Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Laurel Staples: At The Table with Laurel Staples

At The Table with Laurel Staples of "Life Body Balance" & "The Day I Quit"

Laurel Staples and I both experienced a major life changing event at the beginning of our careers - we both quit our jobs to become entrepreneurs! Even though the circumstance behind Laurel quitting her corporate job were very different from those surrounding my exodus from a previous job, we have a lot in common when it comes to loving entrepreneurship.

Laurel is a Certified Health Coach and the founder of Life Body Balance ( which is dedicated to helping women reclaim their bodies and rejuvenate their lives through simple, effective and healthy lifestyle changes. She began her journey to healthy living when she cured her “incurable” thyroid disease through changing her diet and quit her mechanical engineering job to follow her passion. In addition to health coaching, Laurel runs a blog and podcast called The Day I Quit ( about how to quit your job, follow your true passion and make money while doing it. Growing up with an entrepreneurial spirit, Laurel has designed this blog to be a great source of inspiration, ideas, helpful tools and support to help other people like her take the leap into self-employment.

I hope you enjoy my interview with Laurel Staples below:

Dr. April: Laurel, thanks for being here with me today! Tell me where you are originally from?

Laurel Staples: I am from Nashville – born and raised!

Dr. April:  Where did you attend college? Degree?

Laurel Staples: I went to Vanderbilt University and studied Mechanical Engineering which is not at all what I’m doing today, but I really liked it at the time.

Dr. April: Give me an overview of your story……….

Laurel Staples: I graduated with a Mechanical engineering degree and immediately went to work a job at Lexmark which is a printer company. I was designing color laser printers and I did that for 3 years during which time I quickly realized that the corporate world was not for me. I got into it thinking that I was a motivated, intelligent student, but I got into the corporate world and it was a drag for me. I started plotting my way back out after about a year and it took me another two years to actually get back out. I quit my job and came back to Nashville to start a retail clothing boutique. It was an eco-friendly clothing store so I sold men and women's clothing that was organic and sustainable – organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo, etc. I did that the month that the recession started – not a good time to start any business and definitely not any type of retail business! I did that for two years and then decided that it was doing ok, but it wasn't a good fit for me in the long term. It was time to move on at that point . Then I got into health coaching which is what I do today. I do health coaching and I also run a blog called “The Day I Quit” which is about people who quit their job, follow their passion and make money in the process.

Dr. April: Where did you find the confidence to become an entrepreneur?

Laurel Staples: I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a young girl I was always creating things and also trying to sell them. In 6th grade I had these beads that I was beading and making earrings. I was trying to sell them to people in my class and my mom was telling me “Laurel, you can’t sell those. They are really pretty so just give them to people”. However, I was like, “but I want to make some money LOL!” I’ve always done stuff on my own. In high school I did photography and people would pay me to do photography. In college I ran my own magazine and I was getting ads for that. I was always doing something entrepreneurial. I got the desire to go out on my own because I knew I was self motivated and being an entrepreneur takes a lot of self motivation.

Dr. April: Why did you decide to start your current business and how are you enjoying it?

Laurel Staples: The health coaching career was pretty clear to me when I was at Lexmark. I developed multiple health issues. The first health issue was severe IBS and the 2nd was a thyroid disease. I was suffering a lot. I would wake up sick, go through the day sick, go to bed sick – it was just an awful time. I went to numerous doctors and they all said “well we can’t help you. We don’t know what causes this” and gave me a bunch of prescriptions. I was on a ton of prescriptions, but they didn’t help me feel better. So I started researching on my own and I ended up self-diagnosing myself as being intolerant to gluten and dairy. I gave both of those up and all of my problems went away. Within six weeks, I started feeling better and started feeling like myself again. Within 3 months my endocrinologist took me off of the thyroid drug and I was completely cured. That was the time that I realized there is something to this.  I didn’t really know that health coaching as a career existed, but found out about it through this situation. I then went to school for health coaching.
As far as the blog – The blog is about quitting and moving on to follow your passion. It takes a lot to move on from something that is supposedly “stable”. I’ve done it and it was such a major part of my life.

