Work from the Heart // Conley Catering

by Alvin Conley, special sections editor

Dishes clinging, food sizzling, and heat refusing to go unnoticed all while the soft R&B music plays in the background could only mean one thing in the Conley household: Grandma’s in the kitchen again. The smells of different meats, vegetables and desserts creep their way out of the kitchen and take over the house. Shortly after, one by one, pots filled with beans and gumbos, pans containing pastas and meats, and trays filled with cakes and cookies make their way to the dining room, where everyone (and their taste buds) gather to prepare for another Diane Conley meal.

Located in Houma, Louisiana, Conley Catering owner, Diane Conley, has been running her own catering company for about 10 years. Diane began dibbling and dabbling in the kitchen as a teenager, but really began to take cooking serious in her early 20s.

“I knew it had to be a natural talent when people constantly complimented my dishes,” Diane said.

Now, over 40 years later, Diane loves to cook as much as when she was younger.

In real estate, it’s said that the most important part is location, location, location, and in any culinary related field, Diane said the most important part is presentation, presentation, presentation.

“I like for a person to eat with their eyes before tasting a dish and the only way to accomplish that is through presentation,” she said.

Houma resident, Pamela Reich said that she loves ordering from the Diane — not only because she’s a local, family-owned business, but because you can see the love and hard work that goes into every dish.

“Every year when [Diane] does orders for either Thanksgiving or Christmas I make sure to order food and two sweet potato pies; one for the family dinner and another for myself,” Pamela said.

On top of being the owner of a catering company, Diane has been a Full Service Manager at TARC Restaurant & Gift Shop located at 1315 Grand Calliou Road, in Houma, Louisiana for over 24 years. At TARC, which is a facility that trains mentally and physically disabled persons to become independent livers, Diane manages the restaurant, gift shop and cafeteria.

Paula Murray, a client of TARC, said that she enjoys working with Diane. Paula, along with the other students/clients of TARC typically work in the restaurant as servers.

“Ms. Diane is nice,” said Paula. “She helps us in the restaurant and sometimes we help her cook.”

Diane said that the clients help her make things such as salads, and while they no longer do any major cooking, they would often help make fried foods and breakfast items.

“Ms. Diane is a good teacher,” Paula added. “She makes sure we know exactly what to do so the food is perfect when we serve it.”

With her culinary background being rooted in South Louisiana, Diane said that bread pudding, sweet potato pies, seafood tarts and chicken sausage gumbo are her most frequently requested items, and she personally enjoys making meatloaves and different types of beans.

“Know that there’s more to being a culinary cook or chef than cooking,” Diane said. There’s purchasing, preparation and cleaning involved, but if you love it, it’s all worth it.”