 10:30am-7pm, www.BhamGreekFestival.com, 205-716-3088.

 

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2,000 Pieces of Falafel & SO MUCH MORE!

2,000 Pieces of Falafel & SO MUCH MORE!

City Scene

Saint George’s 36th Annual Middle Eastern Food Festival takes place September 15-16, 425 16th Ave. S., www.saintgeorgeonline.org. (Courtesy: John B. Manos)

It’s no exaggeration that the parish community of Saint George Melkite Catholic Church prepares tons of food for its annual Middle Eastern Food Festival set for September 14, 15 and 16. For thirty-six years Saint George parishioners have prepared and served homemade Middle Eastern food to thousands of visitors from Birmingham and its surrounding areas. The festival’s ever popular spicy vegetarian delicacy, Falafels, is made with a family recipe. “We use 100 pounds of dry chick peas for the falafel,” explains Falafel Chair Hilweh Shunnarah adding, “We have to have 80 pounds of onion, 15 pounds of garlic, 5 boxes of fresh parsley and hot peppers too!” Other popular menu items include Kibbee, a meat entrée made with ground round of beef, onions, cracked wheat and special spices. And don’t forget desserts like baklawa, a delicate pastry filled with nuts, and Zalabieh, a homemade fried doughnut prepared freshly on sight. Festival activities include live entertainment on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening as well as shopping which includes a variety of handmade crafts, Byzantine icons, and olive wood artifacts from the Holy Land.

The free admission festival takes place near UAB at 425 16th Avenue South. Festival hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and church tours are offered each day until 8 p.m. The festival also has convenient drive through service (11 a.m.-7 p.m.) and lunch orders of $75 or more can be delivered to the downtown area on Thursday and Friday. For takeout and delivery orders call 205-492-9621 or visit foodorders@saintgeorgeonline.org.

Proceeds will benefit local charities including, Three Hots and A Cot, Pathways of Birmingham, and Habitat for Humanity. The Food Festival also enables the parish to feed the homeless, prepare hot meals for women in shelters, provide diapers and other paper products to local charities, and sponsor an “Angel Tree” at Christmas. For further information, visit www.saintgeorgeonline.org.

 

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Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival Helps Ady’s Army

Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival Helps Ady’s Army

Music Notes

Van Sykes the 2nd generation owner and pit master of Bob Sykes Bbq Restaurant, says “We’re excited to celebrate the 60th birthday of Bob Sykes Bbq at our yearly Bbq & Blues Festival!”

Bob Sykes Bbq will celebrate its 60th Anniversary while hosting its 8th Annual Bob Sykes Bbq and Blues Festival on Saturday, May 20 from Noon-8pm. The event combines the music of award winning local and national blues musicians with great bbq at DeBardeleben Park in historic downtown Bessemer. The blues musicians set to perform include Chris Simmons, Albert White and the MusicMaker Revue, Eight O’Five Jive, Markey Blue, The Norman Jackson Band and Joe Louis Walker. There is something to do for the entire family including a large kids corner with activities and games, arts and crafts, outdoor exhibits, and legendary Bob Sykes Bbq.

A portion of the festival proceeds will benefit the Birmingham based non-profit, Ady’s Army (www.adysarmy.org) whose mission is “serving God by serving special needs families.” Money raised will be used to support programs like “Fins,” which teaches special needs children how to swim and “Paws,” which helps families secure service dogs for children with severe autism. “This is massive for us. We are thrilled and honored,” says Brian Shubert who founded Ady’s Army with his wife Chrissy. The organization is named after their daughter Ady, who has autism. “We are a literally a mom and pop non-profit. This is huge for us.” The organization’s goal is to “defeat the financial stress and loneliness caused by autism, providing resources one ‘piece’ and one family at a time.”

The festival will also be honoring National Armed Forces Day by offering Military Discounts to all active and retired military. Simply present your Military ID at the gate to receive $10 off your general admission ticket. General admission and VIP Tickets can also be purchased at www.bobsykesblues.com or at Bob Sykes Bar B Q Restaurant. Children twelve and under are free with a ticketed adult. †

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City Scene: Vulcan Park and Museum

City Scene: Vulcan Park and Museum

Birmingham Revealed

As a part of its Birmingham Revealed cultural series, Vulcan Park and Museum will host two great events this month that tell the stories of people and events that helped shape our city’s history and culture.

