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The Taste, part I

Have you ever met the president?

Me neither, but a trip to Houston’s Taste of Texas left me feeling like I had.

Owners Edd and Nina Hendee are less known for their political prowess and more for their hospitality, but an afternoon in their restaurant had me thinking I was in the presence of famous folk.

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We’re in the business of making memories, of taking care of customers and becoming a home place for them to return, Edd says.

It was around 2 p.m. when the Hendees positioned themselves near the entryway of their beloved Taste. As the lunch rush began I watched people gravitate toward them, linger for what seemed like a chance to share a personal story and smile from ear to ear if extended a hug.

Just before that the restaurant had been buzzing with busloads of 4th graders. They’d played dress up, followed the leader (Nina) through the kitchen’s swinging doors and enjoyed a quick lunch. It was scheduled and on the turn of a dime the tables were cleared, the salad bar exquisite, and the Hendees stood smiling.

They held their stance for the time being but were soon ushered off to their next appointment and responsibility.

All very presidential.

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Nina, a Texas history buff, has led 400,000 4th graders through the Taste over the years. She and Edd enjoy investing in the lives of young people.

But to meet Edd and Nina is to feel safe. Edd’s clothes are pressed and Nina’s hair is perfect but an interview with them allows the raw version to surface – they’re interested in the stuff that really matters – people, productivity, not wasting space.

“My father was a wise man and he had a phrase for us,” Nina tells. “He’d say, ‘You can’t ever just take up space.’ In your community, your home, whatever you do, you’ve got to make a difference. I’d love for our legacy to be that.”

It is. That and then some.

In tandem with our brand, the Hendees are celebrating 40 years of operation. But that’s just where the parallel begins. One of the first to sign on to CAB, they too had a slow start and today, their impact is felt worldwide.

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The Taste purchases portion cuts they’ll age for 40 days and offers customers the chance to individually select their steak.

The largest independent restaurant by sales volume in the state, #40 in the country, 1,000 meals come out of that kitchen each day and others are shipped across the U.S.

As far as the brand goes, no independent restaurant has sold more CAB, and “nobody comes close to us,” Edd says. For 35 years he and Nina have held true to a typed agreement and have exclusively sold what’s now the largest brand of beef – more than 6 million pounds of it – and counting.

For number’s sake, that equals about 9.5 million packer pounds or “about 95,000 CAB-certified cattle that have been consumed at our place,” Edd says.

That’s the production of nearly one packing plant for an entire year.

So why them? What makes them unique and will they franchise?

Check back tomorrow and I’ll tell ya.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

blackinklaura Visit Website
Born and raised in the Sunshine State, I grew up surrounded by more livestock than people on my family’s working cattle ranch. A willingness to address a crowd and an eagerness to ask questions led to my passion for spreading the word of agriculture. A lover of words, cattle and those who produce them, I couldn't ask for a better job. A Gator grad, blessed by years of learning and Tebow football, I’m a firm believer that people should be honest, lyrics should be moving and tea should be sweet. I love music, my family, my God, and of course writing for CAB.
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