Woman finds niche in catering business

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Autumn Star Catering consists of Serena Todd, Tricia Fields-Alexander, Nena Howlingcrane, Marie McIntosh, Kali Lake and Amber Howlingcrane. Not pictured is Rosie Lewis. L. MIDDLETON / NATIVE AMERICAN TIMES PHOTO

GLENPOOL, Okla. – Tricia Fields-Alexander has been blessed with the talent of cooking, and the 35-year-old Native woman has turned that talent into a supplemental income for her family in the form of her business, Autumn Star Catering.

Fields-Alexander, a native of Tulsa, Okla., lives in Glenpool, Okla., with her four children and husband, and runs her business  out of her home.

Fields-Alexander’s business specializes in Native foods, including meat pies, frybread, Indian tacos, Spirit Soup – which is her version of hamburger stew – and many other items.

The Pawnee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Euchee  and Muscogee (Creek) citizen has been cooking for nearly three decades, and credits family members for teaching her how to cook. But she says she  taught herself how to cook many dishes since she was home by herself as a child many times because her parents worked.

She has memories of cooking grilled cheese sandwiches as a 5-year-old girl and from there she fine-tuned her cooking skills.

Now, she has an extensive list of food that she makes and has taught her teenaged daughter, nieces and cousins the skills.

Fields-Alexander’s daughter, Serena, and a few cousins and nieces work with her to help with catering jobs.

Autumn Star Catering consists of Serena Todd, Tricia Fields-Alexander, Nena Howlingcrane, Marie McIntosh, Kali Lake , Amber Howlingcrane and Rosie Lewis.

Depending on what event it is, sometimes she might just need one person or all of the staff.

A typical day for her when catering begins the night before the event. She starts the night before, cutting vegetables, doing all the prep-work, prepares pots, pans and dishes and getting ingredients together in one area.

“That saves me a lot of stress and time,” she said.

After the preparation is complete, then the next tasks begin the morning of the event. She’ll start cooking the beans and then start on her bread. Fields-Alexander said while she can cook about 100 pieces of frybread in an hour, making meat pies is an all-morning task.

Her menu includes traditional meat pies, jalapeno meat pies  (which are her top-selling items ), deer chili, roasts, grape dumplings and jalapeno cornbread.

Fields-Alexander cooks for many events, including family reunions, retirement dinners and baby showers.

Autumn Star also does fruit trays, vegetable trays and sandwiches.

She came up with the name of the business by combining a favorite name with her culture. She chose ‘Autumn’ because she was almost named that by her parents instead of Tricia. And she chose ‘star’ because of its ties to her Pawnee heritage.

“Stars are important to the Pawnee tribe for our creation story, and so I felt like God blessed me with the talent to cook and I have a passion, I love to cook, so I just thought that would be a fitting name,” Fields-Alexander said.

As a stay-at-home mom, she found herself cooking for various events and family functions, and even had people offering to pay her to cook. She declined the money at first, because she just felt like cooking was what she loved to do.

“I’ve always been a stay-at-home mom, worked evenings and weekends, but I have four kids ages four to 14,” she said. “I’ve been blessed to stay at home with the kids.”

She was able to stay home with the kids while her husband worked, but cooking jobs supplemented the family income while doing what she liked, while also allowing her to go to different places out of town and meet a lot of people.

Despite having three associate’s degrees, Fields-Alexander wasn’t able to gain employment due to a tough economy.

“This allows me to make money, make ends meet and provide for my family,” she said.

She’s been in business since 2002, when she first started cooking and making money from it. People asked her to make a pot of stew or cornbread and they’d offer to pay her for it. From there, she started making meat pies and selling them and would come home with a pocket full of money.

Fields-Alexander had a concession set up at the Native American Christmas Market Dec. 3 in Sapulpa, Okla.. which she organized and coordinated. Events like that allow her to get exposure and get Autumn Star’s name out there.

While doing what she loves, she’s also getting the opportunity to teach young Native women how to cook.  She’s also tackling another large goal.

“I would like Indian food to be cooked by Indians.”

For more information about Autumn Star Catering, email [email protected]

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