Bettina Hamblin sat in the former Tasting Room at 9430 S. Northshore Drive recently, white chairs stacked on top of each other to make way for renovations.
She was talking about her
vision: a new restaurant called Knoxville Farmacy, a restaurant that would buy its vegetables from local sources and offer healthy options.
Hamblin’s new baby opened Wednesday, June 14, in the space that used to hold her bakery.
“When the farmer picks zucchinis for us that morning and we bring them back here, it’s
just a different experience than going somewhere like a chain,” she said.
“We really want to make it a light and airy space that makes it feel kind of like you’re outside,” she added. “We’ll have a lot of plants hanging from the ceiling. It’s going to be a quick service restaurant. You’ll come in and place your order at the counter with the goal of getting food out to you, since at lunchtime people have a limited time to eat.”
“Being a lunch spot, we’re very aware of the cost,” Hamblin said. “We’ll have some items that start at 7 to 8 bucks — salads, sandwiches and entrees. We’ll be doing breakfast on the weekends — Saturday and Sunday — and we’ll be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. Once that’s going smoothly, we’ll look to open early and have breakfast seven days a week.”
“We’re going to serve a lot of things we’ve served for catering over the years,” she added. “Simple southern food with a twist. We make everything from scratch. We’re going to have some really great salads and sandwiches. It’s a really small menu: a meat and three, where you pick a meat
and three sides to go with it. Everyday we’ll have a special. Every Monday might be shrimp and grits and every Friday might be a fish fry.”
The small café features quick-order items to accommodate those on a lunch break, Hamblin said.
Hamblin moved to Knoxville in 1998 to go to The University of Tennessee where she earned a degree in Fine Arts and eventually met her husband, David Hamblin.
She started Luxe Catering in 2008 and has been at the Northshore location for five years, first as the Sweetery and then as The Tasting Room.
“I was about a year out from my lease,” she said. “I thought, ‘Do I want to continue catering? Do I want to do something
“Last June I finally said out loud, ‘I want to start a restaurant,’” Hamblin added. “I had been thinking I wanted to go downtown and I wanted to be a part of that, but a series of events happened and I caught myself thinking ‘I live over here and I work over here.’
“I was kind of thinking, ‘if I did stay in this space, what could I do?’ I kept coming back to a breakfast and lunch spot that would do really good over here.”
Hamblin smiles as she thinks about her inspiration to become a chef.
“Both my parents are excellent cooks,” she said. “At 10 years old, if you’d asked me what my favorite food was, I would have said shark and artichoke. My parents would cook with me and my little sister … I have really good memories of making egg rolls. There was music in the background. We’d eat as we cooked, so it wasn’t like mom making everything and serving it.”
“I grew up in Tuscan, Arizona,” she Hamblin added. “My dad transferred to Nashville when I was about to start high school and I was really mad. Nashville just wasn’t for me.”
The Volunteer State, however, grew on Hamblin.
“I always thought after I graduated from college, I’d move back out West or to New York, but I realized I loved it here and didn’t want to move,” she said. “I got a job as an event planner. That’s how I moved into the catering business. I really noticed that as far as events go, there were only a few caterers in town. Things have changed since then. When I started the catering business, I was a single mom.
“I was just lucky people gave me the opportunity to work for them. Here I am 10 years later, still making food.”