Dr. April: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs or those contemplating an entrepreneurial venture?

Laurel Staples: I think that’s a really good question because a lot of people are going that route, especially in our generation and the generations coming up. We’re all so individualized and unique and we want to express our unique gifts. A lot of people in our generation don’t fit into the corporate world environment because it’s not built for us. One of the main things that I’ve learned over the last six years of not working in a corporate structure is to always work on things that are making you money. This is something that I learned the hard way in my retail store. I would go to work and feel like I was having this productive day. I would rearrange the store, check people out sometimes when my employees weren’t there, I’d redecorate and redo the website and re-design the business card. I’d do all this stuff that wasn’t directly making me any money. So, those things weren’t bringing customers in and I wasn’t  promoting myself in any way, shape or form. It was all productive, but it wasn’t doing anything for the business. When you are an entrepreneur, if you just focus constantly on the things that make you money, that will help you build your business from the get-go instead of having that trial and error period like I did.

Dr. April: That is some great advice!! It makes total sense, but it’s a concept you just don’t really think about to much.

Laurel Staples: Thank you!

Dr. April: Do you have any book recommendations for entrepreneurs?

Laurel Staples: That’s another good question. A book that has been helpful to me as I was getting into health coaching is called “Owning Your Niche” by Stephanie Chandler. It talks about how to narrow down your target market and creating a niche market so that you are a big fish in a tiny pond instead of a small fish in a big pond. That book also goes into SEO and how to optimize your website to find your ideal client and customers and have them coming to you.

Dr. April: Lastly, tell me what is next on the horizon for you in terms of the blog and your health coaching business…….

Laurel Staples: Sure! My health coaching practice is called “Life Body Balance.” And I picked that name because it’s about bringing your whole life into balance. It’s not just about dieting and food. It’s about making food and lifestyle changes and bringing your life and body back into a state of balance. My practice has been open for two years now and that is a good mark to get to and is exciting! After I hit the two year mark, more clients started coming to me instead of me having to go out and find them.
For my blog -  Just as Dinner With Nerds is for you, I just want to continue to interview more inspiring people, such as yourself, doing videos and really honing in on what new entrepreneurs need. I want to help give them the confidence to venture out on their own. I try to give a combination of the necessary tools and some inspiration to make those decisions so it’s not just one or the other. It’s an evolving creative project that I’m really excited about and excited to share.

Dr. April: Is there anything else you would like to add for people trying to find what they are passionate about and follow their dreams?

Laurel Staples: Yes. Something that has always been important for me is to surround yourself with people who “get it”. That is so important! Surround yourself with people who understand why you are going out on your own and why you are doing this. A lot of people are not going to get it. Some of your friends, family and people who are already around you are going to think you are crazy! They are going to try to keep you “safe” with your regular job and your steady paycheck because that is what they understand and is what they know. There were people like that in my life and they thought I was crazy. I would get the statement, “ You are so brave to go out on your own” and I’m thinking, “I have to do this. There is something in me that has to do this!” So, seek out people who understand what you are trying to do and who will support you. These are the people who will understand that you may not always have money in the beginning to spend wildly or go out to dinner. Some people may not understand that, but as a budding entrepreneur, you are living different lifestyle physically and mentally because you’re in charge of everything – every client/customer that comes in the door. You may not know where your next paycheck is coming from. I always say it’s like living paycheck to paycheck, but there are no real paychecks! You don’t know where the money is coming from. You have to have faith in your heart that the money is going to be there. 


You can find Laurel's Day I Quit blog online @


her Health Coaching Practice -  Life Body Balance @

--Dr. April

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sambuca Restaurant Nashville - Where good music meets even better food!

Sambuca Restaurant - Where good music meets even better food!

On a gorgeous Spring day in Music City USA, I was in The Gulch neighborhood to dine with Sambuca Restaurant's Executive Chef, Chef Bobby Hansen. Sambuca was one of the original restaurants in The Gulch and has been serving up good music and even better food 7 days per week since 2005!

