Throughout her decades of cooking for people and her newfound career as a realtor, it's all about serving people for Teri Sawyer.
Her next career — cooking — started out oddly.
Living in her first apartment with one cooking dish, she said she didn't know how to boil water. Her co-workers in the X-ray department often talked of what they made for dinner, and she asked a woman to make something for her in her dish. Mrs. Sawyer called her boyfriend, Dale Sawyer, who is now her husband of 33 years, and told him she had cooked the meal for him. Soon, others in the hospital were bringing her dishes and for more than a year, Sawyer thought she was cooking for him.
But three days after returning from their honeymoon she came clean. He was devastated that she didn't know how to cook, she said.
Her husband got her back. The first thing she made on her own was a chocolate layered cake with peppermint sprinkled on top. She said it was lumpy and a “hot mess” and he hated it.
He told her their dog wouldn't even eat the cake, and the dog refused. After Sawyer confessed he had put heart worm medicine on the cake so the dog wouldn't eat it, the couple decided they were even and called a truce. She later found out Sawyer did not like chocolate or peppermint.
Mrs. Sawyer went to cooking school and realized she had a “God-given talent,” she said. In the mid-1980s, she started Teri's Tasties catering business in Tyler and at one time, was making about 60 birthday cakes a week for Mazzio's Italian Eatery, in addition to making wedding cakes and catering events.
After about eight years of owning her business, First Baptist Church in Tyler lost its cook, and she decided to close her company and help her church temporarily. She became food service director, cooking for the church's Wednesday night suppers and special events.
Mrs. Sawyer also wrote a 350-page cookbook, “Delicious by Design,” which has a variety of dishes made with easy-to-find ingredients. It is on its second printing and can be bought for $22.95 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
She said she has had young brides who didn't know how to boil water, like herself, and chefs buy her cookbook, which includes tips on what to serve with dishes, edible gifts and a themed section.
“I think outside the Bundt pan,” she said.
After 17 years working for the church, Mrs. Sawyer decided to switch gears and try the “corporate world.” She began working for a food service company that contracted with TJC, but soon discovered she did not enjoy it. After nearly two years and job offers she wasn't interested in, she said she couldn't find anything in the food business she wanted to do. She quit the business, and she and her husband, who had retired from Goodyear after 45 years, traveled for about a year before they decided to embark on a new career together.
“I really missed the people and the service part,” she said.
Sawyer always had been interested in real estate and their youngest daughter was a Realtor, so they decided to try it. The Sawyers have two daughters — Rachel Hale, 32, and Ashlee Vidrine, 29 — and two grandchildren.
During Mrs. Sawyer's first week at TJC's West Campus, she said she felt like she was learning Chinese because real estate was so different. The couple took classes, earned their licenses and began working in December for Keller Williams Realty.
Mrs. Sawyer also continues to teach cooking classes and gives motivational speeches to churches and women's organizations, which she has been doing for about 15 years, she said. On Tuesday, she will teach her first evening cooking class at the TJC West Campus on “Edible Gift Giving,” and will teach “Catering 101” March 5.
Mrs. Sawyer is past president of the National Association of Church Food Service and serves as a trustee. She also is a member of the Junior League of Tyler.
“It's all about the people,” she said of her cooking career. “We've met so many great people along the way.” The same is true with real estate. “It's all about making something good happen for people,” she said.
If you know of a professional woman or business service in Tyler you think should be highlighted in this column, contact Business Editor Casey Murphy at email@example.com or 903-596-6289.