A Talk with Frank Stitt & Friends. Birmingham was recently listed on Zagat’s prestigious rankings of the “26 Hottest Food Cities of 2016.” The backbone of the culinary industry in Birmingham that supports that ranking is James Beard award winner Chef Frank Stitt, among many other culinary talents in the area. Many of those chefs, including Stitt, call Five Points South home to their well-recognized culinary establishments. Join Chef Stitt, owner and executive chef of Highlands Bar & Grill, Chez Fon, and Bottega, and friends George Reis (Ocean and 5 Point Public House & Oyster Bar), and others April 19 at 6pm at Vulcan to hear their intriguing stories: how obstacles became realities, why they chose Five Points South, and why this neighborhood thrives as a hub of all things “foodie” in the Birmingham area.

Alvin Vogtle Escapes. This one act drama commissioned by Vulcan Park and Museum highlights the adventurous life of Birmingham resident, Alvin Vogtle, whose story influenced the 1963 film “The Great Escape” starring Steve McQueen. During World War II, Vogtle attempted to escape German POW camps four times before succeeding on his fifth attempt in 1945. After the war, Vogtle returned to Birmingham and worked as an attorney, and, in 1970, became the CEO of Southern Company. The play begins at 6pm April 26 at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Admission to each of these events is $10 ($8 for Vulcan® Park and Museum members). Learn more and purchase tickets at visitvulcan.com/events.

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Ashley Mac’s

Ashley Mac’s

Ashley Mac’s Super Spring Sandwich: Turkey Avocado with Lemon Basil Aioli

Homemade Lemon Basil Aioli and fresh avocado make a simple turkey sandwich into something extra delicious and perfect for spring and summer! You can also make these in wraps and slice into pinwheels or create on small rolls and serve them as an appetizer

Ingredients per Sandwich

  • 2 slices wheat brea
  • 3 slices fresh turkey breast
  • Handful of fresh mixed greens
  • 4 slices cucumber
  • 2 slices tomato
  • 1 half of an avocado, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. Lemon Basil Aioli

Lemon Basil Aioli

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp freshly chopped basil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and let chill for 30 minutes before using.

Don’t have time to spend in the kitchen? Stop by Ashley Mac’s and pick up one of her delicious sandwiches- served with a side and chips. Three Birmingham locations, www.ashleymacs.com. †

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Dining out with Comedienne Joy

Make Dining In Like Dining Out with Edolyn’s Homemade Pies!

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-9-20-30-pmChristmas time is the best time ever for a big ole piece of delicious, homemade sweet potato pie. So wow your family this year, by ordering and serving up one or more of Edolyn’s Homemade Pies. Dr. Angelyn Ramsey created this Birmingham start up using her 30 plus year family recipe and a dream of someday carrying on her family legacy of baking pies as a full time career. Let me tell you, Edolyn’s raw sweet potato mix is just as good as her cooked pies! I couldn’t resist licking the spoon and the bowl! Once her sweet potato pie cooled, it was heavenly from the first bite to the last. It had just the right amount of sweetness inside a perfect pie crust. Her ingredients are simple, but taste gourmet.

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Comedienne Joy gives a thumbs up for Edolyn’s Homemade Pies! Made with love in Birmingham, Ala., place your pie order today at www.edolynspies.com.

If you prefer a little bit of zest, go all out this year with Edolyn’s Lemon Chess Pie. It has the same consistency as the Sweet Potato Pie, but is full of fresh squeezed lemon flavor with a buttery crunch. America’s favorite is obviously sweet potato, but I’m very partial to pecan pie during the holidays and Edolyn’s Pecan Pie made me do my happy dance! Chopped pecans laying in thepie filling made each bite of the pie taste like heaven on earth. I almost felt guilty for inhaling the entire 4 inch pie by myself, but I remembered pecans are in the nut/protein category and we cannot have too much protein- right!?  

Edolyn’s Homemade Pies come in two sizes: 4 inch and 9 inch and are easy to order on line at www.edolynspies.com or email edolynspies@gmail.com. Let Angelyn Ramsey and her team at Edolyn’s help you enjoy more time with your family and less time in the kitchen this Christmas. Your family is sure to be pleased with this holiday treat!

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-9-20-16-pm -Comedienne Joy

If you would like to be featured on “Dining Out with Comedienne Joy” email comediennejoy@gmail.com

Catch “Dining Out With Comedienne Joy” every Saturday 8:30 a.m. on WABM My 68.

                                                  Visit www.diningoutwithcomediennejoy.com.

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