The Signature Seasoning History
To fully understand how Lawhorn’s Signature Seasoning came about, one must first have a history lesson about the Lawhorn family businesses, and Chef Tim Lawhorn, the Signature Seasoning creator. The Lawhorn family has owned and operated drugstores and restaurants since the early 1940’s in tiny Haines City, Florida. Lawhorn’s Corner Drugstores and The Haines City Pharmacy were local icons for
In 1971, 10 year old Tim Lawhorn went to work one Saturday morning at 5 AM with his grandmother Bunny to help her open up the restaurant for breakfast at 6 AM. He was fascinated by watching his grandma make everything from “scratch” for their local customers. His grandma would tell him from the beginning, “Don’t ever be afraid to season your food well. Cook it like YOU would like to eat it and people will come back for more”. From that point on, he went in with her as much as he could, on weekends, holidays and in the summer, learning every trick of the trade from his extremely talented grandmother. Little Tim got the “cooking bug” and it led him to pursue a culinary career spanning over 37 years now. After working in the family business into high school, Tim moved to Lafayette, Louisiana to go to college at the University of SW Louisiana. He quickly secured a cooking position at “The Landing,” a huge local Cajun and Creole style restaurant on the banks of the Vermillion River in downtown Lafayette. Tim had a real culinary epiphany in Louisiana being exposed to such an incredible variety of cooking methods, fresh ingredients, spices and seasonings-lots and lots of seasonings. Tim soaked up the local cuisine like a sponge, learning everything he could along the way like he had with Grandma Bunny. The cultural awakening Tim experienced while in Lafayette would leave a deep and lasting impression that would shape his culinary flair that lasts to this day.
After going to Denver one summer to visit family, Tim was astonished at the cutting-edge cuisines that were coming up everywhere in the Metro Denver area. The very young, professional population that was Denver was shaping the entire culture. The “culinary renaissance” was on. The allure of a big city with so much excitement everywhere he turned was too much for Tim to resist and he moved to Denver in late 1982. It was there that he discovered the American Culinary Federation after being invited to a local chapter meeting by a new friend and the rest, as they say, is history. Tim enrolled in the ACF apprenticeship program at the prestigious 5 star Brown Palace Hotel and The Denver Club, a private 5 star athletic club downtown where he worked both jobs full time. Tim spent virtually every waking moment preparing, cooking, and experimenting with gourmet foods and cuisines while working his way through the 3 year apprenticeship process. When he left the program at 23 years old, Tim worked as a Sous Chef for a national 4 star hotel chain in Denver as well as Executive Chef for Specialty Restaurants, a national multi-concept restaurant chain based out of California. His knowledge of food and love of the culinary arts continued to blossom and grow. Over the next few years, Tim participated in numerous culinary competitions bringing home a total of 14 medals in ACF-sanctioned events.
In 1986, fate struck Tim and changed his course forever. One August evening the phone rang. It was a call from his high school sweetheart, Heidi, with whom he had not spoken to in 7 years, wishing him a happy birthday. It was his breakup with her 7 years earlier, which drove him to leave Haines City to begin with; he had to get away from her memory and heal his broken heart. After the initial shock of just “out-of-the-blue” hearing from her after so long, they had a conversation was cordial and platonic. Tim said to her what he said too many young ladies back in those days, “Hey come on out someday, and I’ll teach you how to snow ski.” Not thinking anything else of the invite until she called 2 months later, once again, out of the clear blue sky, to say she had bought her tickets to come out the day after Christmas to learn to ski. To make a long story short, Tim sold everything he owned in Denver and moved back to Florida with nothing more than a suitcase in his hands when he landed in Tampa in mid-March of 1987. He was engaged to Heidi by the first week of April! Tim and Heidi were married by July of ’87. Needless to say, “The ski trip went well.”
Tim was offered the position of Executive Chef and Assistant Food & Beverage Director of the Innverary Hilton Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale soon after getting back to Florida. From April, until the wedding Tim lived alone down there and sunk himself into his work, putting in 12 to14 hour days turning the Food & Beverage operations around at The Hilton.
While in Lauderdale Tim began experimenting with a few different seasoning formulas. He was trying to cut the hotels’ spice costs one evening, Tim came across an interesting combination of herbs and spices that when mixed together tasted phenomenal on a steak that he cooked. He continued to experiment and alter his new seasoning formula until he was sure that this blend was working well on all fronts. Soon after getting his special seasoning blend just right, Tim started using his seasoning on just about everything he cooked. He came to learn very quickly after “guinea pigging” the hotel staff and several banquets, this new seasoning tasted different on everything he put it on and everybody was raving about it!! His new concoction actually changed flavor characteristics and enhanced the natural flavors of whatever he cooked with it!! It tastes different on chicken than it does steak, or pork, or fish, vegetables, and the list goes on. It was a revolutionary concept in the kitchen; and his spice costs dropped dramatically, as designed.
Little did he know at the time that Lawhorn’s Signature Seasoning was born!
The Hilton closed down for major renovations in the late 80’s and Tim and his wife made the decision to move back to their hometown of Haines City to get out of the rat-race of South Florida, and start a family.
Over the next 15 years, Tim worked for large, upscale hotels, national and regional restaurant operations in Central Florida taking his culinary expertise and secret seasoning with him. By this time, Tim was selling his seasoning to friends and family all the time. He was urged by anyone who tried it to bring it to market. “This stuff is the bomb!” was the general reaction by one tasting it for the first time. He enjoyed 100% return business from his seasoning customers. By now, Tim had achieved upper-management status as a Food & Beverage Director and finally a multi-unit Director of Operations for a fine-dining chain of restaurants. He left his mark with all of them, bringing his unique flavor and style of cooking to the masses. His reputation in the kitchen was outstanding everywhere he went!
His family was growing with his career, and they had three great children along the way!
In early 2002, the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself to Tim. The original building that housed his Lawhorn’s Family grandparents’ drugstore was available for lease with a restaurant already in it!! It only took about 30 seconds to decide that this was his dream come true.
Tim left his corporate job and bought the restaurant business. “Lawhorn’s Corner Café” was created from the ground up with every single detail overseen by Tim and Heidi. He created an eclectic menu from his vast culinary experience that had something for everybody. The “Signature Seasoning” was now mentioned and featured all over the menu. The daily specials were always “down-home” country meals that usually came straight out of Grandma Bunny’s old recipe box she to Tim before she passed away. This was the very food that Tim learned how to cook 37 years ago! Historic pictures of Haines City from the last 120 years adorn the walls making “Lawhorn’s Corner” a history lesson for anyone who walks through the doors. Lawhorn’s was once again the talk of the town!
In 2006 Tim met an executive from the Hormel meat company who asked to speak to him after dining on one of Tim’s steaks. The gentleman told Tim that this was the best steak he had eaten anywhere in the country and was curious as to how it was prepared. Tim simply replied, “The only thing I do to the meat prior to cooking, is season it with my seasoning blend that I make here at the restaurant and cook it to order.” The executive immediately urged Tim to bring this seasoning to market. “This stuff is great,” he said. “I’ve never tasted anything like it in my life!” With those words of encouragement coming from a meat expert of that caliber, Tim began the process of bringing his “baby” to market.
Lawhorn’s Signature Seasoning has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a cost-cutting vehicle. Restaurateur Tim Lawhorn now proudly oversees production and distribution personally, taking his revolutionary new seasonings the pubic so everyone can cook like a gourmet chef, no matter what their level of cooking experience.
You don’t have to be a Master Chef to cook like one! Try a bottle of Lawhorn’s Signature Seasonings at your family’s table tonight, justthink of the history you’ll be TASTING!