People: Martha Stamps has new venue, focused mission

By Milt Capps

People: Martha Stamps has new venue, focused mission | Martha Stamps, belle, Belle Meade Plantation, small business, food security, farm to school, dining, restaurants, entrepreneurs, West End United Methodist Church,Kay West, Brian Hainley, Michael Malloy,

Martha Stamps, chef, caterer, change agent

Martha Stamps, synonymous for a decade with Martha's at the Belle Meade Plantation, cheerily told VNC that this morning she served her first offering in her new venue.

To the surprise of some, perhaps, the treat was homemade oatmeal bars, with cranberries and orange zest, served to a gaggle of young students at West End United Methodist Church. That's where Stamps is now hanging her apron.

Stamps earlier told VNC that, rightly or wrongly, she always felt "pigeon-holed" by misguided preconceptions among a portion of the marketplace that her former Belle Meade restaurant was actually a "tea room" or a "bad meat-and-three" – even though she took some delight when guests discovered the food was excellent and "Miss Martha" was younger than they imagined.

Stamps explained that as she became more interested in "food security," "local food" and the Farm to School movement – in which restaurateurs work closely with local growers and schools – she came to feel that she and Plantation management had different ideas about "authenticity" and how to help the world "honor" the cultivation, preparation and consumption of food.

She left Belle Meade last May in search of a setting she felt would help her "articulate" her beliefs about food, spirituality, environment and community. So, today Stamps assumed responsibility for food service and kitchen at West End United Methodist Church. There, her bargain involves her preparing lunch and snacks for 125 pre-K children, as well as some evening meals for church-goers.

In the deal, Stamps gains access to the kitchen for her long-established catering business. She'll run the whole affair initially with her husband, Shane; and, with fellow catering chef Michael Malloy.

While the food-service pace may not be as hectic as the seven-day routine at Martha's, she's also keeping herself busy writing a book about "food and faith," which she intends to publish with Simon & Schuster.

Stamps earned her bachelor's in English, with studies in art history, at the University of Virginia in 1983.  She earned her associates certification at the Culinary Institute of America, in 1991.

Farther down Harding Road, the Plantation teamed with Chef Brian Hainley to create belle, which was recently reviewed by food critic Kay West in Nashville Lifestyles. ♦