In a perfect world, there would be a place that offered exclusively vegetarian and vegan fare, inspired by ethnic flavors and the palate cravings of the customers. Even better, this place would use locally grown produce and deliver these meals right to your door. This place is in Tuscaloosa, and the woman behind it is Catherine Winn. As a doctoral student in Renaissance literature, Winn started cooking at the encouragement of her friends and at the necessity of supporting her family. “I had never thought of running a business or selling food, but my close friends planted the seed. I set up a booth at last year’s Birth Fair, and people turned out to be both interested and incredibly supportive. Starting Cooking Winn was not part of my official plan…I study Renaissance literature!” says Winn. “However, I have found the experience of cooking for the Tuscaloosa community deeply rewarding, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my love of healthy, responsibly-grown food with my neighbors.”
As far as the things that inspire her widely global menu, Winn attributes much of the menu ideas to the local produce of Tuscaloosa and dishes that her friends wanted but couldn’t get locally. Fusion-inspired meals of the Asian, European, and Southwestern variety are featured on Winn’s website, in addition to African flavors such as an Ethiopian Medley of lentil wat, spiced vegetables, scrambled chickpeas, and homemade injera. According to Winn, pumpkin ravioli, tomato tarts, vegetable korma, and potato kale enchiladas top the list as customer favorites. Cooking Winn’s loyal and enthusiastic fan-base recognizes her gastronomic talent and a solution to the culinary gaps of our area. “As a busy single person, I find it difficult to find the time to cook, plus I hate having too much leftover food. Catherine’s dishes are great, both because of her variety and because the portions are just right. She has been a great addition to the Tuscaloosa food scene,” says Grace Lee, a frequent Cooking Winn customer.
Despite the popularity in this culinary project, Winn is doubtful about having her own restaurant in the future. “As much as I love cooking, I don’t think owning a restaurant is in my future. I’ve spent seven years learning the academic ropes, and I ultimately still want to teach literature and composition,” states Winn. However, the Renaissance grad student is not opposed to creating menus for restaurants or teaching people how to cook more plant-based meals.
Recognizing that I had never tried an exclusively vegan entrée, Ms. Winn allowed me to try her now popular potato kale enchiladas and vegetarian tomato tart. I was overwhelmed with the flavor profile and textures of the enchiladas…the kale providing a slight saltiness and contrast with the texture of potato and made from scratch enchilada sauce. The decadent basil tomato tart had a richness and savory flavor featuring fontina and mascarpone cheese. Any doubts I had about a vegan entrée being satisfying went out the window with my first bites of Cooking Winn’s food. Asking Ms. Winn again about a restaurant in her future, she replied,” I never imagined I’d have any sort of business at all, and here I am! Who knows what the future holds? A vegan cafe might do quite well next to the new Fresh Market…”
More information on Cooking Winn, including menus, catering information, and specials can be found at cookingwinn.com or facebook.com/cookingwinn.
Sheena Gregg, MS, RDN,LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist and local “Filipino foodie.” Follow her on Twitter @AFilipinoFoodie

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