I had the pleasure of talking with Executive Chef Bobby Hansen about Sambuca's concept and why he loves Sambuca and Nashville so much. Chef Bobby describes his culinary style as “New American Freedom” because he enjoys having the freedom of incorporating any ingredient he desires into dishes without placing barriers on himself and what he creates.

  Check out my interview with him here followed by pics of the great dishes he whipped up for me! 

Executive Chef Bobby Hansen

Dr. April: How long has Sambuca been in Nashville?

Chef Bobby:
  Sambuca has been here since 2005.

Dr. April: How long have you been with Sambuca?

Chef Bobby: I’ve been with Sambuca since October of 2008

Dr. April:
Isn’t there another Chef here?

Chef Bobby:  Yes, there is another Chef here by the name of James Ressor and he works mostly in the mornings/early afternoons and I’m mostly here in the evenings.

Dr. April: Tell me about Sambuca’s Concept...

Chef Bobby: I would describe it as New American Cuisine with a Tex-Mex Twist.  We have a modern Bar atmosphere but we integrate music so it’s almost like a modern new American type supper club. We have music 7 days per week and the kitchen is open 7 days a week. You can call us a dinner theater – Nashville style! We are creating memories for people when they come here. People are paying for memories so we have to deliver that memory. Having that great entertainment along with excellent food and service is how we do that.

Dr. April: How do you develop the menu?

Chef Bobby:
We think about new trends and new food and locally sourced items and we try to make it our own style. There are only so many ways that you can grill an 18oz. Ribeye but we do it with a lot of love and care here to make things a bit simpler. The days of large plates and big food is sort of falling by the wayside and we are focusing a bit more on light fare. We are trying to be kinder to the ladies so we have to have lighter dishes. The diner is becoming more sophisticated and more aware of where their food is coming from.

Dr. April: How often do you change the menu? Every season?

Chef Bobby: We haven’t been changing it every season, but we are about to change it in the next couple of weeks. We have three other Sambuca Restaurants in the country. The one in Houston is the headquarters. We are the Nashville extension of the original. My job is to keep my feelers on Nashville and the trends happening here. I have to keep my ear to the ground to learn what people like and then integrate those into our menu.

Dr. April: Do you all still have the Mac & Cheese? Please don’t take that off the menu…it’s one of my favorites!!

Chef Bobby: Yes, we still have it and it is here to stay

Dr. April:
Great because I love to come in and order “ a cocktail and Mac & Cheese please” LOL!

Chef Bobby: Yes, it’s here for you!

Dr. April: So tell me a little bit about grew up right outside of Detroit, correct?

Chef Bobby: Yes, right outside of Detroit. I was born in Dearborn, MI.

Dr. April: I have a special place in my heart for Detroit because I lived there for 3 years before I moved to Nashville! I still have lots of family there. So, you graduated high school and moved to San Fransisco to study at Le Cordon Blue, correct?

Chef Bobby: Yes. I studies at Le Cordon Blue in San Fransisco. Before I graduated from that culinary school, with honors I’d like to add, I did some traveling in Europe and I lived in Tuscany, I cooked in Chianti (Italy), then I moved to France and traveled through Paris and lived in Tours, France. Having the opportunity to cook in Europe was extremely valuable! When I came back to the states, I did three hard, tough years in the San Fransisco cooking scene……….

Dr. April: Why were they tough?

Chef Bobby: It was a lot of hard work – feeling like I was overworked and under paid. As a new Chef on the scene, others in the industry make you, sort of, prove your worth. In late 2007, I felt that the economy there was declining and it was getting a little tough for me so I figured I would return home to Michigan and rethink my game plan. I play music and have always played since I was a young lad – I play drums. I got back into playing drums and took some time to think things out and that’s how I ended up in Music City! I figured I would check out Nashville and see if my skills and talents would be useful here. I saw an ad for an open Chef position at Sambuca. With Sambuca’s combination of food and music, I thought that I might fit right in. They ended up hiring me and here I am!

Dr. April: What do you love best about being here at Sambuca?

