Fairborn mother of seven starts Home Cooked Vibes catering during pandemic

Fairborn-based caterer Home Cooked Vibes is a business that promises to deliver on its title. With unconventional egg rolls, bite-size cheesecakes, and shrimp and grits, Home Cooked Vibes offers “Grandma’s cooking with a Chicago twist.”

“The name speaks for itself,” founder and executive chef Syrita Nuttall. “It’s definitely a home cooked feeling. It’s from scratch, I really care about the food I put out, and I have fun doing it.”

This month, the Dayton Daily News is profiling Black-owned businesses in the region as part of the celebration of Black History Month.

Growing up in Chicago, though her family rarely went out to eat, Nuttall took inspiration from different types of food and diverse culinary landscape of the city.

“Having a home cooked meal that was something I grew up on,” she said. “Anyone who knows Chicago knows there’s a smorgasbord of wonderful cooking everywhere. Moving to Ohio from Chicago was a shock, since we were used to having all this food around and its like, ‘Wow there’s not a lot to choose from, and a lot of chain restaurants.’”

In 2017, she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, moving to Ohio the same year. Originally wanting to specialize in homestyle fried chicken and fish, her egg rolls, which come in unconventional flavors like Philly Cheesesteak and Buffalo Chicken, were a sleeper hit. Friends and family pushed her to follow her dream of starting a small business, though the endeavor wasn’t without its challenges.

“First, I had to get over the ‘I’m not good enough,’ for me personally,” she said. “It’s amazing how many different people are out there and starting their own businesses and I thought ‘if they’re all out here, there’s no point in me doing this.’ One day I made egg rolls - I had seen someone in Chicago do it - they tasted it and said ‘Oh my God, you have to do it.”

Nuttall came across small business incubator Spark Fairborn, then called CoHatch, and was working on acquiring kitchen space in the facility before the pandemic hit. Nuttall was then working full time as a general manager for Bob Evans, managing several locations.

“Being there firsthand, seeing the world literally stop and being in the hospitality business, I wasn’t seeing my family. I was just coming home stressed. And I said ‘If I’m going to be stressed over business, I’m going to be stressed about my business,’” she said. “Once restrictions started lifting, I went back to (Spark Fairborn), everything was falling into place and I was like, ‘Okay, this was meant to be.’”

At first, Nuttall’s goal was to open a restaurant. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has left its mark on the food industry, it no longer makes sense to do so.

“COVID has changed the restaurant business forever,” she said. “You have people who don’t feel like they’re getting paid what they’re worth, and then with inflation, it’s crazy. People do want to have that experience where you can go out and sit down and be served, but I think it’s harder for up-and-coming restaurants to be established in that way.”

Instead, Nuttall has focused on developing her catering business, fulfilling orders for pickup, and this year is working to establish a delivery service and start a food truck. Her seven children, who range in age from 21 years to six months old, all help with the business.

“My six-month-old, she’s my sous chef,” Nuttall joked. “My daughter and son help, they can see what it’s like to run the monetary part: taxes, employees, all that stuff they don’t get in school.”

Home Cooked Vibes has most orders placed through social media, and continues to have eggroll specials every Sunday at Spark Fairborn.

“I’m not that type of person that cares what other people think about me. I want to make myself proud, I want to make my kids proud, and I want to leave something for them,” she said.

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