Garlic isn’t just a pungent seasoning to local cook and food entrepreneur Concetta Maceo-Sims.

“Garlic is my love language,” she said. And, she is preparing to share her enthusiasm at the annual Friends of Moody Gardens Gulf Coast Herb Fair and Luncheon on March 6.

Maceo-Sims, now on the staff of Maceo Spice and Import Company, will be the featured speaker at the daylong event, which also includes cooking demonstrations, a greenhouse workshop, vendors and a luncheon showcasing garlic in a number of dishes.

“I’ve always been in love with food,” Maceo-Sims recalled. “Our family has a very long history of being in the food industry, and I always wanted to be in the family business. When I was little, I used to play in the spices. I would help pack and then climb up on the boxes.”

Years later, her role in the company is more central.

“I come up with the concepts and recipes for Maceo’s,” Maceo-Sims said. “I try to stay out of the kitchen at the store and be accessible to the customers.”

Many of the recipes she uses were passed down from previous generations of the Maceo family.

“I learned everything from family. My grandparents, aunts and uncles were always in the kitchen, and my mom is a phenomenal cook,” she said. “Some of the recipes we’re using now morphed from theirs, with my own little twist.”

In addition to her duties at Maceo’s, Maceo-Sims is planning to do more online recipe writing and teaching, using her newly remodeled Dickinson kitchen as a lab and classroom.

“We designed my new kitchen to educate and entertain,” she explained. “I want to teach people to cook through videos. That’s my next big project.”

When asked to speak at the herb fair event, it didn’t take long to decide on a topic.

“I want to share my love and passion for garlic,” Maceo-Sims said. “It’s essential. Garlic is such a beautiful addition to any dish; the possibilities are endless.”

Moody Gardens executive chef Andres Castaneda agrees.

“I love cooking with garlic. It has a versatility that few other ingredients can match,” he said.

To prove that point, Castaneda and sous-chef Marlon Barnes incorporated garlic throughout the menu they developed for the Herb Fair luncheon. Garlic flavors the cauliflower soup with garlic emulsion, chicken couscous salad and portobello-stuffed pasta that will be among the offerings at the buffet-style luncheon.

Proceeds of the Herb Fair luncheon help to support Friends of Moody Gardens outreach programs, including bringing school groups, senior citizens and other underserved segments of the community to Moody Gardens for tours and events. Tickets for the luncheon are $35 in advance or $45 at the door. Lunch begins at 11:30, followed by Maceo-Sims’ talk on garlic at 12:45.

The Herb Fair is open to the public at no charge, and runs from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., with the Blessing of the Garden scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Luncheon reservations are available at (409) 744-4716.

Bernice Torregrossa:

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