Chef Bobby: I love the concept – it suits my philosophy. I grew up in an Italian Family. My mom’s side of the family is Italian and I always grew up around a lot of food. It’s almost like a natural progression for me to get into food professionally. I’ve also played music for most of my life as well so I get to do both. I get to be in a great restaurant, cooking great food and they give me creative license to come up with interesting dishes.

Dr. April: How do you love being here in Music City?

Chef Bobby: I love Music City! I think Music City is a diamond in the rough. I had no idea what it would be like until I moved here. I feel like Nashville has really extended me a warm welcome and a nice handshake to come aboard. It feels pretty good.

Dr. April: What do you think about all of the recent positive press that the Nashville food scene has been getting lately from The New York Times, etc ?

Chef Bobby:  I think it’s great that the South and specifically Nashville, TN is getting recognized for our food because food consciousness is a sign of the culture. The New York Times has always had their finger on the pulse of food. I’ve been reading The New York Times food section for years. They have great reviews, recipes and food trends. There is something to be said about our food scene being recognized by them. I feel grateful that I am a part of that. I think things are on the up for Nashville. There are a lot of great Chefs moving here and a lot of up and coming local Chefs making a mark on the Nashville scene.

Dr. April: Well Chef Bobby, thank you so much for your contribution to this great Nashville food scene and thanks for taking the time to talk with me today and for sharing some of your awesome culinary creations with me…everything is great!
Chef Bobby: Anytime. Thank You!


Now, more on what I ate............

Lobster Tempura -
I must admit that when I saw all the jalapenos I got nervous because you know I can't do hot lol! However, this has a tangy sweetness with a hint of spice. 
The jalapenos are pickled to take away some of the spiciness.

Shrimp and Grits Old Country style with chopped mushrooms and Cajun Seasonings. This fabulous dish includes Chipotle and Gouda Grits with Pontchartrain Sauce. The shrimp are large and juicy and the grits are creamy - I Love creamy cheese grits!. The sausage is the perfect compliment to the grits and not spicy like some shrimp and grits that I have tried.

Wait for it.............

Miso Seabass with an apple almond a tomato puree with braised bok-Choy grilled radicchio. This fish is so flaky and flavorful!

I'm in love with the garnish atop this fish - it's like a work of art!

Have I mentioned before that I'm obsessed with French Macarons?!?!?

View of the Downtown Nashville skyline from Sambuca's Balcony

Sambuca is located in the heart of Nashville's popular Gulch neighborhood

Peanut butter and Chocolate Torte Explosion with Chocolate Macarons filled with chocolate ganash. This is accompanied by Vanilla ice cream with roasted peanuts, dark chocolate chips and espresso

How gorgeous!?!?!??!

There are some great textures and flavors in this dessert and I love it! The Macarons are light and airy and the torte is decedent and sweet :-)



If you are looking for a great time filled with music and food, make sure to visit Sambuca! You can find them online @


601 12th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203

 --Dr. April

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lance Nichols: At The Table With Actor Lance Nichols

At The Table with Actor Lance Nichols

For over 30 years Actor Lance Nichols has transformed himself into a wide variety of characters across numerous genres including TV, movies, and live theater. He has starred in TV shows such as Hanging With Mr. Cooper, Touched By An Angel, Cheers, Murder She Wrote, Desperate Housewives, Matlock, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Martin. A couple of months ago he finished starring in the theater adaptation of Driving Miss Daisy. Most recently, he and the cast of HBO's hit drama, Treme, wrapped production after a successful four year run. In Treme, Nichols is in a lead role as Dr. Larry Williams, a New Orleans Dentist helping his family rebuild their lives after Hurricane Katrina.

I recently interviewed Lance to learn more about his storied acting career that began when he was 'bitten by the acting bug' in high school.

Actor Lance Nichols

Dr. April: Lance tell me where you are originally from?

Lance Nichols:
I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. I lived out in L.A. for a number of years then moved back here to New Orleans which is where I live now.

Dr. April: Did you go to college in New Orleans?

Lance Nichols:
Yes I did. I went to The University of New Orleans and have my degree in Drama and Communications from there.

Dr. April: Were you a Drama and Communications major all along?

Lance Nichols: It’s funny that your ask that because I was actually a pre-med major in the beginning.

