- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Tumeka Bethel and her husband, Aaron Barbour, feel like they’re old pros in the business although their restaurant, Dasha Barbours Southern Bistro, has been open less than three years. In that time, they’ve learned a lot and are so sure they’ve found their calling that they’re thinking about opening another restaurant.

Would she encourage other people to become a restaurant entrepreneur?

“Yes, if they have a passion for it. No, if they’re doing it only to have a business. It’s a huge amount of work,” says Tumeka about the 50-seat eatery.

The husband and wife team divide the responsibilities at Dasha Barbours (a combination of her middle name, Dasha, and his last name). The kitchen is her domain, while Aaron takes care of customer service and employee issues. She believes they have found the magic combination to making a business successful. They’re best friends.

The restaurant may be relatively new to her, but there’s rich cooking history in her family.

“My grandmother and mother are all great cooks. Every woman in our family tries to cook like my grandmother. Many of the recipes we serve here are from her,” says Tumeka. “And I watched my mother cook dinner every day. She would make me taste for seasonings. For some reason, she and my sister trusted my opinion. My dad was also a good cook. He showed me how to make fried chicken when I was 5-years-old. That has stuck in my head forever.”

She and Aaron gradually developed the menu, nixing a few items as they went along. A prized recipe for spaghetti had to be abandoned because keeping the pasta ready to serve was a problem. Her mother and sister had the enviable jobs of taste testers throughout the process of choosing which dishes made it to the final menu.

Fried chicken is one of Dasha Barbours’ specialties, as are salmon croquettes and sweet potato casserole. The sweet potato casserole can induce a bit of friendly squibbling between Tumeka and her mother.

“My family are good customers, not complainers. But my mother is a sweet potato fanatic. When she orders the sweet potato casserole, she may tell me it needs more sugar. I will say that it has enough. Then she’ll say it needs more crust, and I say, “How could it need more crust?’ It goes on and on.”

Like many chefs, she has some kitchen equipment and tools she considers essential.

“I couldn’t do without my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. And I have a Paula Deen sauce pan I use for almost everything. Some of my nephews who work in the restaurant say, ‘Auntie, can’t you use another pan?’ No. I need my Paula Deen pan.”

After having to turn away customers far too long, Tumeka and Aaron are considering expanding to another location. “Bigger would absolutely be better,” she says. Sure to go with them are the recipes for the fried chicken and sweet potato casserole. And the Paula Deen pan.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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