Diverse Voices: Mother, Daughter Bond With Catering Service; Hit At Melanin Market
BY CLYDE HUGHES | AC JosepH Media
WILLINGBORO — Natasha Collazo and her nine-year-old daughter Dollie had hoped to stand out in the middle of 100 Black entrepreneurs with their small catering business at the Melanin Market Experience Black Business Expo at Willingboro’s John F. Kennedy Center on Saturday (March 25).
With a line of shining silver food warmers and a delicious selection of food — from organically cooked ox tail, shrimp, rice and other items, Dollie’s Delight Catering wowed attendees during the large daylong expo that drew easily more than 1,000 people overall.
READ: Melanin Market Boosts Black Businesses With Daylong Expo
A native of the South American country of Guyana, Collazo, now a Philadelphia resident who co-owns the venture with her daughter, said it was actually Dollie’s idea to start the business.
Collazo said she worked as a chef for a French-based company where she further developed her cooking skills and also the ingredients the well-off were using in their meals.
“I realized that I was giving my skills to someone else, so I wasn’t getting any of the benefits,” Collazo said. “My daughter came up with the idea when she was about three years old. She was in my office when she said she wanted a business, too. She has been in the kitchen with me since she was 11 months old.
“She knew the majority of the recipes and I realized I needed to incorporate all of my knowledge from the rainforest of South America.”
When Dollie was not by her mother’s side serving customers with a team of other family members on Saturday, she walked around like other children enjoying the businesses attending Saturday’s event.
Dollie was shy in describing what it felt like to own her own business with her mother.
“It’s nice,” she said with a big smile next to Collazo, standing at her business table with an animated photo of her.
“Sharing a business with Dollie means a lot to me because it opens doors to pass along generational wealth to your children,” Collazo said. “There’s a saying, ‘Reach one, you teach one.’ It’s important as adults that we are able to encourage our children not to become a part of the system, where the system handicaps us and we become dependent on it. We want to break the cycle and we have our children make their own money. They are no longer thinking about the easy way out.”
Collazo said what makes her food different is the organic ingredients, overcoming some of the criticism of soul food and similar comfort foods that they lack healthy ingredients.
“We are catering strictly with organic ingredients imported from around the world,” Collazo said. “We hardly use any seasonings. We use herbs or natural rock salt. we use masala in the Indo-Caribbean and American dishes.
“We’re trying to give our community, the African American community, an open door to learn about eating more healthier and that it’s affordable. It helps with longevity in life. Our people tend to be guided towards the negativity of fast food. I try to vie to our communities what upper-class neighborhoods, upper-class areas and businesses are having now. We can eat healthier and enjoy it.”
Collazo said she is proud that all of her dishes are original recipes made from scratch. She said the foods make their own natural juices if they are cooked slowly at the right temperatures, making it unnecessary to add oils and other man-made ingredients that have proven to be unhealthy.
“All foods have their own natural oils in them,” Collazo said. “Slow temperatures with the right pressure release it.”
Collazo said she hopes Dollie’s Delights, will grow to provide not only a living her co-owner Dollie and family, but also teach marginalized communities how eating healthy does not mean eating without taste and joy.
Dollie and her mother are working to do that one customer at a time, starting at the Melanin Market.
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