Dr. April: What made you decide that pre-med wasn’t for you?

Lance Nichols: Taking a look at my grades after my freshman year LOL! I said, “I can always play a doctor on TV. I don’t have to be one {Laughs}!” At that time, it just seemed like the finish line was so far ahead. I realized that I was not as committed to becoming a doctor as I would have needed to be to make it happen, but I really loved acting! I changed my major at the end of my Freshman year of college. In one semester, my GPA went from a 2.3 to a 3.8!

Dr. April: .....Because you found your true passion!

Lance Nichols: Yes, because I found my true passion. In those 30+ years since then, I have played many doctors on TV. See, I became a doctor in a round-about way!

Dr. April: What got you interested in acting?

Lance Nichols: I landed the lead male role in a theater production of “Halleluja Baby“ during my junior year in high school. After that, I participated in a couple more plays and was completely smitten with acting. As they say, I was bitten by the “acting bug”! I was also President of the Drama Club my Senior year in High School and on the Speech and Debate team so, by that time, I was totally immersed in acting.

Dr. April: You have been acting for many years across numerous genres - from Hollywood films, Television shows, commercials and theater. Out of all of these, do you have a favorite genre?

Lance Nichols:
I would have to say that I love the art of live theater, but the money is better in film and television! So I have to balance the two. I have to satisfy my creative side, but I have to also make a living. I just came back from Florida where I’ve been for the past two months doing Driving Miss Daisy. That was a terrific experience. There is an immediate gratification that you get from live theater. When you step out on stage for the first time and you tell a joke that the audience laughs at or when there is a tender moment in a play and you hear people crying, you feed off of that energy.

Dr. April:
You have been on the hit HBO series Treme for the past 4 years playing the character Dr. Larry Williams, a New Orleans Dentist. Your character is also a husband and father who is helping his family rebuild their lives after Hurricane Katrina. I know that you all recently shot the last episodes for the series. When will the final season start?

Lance Nichols: The final season will start airing this fall, I think in September.

Dr. April: I’m sure you miss your cast mates........

Lance Nichols: You know, I do. When you work with the same group of people for so long, you become like a family. The two young men who played my step-sons along with the actress who played my wife, Khandi Alexander, became like my real family. I had the pleasure of working with Khandi Alexander who is so talented and such a joy to work with. I really got to know the crew members and the people who worked in the production office.

What made being on Treme’ special for me is that it told our story. It told my city’s story and it told it accurately. There were a couple of times over the last 4 years where I would just have to sit back and pinch myself. I lived in L.A. for 24 years, working pretty consistently, but never getting the chance to be a regular on a show. But, what were the odds for me to come back home to New Orleans and be a regular on a series that’s about my home town? I said, “God is awesome!” When my wife and I came back to New Orleans in 2001, we came back because we both had parents who were in failing health and we made the decision to move back because our parents needed our help. I remember when I announced that decision to the industry in L.A., the people told me I was committing career suicide. They asked me what I was going to do with my career and I said, “I’m going to trust God!” The month that we moved back to New Orleans, unbeknown to me, was the same month that the state of Louisiana started offering the tax credit to production companies. You can’t tell me God didn’t line that up! I am working more now than most of my friends in L.A.

Dr. April:
See what happens when you trust God! God is going to do what He wants for you, whether you are in Hollywood, New Orleans, or Tim-buck-too. It doesn’t matter because there are no limits on what God can do!

 You have starred in numerous other TV shows such as Hanging With Mr. Cooper, Touched By An Angel, Cheers, Murder She Wrote, Desperate Housewives, Matlock, Everybody Loves Raymond, Martin. I will never forget the segment from Martin where you played Pa Duke. I barely even recognized that was you because that character is so “out there” LOL!
Lance Nichols: You know when that aired, a lot of people didn’t believe that was me!

