Tieshae Huntsman is getting ready for her first Taste of Soul Family Festival (TOS) and plans on dominating the competition with her tacos. TOS is an event that brings out some of the best food vendors in Los Angeles and around. This year, for Huntsman, TOS will be more than selling tacos at a festival— it will be a culmination of trials and tribulations endured.
“I had a soul food restaurant, it was called Grancee’s House of Soul,” said Huntsman. “That was in 2010, I did that and I called it Grancee’s because that is my grandmother’s name and she taught me how to cook.”
At a time when the economy was still getting back on its feet and eating healthier was becoming more than a fad, Huntsman’s restaurant began to suffer.
“[Grancee’s House of Soul] wasn’t really doing well as I would have liked it to do,” said Huntsman.
In order to pick up the slack, Huntsman started selling tacos, which turned out to be a profitable move. Tacos were cheaper to make and they allowed her to bring in more revenue as she stated “they just flew out the door.” Although the tacos made a temporary recovery, Huntsman claims her failure was due to a personal nature.
“I failed because I was mixing my personal life and business together,” said Huntsman. “I didn’t delegate good, I was selling drugs at the time—I was just all over the place.
“So it didn’t work.”
Huntsman’s story goes downhill at this point as she gets lost in a world of selling drugs. Her marriage begins to suffer as well and ultimately becomes “toxic” as she puts it. Huntsman began using drugs and drinking, which went unnoticed to loved ones around her.
It could’ve all come to a tragic conclusion for her one night.
“I tried to kill myself because it got so bad—it was really bad,” said Huntsman. “I was in prison… inside my mind.
“My kids had got taken away from me because of domestic violence with my husband. Once they took my kids, I was like ‘damn, I even lost the kids that God gave me, how can you lose all of that?’”
After a long night of snorting cocaine and drinking, Huntsman decided to take some pills. She decided to gamble with her life.
“I was talking to God, at least I thought I was,” said Huntsman. “I said if it’s meant for me to keep going, then I’m not going to die.”
She took over 50 pills plus cocaine and alcohol in her system and woke up the next morning— she was still alive. Unfortunately, her illegal endeavors had caught the eyes of the law.
“The F.B.I. had a case on us,” said Huntsman. “I went to federal prison—which saved my life.”
In 2014, while incarcerated, Huntsman found Jesus through reading the Bible. During this time of healing, she decided her tacos would make a comeback once she got out.
“I’m looking at the trends, I started reading magazines, the business sections and I’m seeing what’s trending,” said Huntsman. “How can I fit in at minimal cost, minimum overhead but it can just be great—tacos.”
She was released from prison in November 2016 and out of federal custody in June. Southern Tacos will be at TOS October 21 and Huntsman is sure that they will be a hit. She has applied southern tradition and seasonings, which she says gives her taco another identity.
“It’s not that regular dry taco… I put passion and soul into mine,” said Huntsman. “It’s coming from the heart.”
Her seasonings remain a guarded secret and they are healthier as she uses ground turkey instead of beef in her tacos. Huntsman feels turkey tacos are the way to go for a really good taco. She challenges any and all to be better.
I have no doubt about my product,” said Huntsman. “I don’t think anybody can outdo me.”
Taste of Soul was a second chance for Huntsman and she decided that the festival was going to be where she made her return to her passion for cooking.
“When I was in jail, I said ‘that’s what I am going to do’,” said. Hunstman. “’I’m going to do the Taste of Soul.’
“When I was in prison up North, and they had it on the radio, I was like that’s what I’m going to do when I get out.
“The whole time I was in jail, I said ‘that’s the first thing I’m going to do.’”
Make sure to find Tieshae Huntsman and Southern Taco at Taste of Soul on Saturday, October 21.
For more information on Taste of Soul, please visit tasteofsoul.org/