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A taste of Franklin: Frosty Inn’s Hesters serve up catering on the side

FRANKLIN LIVING—Pam and Ty Hester owned CJ’s Grocery in Belgreen for 20 years, pioneering the store’s commercial kitchen to expand a cold sandwich menu to include a full range of menu items. In 2016 they sold CJ’s to focus all their efforts on the Russellville restaurant they had purchased in 2012: Frosty Inn.

Frosty Inn is well known throughout the region, easily identified by the iconic barrel atop the restaurant, emblazoned with the business’ 1960 date of origination. Although Frosty Inn is known, however, for its extensive menu of classic American favorites – including burgers, fries, milkshakes, sundaes, hotdogs, chicken fingers and more – the Hesters are serving up a little something extra on the side: catering, a foray which began during their years at CJ’s.

“I grew up in a home that had a nice meal on the table every evening,” said Pam, who was born and raised in Belgreen. That tradition is the root of her love for preparing food. “Once we were able to start the kitchen there at CJ’s, it just became something I really enjoyed.”

So, despite the long hours serving the standard Frosty menu, Pam couldn’t resist continuing the catering side of things, from corporate Christmas parties to ball team dinners and weddings – and her offerings go way beyond burgers and fries.

“I will prepare anything anyone asks for. I don’t limit myself in what I will do,” Pam said. When it comes to a wedding, in particular, “the main thing is sitting down with the bride and family to determine what they want. Most of the time they already have a menu in mind. A lot of times it’s about what foods the bride and groom like. They do consider what everyone else would like to eat – pork, or chicken, or dietary considerations – but mainly it’s what she wants and what he wants.”

The holiday season is a busy time a year, with several catering orders every week throughout the month of December. With the continued positive response, Pam said word of mouth is her best promotion. “I don’t have the time to go out and look for more, even though I would like to do more catering,” she added. “It’s just one of those things that has followed me. This is what I love to do.”

Priorities include sourcing quality ingredients and prepping properly to be sure everything is ready when the big day arrives. “Everything needs to be fresh,” Pam said. “I’m really particular about preparing food the way I would want to eat it. We’re very particular with our temperatures and the way we hold and prepare our food.”

When the event day arrives, it’s go time for Pam and Ty – “We’re a team. He puts in as many as hours as I do in whatever we’ve got going on” – with Frosty employees also lending a hand as needed. “It is stressful because you have a time limit, and when you’re cooking the day of, you have to know everything is going to fall into place,” Pam said.

For Pam, the stress and busy-ness is all worth it when a customer returns to share his satisfaction with the food she provided. “It’s rewarding to know that people have a need for that. Life is so busy for everybody, and no one has time to spend in the kitchen all day and cook,” Pam said. “To hear people come back and say they really enjoyed it is very rewarding.”

Pam and Spruce Pine native Ty have one son, Chase, who is married to Montana, and they have one son, Jaxon, 3.

Pam relies on basic, tried-and-true recipes when she caters a meal. For a taste of Frosty Inn catering, try your hand at Pam’s white sauce recipe:

White Sauce

5 tablespoons red pepper

5 tablespoons black pepper

15 tablespoons salt

15 tablespoons sugar

1 gallon mayonnaise

12 ounces lemon juice

2 ½ cups vinegar.

Whisk all together.