Dr. April:
You were also the Preacher in the 2008 Oscar Nominated film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Lance Nichols:
Yes, that was such an unbelievable experience for me because that movie was so well written and so well crafted. That role was such a fun role to play. I had the honor of working with one of the top directors in Hollywood, David Fincher. That scene that I was in was part of every trailer that came out about that movie. When Brad Pitt was on Oprah discussing the film prior to it movie coming out, they showed that clip. I got so much free publicity from that movie it’s crazy! it is one of the most memorable scenes from the movie. That film opened up a lot of great doors for me and I will always be grateful and thankful to David and everyone who was affiliated with that.

As a result of that film, I am now on a new Netflix series called House of Cards. It’s a political Drama that stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and it’s set in Washington D.C. It’s about the political shenanigans of the political machine in D.C. I got cast in this series partly because of David Fincher as he is one of the Executive Producers of the show. I play Mayor Gene Clancy, mayor of a small town in South Carolina where Kevin Spacey’s character is from.

Dr. April: Can you tell me about your Production Company that you started to help budding actors and actresses perfect the craft?

Lance Nichols:
Yes, my wife and I own a production company called Lanzardis Productions here in New Orleans and we teach and mentor. When I first moved to L.A. in 1978, I didn’t have anybody to mentor me and I made a lot of mistakes. I got scammed, I spent money that I didn’t need to spend because I didn’t know any better. I made a promise to myself and to God that when the day came that I became successful I would try to mentor as many people as I could so that they wouldn't make the same mistakes that I did. We offer instruction in all phases of acting - commercial, film and TV acting, audition technique, scene study workshops, and monologue class. Our students are really responding. More people are getting booked here on film projects and commercials and we feel like proud parents.

Dr. April: How can people find out more info about your production company?

Lance Nichols:
They can go to Facebook at We are in the process of developing a website that should be launched sometime this summer so stay tuned!


Lance and his wife Zardis own a Production Company, Lanzardis Productions, in their home town of New Orleans. Here, Lance is teaching an acting class

One of the most famous scenes from the Hollywood Blockbuster, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, features Lance Nichols as the preacher who prays for Benjamin Button, played by Brad Pitt.

Here is a YouTube clip of that scene:

Here is the YouTube Clip of Nichols starring as "Pa Duke" on a hilarious episode of Martin. Fast forward to the 2:00 minute mark to see Nichols in action!

 I hope you enjoyed my interview with Actor Lance Nichols! You can keep up with his latest projects by visiting

--Dr. April

Friday, June 14, 2013

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

Prince's Hot Chicken has long been THE Hot chicken place to go in Nashville, TN! If you are not familiar with HOT Chicken, let me school you a tad bit. Hot Chicken is popular in Nashville! I mean, every summer there is even a Hot Chicken Festival held in the city! When I say HOT, I am referring to how spicy the chicken is.

Prince's HOT Chicken has won too many awards to count including the prestigious James Beard Award this year! It is nestled in a strip mall off the beaten path and trust me, there is nothing pretentious about this place! The place is always crowded and literally feels like you are sitting in great-grandma's kitchen "down south" somewhere. 

Here is the sign describing the spiciness scale:
I ordered MILD but now that I look at this closer, I see the mistake I made :-(. I should have gone with "PLAIN" because just 3 bites of the "MILD" had my mouth on FIYA!
I have absolutely NO clue how any human being can tolerate the XXXHOT....I just don't see it!

This is a MILD piece of Prince's Famous HOT Chicken!

The only way to eat chicken like this (at least this is the only way we do it in the south) is with a couple of slices of white bread! The pickles placed on top is characteristic of the whole HOT Chicken movement. I enjoyed my chicken with potato salad and baked beans (Sorry I did not take a picture of them....). I'm glad I had these sides because not only were they awesome but they took some of the sting out of the chicken!

Are you a fan of Nashville's HOT Chicken??

