A taste of home
Jamie Irving, 41, may not be in the military but she has been serving for years. The Army wife has made it her mission to ensure troops as far afield as Tokyo and now Guam get a taste of home – from smothered pork chops and creamed potatoes to blackeye peas or Spanish-style lasagna to Caribbean rice and curried lamb.
In December 2012, that mission blossomed into the Tokyo-based Annie Hodge TSC (Taste of Soul Catering), which incorporated in June. And on Guam, AH (Annie Hodge) Taste of Soul, a restaurant serving up the CEO’s same signature Southern, Latin and Caribbean dishes, is poised to open on Marine Corps Drive in Tamuning this February.
It all started as an extension of a tradition from the military family that Irving grew up with in Saffold, Ga. – making sure any military buddy someone brought home was treated to a home-cooked meal.
“In Fort Wainwright (Alaska), I fed my husband’s unit when deployed; I provided them with a complete home-cooked meals at no cost,” Irving said from her Tokyo office. “In South Korea, I did a lunchbox event for the soldiers at the USO and sent cookies to those that were out in the field doing training. I have catered free of charge to orphanages and churches and other organization.”
A self-described military brat, Irving said her catering business is another way she can give back to the military community that raised her.
“We are constantly trying to think of ways to give the military a taste of home. I want to make sure they feel home when they are enjoying my food,” she said. “I am here for the military and I want to make sure that I remain for the military.”
Annie Hodge TSC is currently set to sponsor the Gridiron Challenge, a program that awards prizes to contestants who predict weekly NFL winners, at Camp Zama, Japan. It will also sponsor the BOSS (Better Opportunities for Single and Unaccompanied Soldiers) thanksgiving and Christmas meals there. Nov. 23-24, the caterer takes to Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park to showcase its Latin dishes at the Fiesta De Espana.
“The holidays mean time for giving and sharing with those that mean so much to you,” Irving said. “This year I am pleased to be sharing and give back to those that signed up to protect me without truly knowing me in a sense. I am grateful to the American military and what better way to show it than Christmas time.”
On Guam, Annie Hodge will be donating money and food to the USO thanksgiving meal. To offset costs, it accepts donations for gifts to give to troops who are far from home.
“In Guam, they are there serving us without question but also being there I found that the people of Guam stood strong for American forces,” she said. “It just felt right to open a business there. To give back to the locals and always the U. S. Military who serves without question.”
Although her restaurant, Taste of Soul, will not open on Guam until February, Irving said she hopes to soon rent out the already prepared venue for holiday events and parties where she will cater bountiful Taste of Soul fiestas.
“We are hoping to have one more restaurant in Guam, but a bigger and different location,” she added. Bigger and better plans are also in the works for her operation Tokyo’s Mitaka area.
“I am working to get closer to the military,” Irving said. “I plan to be located outside of each installation. I want to be like momma to them and be everywhere they are, just to give them a taste of home.”
That maternal drive to serve is not just at the heart Irving’s inspiration; it is reflected in what named her businesses – Annie Hodge – after her grandmother. Irving said she began catering when her grandmother, who always cooked delicious dishes for family and friends, died of pancreatic cancer in 2007.
“Before she died, she asked me to cook for her. I was able to serve her. She was the most precious person anyone in this world could ever know,” Irving said. “It is because of her that I am here. She fed them, and I want to do what she did.”
Annie Hodge TSC, Japan
1-7-13 Azeria 60 #A-105, Mure Mitaka-Shi, Tokyo 181-0002
For catering information, call 0422-29-8948 (English or Japanese).
AH Taste of Soul, Guam
Cinema Arcade 8&9, 970 South Marine Corp Dr., Tamuning, GU 96913
For more information and party reservations, call 646-3336 or 434 481 2006.