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack
123 Ewing Dr #3  
Nashville, TN 37207
(615) 226-9442

--Dr. April

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tammy Potts - Merritt: At The Table With Tammy Potts Merritt

At The Table with Tammy Potts-Merritt, Make-up artist for Disney's The Lion King

 Wig Designer/Make-up artist Tammy Potts - Merritt at her personalized station backstage, Disney's The Lion King

When Tammy Potts Merritt was 16 years old she wanted to be an astronaut. However, her career vision changed when she fell in love with the theater. As one of the make-up artists and wig designers for Disney's Award Winning Musical, The Lion King, Tammy travels the country with the important job of transforming actors into the famous characters that we all know and love!  Originally from Nashville, she attended Middle Tennessee State University and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Theater and Art then went on to receive her cosmetology license before pursuing her Master's Degree in Wigs and Make-up at North Carolina School of The Arts.

Her first job after receiving her Master's Degree was with the Opera. She's worked with The Nashville Opera, Opera Carolina and freelanced with numerous other productions. A connection she made while working in the Opera arena is how she landed this coveted job with The Lion King. Her hard work on the make-up and wig teams for various Opera productions paid off when a supervisor for The Lion King contacted her about an open position with this production. Four and a half years later, she is still traveling the country with this world-renowned theatrical masterpiece!

Being on the road with The Lion King full time has now become second nature to Tammy, her husband and their daughter. She works 6 days per week with one day off each week to catch up on sleep, explore the various cities that the show tours in, and spend time with her family. She admits that she has become somewhat of a night owl because her work days usually don't start until around 5pm during the week. She works 12 hour days on Saturday and Sunday due to there being two shows on each of those days. She has become accustomed to packing up everything she travels with every 4 weeks to head to the next show city. Tammy has to be aware of how much she shops on the road because there is not much room for new clothes, home goods, toys and games for her daughter, etc. She often times has to ship some things back to Nashville where she and her husband keep a pretty big storage unit for everything that can't travel with them on the road!

She starts setting up 2 hours before show time and starts the makeup applications 1 hour before each show. She begins with Zazu's makeup and wig application which takes about 30 minutes and then moves to Mufasa's make-up and wig application which takes another 20-30 minutes. She has the timing down to a science and is very systematic in her approach to transforming these actors into the characters you see on stage.

Since being with The Lion King for 4 1/2 years, Tammy suspects she has been involved with about 1500 shows! The energy backstage can be electric as there are dancers stretching and warming up, singers warming up their voices, and production team members preparing costumes and props. She says that there are so many creative people, in the forefront and behind the scenes, who are a part of the show that the vibe is almost always positive and upbeat! Many of the team members have become like family to her. "When you are around the same group of people like we are all the time, you start to celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter together and really get to know each other" Tammy says. There are about 25 children who travel with their parents on the road so her young daughter is never without other little ones to play with during their travels.

She's traveled to about 60 cities with this production and loves the opportunity for learning and growth that it allows not only her, but her 7 year old daughter! She love that her daughter has been able to see Alaska, Canada, 2 oceans and almost all, if not all, of the 50 US States. As much as she enjoys traveling all over the country with The Lion King, she is glad to be back in Nashville, even if only for 4 weeks while the show is at TPAC. "It feels lovely" Tammy says. She's enjoying spending quality time with her parents who still live in the Nashville area.

On being asked what advice she would offer to those interested in theater wig and make-up artistry Tammy says "Don't compromise. Do what you do and love it! There may be times along the way that you won't get paid for your work, but learn from the experience. Find people who love doing what you want to do and talk with them. Find a mentor and intern with them. Find a couple of people and make a big circle of mentors that you can reach out to when needed." That is great advice for those looking to pursue their career passions!

A few days after our interview, Tammy invited me backstage after a Saturday Matinee show for a closer look at how things operate behind the scenes! I was BLOWN away with seeing everything up close. The first time I saw The Lion King stage production, I Literally cried during the opening number. Everything was just so beautiful and I was overcome with emotion at the magnificence of the characters and music. To see these costumes right in front of me made my eyes light up like a kid in a candy store! As expected, Disney has a very strict policy of not allowing photography backstage. However, I was able to take the photo above of Tammy at her Wig and Makeup Station. Her make-up station is very personalized to fit her personality! She introduced me to many of the actors, some still in full stage make-up, and I could feel the creativity flowing through each and every one of them. I was able to hold an actual character wig and marvel at the attention to detail Tammy put into it. She says that it often takes her 50-60 hours to craft just one custom wig!!

Tammy Potts-Merritt is such a talented Wig Designer and Make-up artist that I'm sure we will be seeing her work on stages around the country and the world for many years to come!

 Photo taken outside of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC - May 2013)

--Dr. April

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Food Revolution Day Nashville 2013

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day Nashville 2013

What a joy it was to participate in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day 2013! This year's event was held on Friday May 17th at the beautiful Green Door Gourmet on Hidden Valley Farm in Nashville. Many of the items we enjoyed during the lunch event were picked from the farm that very morning!
(Read More about the Green Door Gourmet HERE!)

Jamie Oliver is an internationally recognized Chef who, shortly after moving to the United States, noticed the obesity epidemic in our country. It prompted him to start a Revolution against the unhealthy eating habits contributing to the obesity epidemic. Our children are growing up overweight and increasingly less healthy because of the amount of processed foods they are consuming.
(Read more about Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution Movement HERE!)

Jamie says,
"Since I've been working in America, I've been overwhelmed by the number of people who have come out to support the Food Revolution. More than 630,000 people have signed the petition, over 300,000 of you subscribe to our newsletter and thousands of you have written to me. The only message I keep hearing is that you believe your kids need better food, and that you want help to keep cooking skills alive. That's why this Food Revolution matters."

-Jamie Oliver

The Nashville Food Revolution 2013 was spearheaded by a phenomenal woman, Alice Randall. Randall is a Harvard educated professor at Vanderbilt University, song-writer, bestselling author, speaker, and food activist who recognized the same problem in our country that Jamie has. Not only did she make positive changes in her own life to eat healthier and lose weight, but she believes in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and is doing her part to spread awareness of this great cause. She is FULL of energy and the perfect person to lead the Revolution here in Nashville!

The guests at this event ranged from restaurant owners, residents of the community, Food Bloggers such as myself, and Food Writers who believe that locally sourced food is one key to reminding Americans how to eat and live healthier. 

Food Revolution Day 2013 at The Green Door Gourmet

I was actually serving in 2 capacities at the event - Food Blogger and Volunteer. I came dressed for lunch on the farm :-)

Home made products straight from Hidden Valley Farm Nashville, TN

This Peach Cider is fabulous!

All of the decor is so beautiful!

The Menu

This Peach Cider......AMAZING! I could drink it everyday!

Gorgeous Table decor

This space is just beautiful and is often used for special dinners, wedding receptions, etc

It was raining like cats and dogs this day so it's a good thing we had a beautiful roof over our heads!

Farmhand Soup with Cranberry Beans & Kale


Lemon Scented Asparagus Platter with Honey-Glazed Radishes

Spinach and Baby Lettuce Salad with Hydroponic Tomatoes, Kenney's Blue Cheese, Pickled Ramp, Maple-Toasted Sunflower Seeds, Pepitas, and a Honey Cider Vinaigrette

Pepper-Jelly Cornbread

Herb-Braised Chicken

Rosemary Sweet Potato Steak Fries

Pit Fired Suckling Pig with Green Door Gourmet BBQ Sauce

This is Alice Randall energizing the crowd about The Food Revolution!

This is Sylvia Harrelson Ganier, the farm operator, who brings years of farm and restaurant experience as well as a passion for food and education.

( Read More about Sylvia Harrelson Ganier HERE! )

Green Door Gourmet Executive Chef Richard Jones giving us an overview of the menu before we dive in.

Noble Springs Goat Cheese

Executive Chef Charles from 1808 Grill @ The Hutton Hotel gave of his culinary talents for the day's event.

There was a very festive and excited crowd for this event!

Of course, I had to try a little bit of everything......


Blueberry & Lemon Thyme Crostada

This was wonderfully delicious. It is evident that these blueberries were picked local and not that long ago!

The Green Door Gourmet at Hidden Valley Farm

You can find out more about Green Door Gourmet online at


 in person
Wed thru sat 9-3 and
Sunday noon to 4

7011 River Road Pike
Nashville, TN 37209
Phone: (615) 942-8079

* For More info on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, visit *

--Dr. April