Pared Pro-File: Paula “Tuffy” Eldridge

Published by Jamie Li on

Private pastry chefs with a great photo bomb. Tuffy in red.

Who knew when I was frying white onions until golden brown and super crispy that little Tuffy Eldridge was caramelizing?

Not Tuffy. I would take those onions and put them on lightly toasted Butter Top bread with mayo.

That, my friends, was the beginning of my long culinary career.

My true appreciation for great food was spawned and nurtured by my mother, Rev. Cannon Frankie Easter. I was born in New York City where she exposed me to true pizzas, Peking duck, anchovies, and matzo.

Then we moved to Muskogoee, Oklahoma. My search for Matzo there still continues.

In Oklahoma we did find the best of seasonal corn, peaches, greens of all kinds, beans, and strawberries. I learned how to cook the freshest catfish, quail, chicken and BBQ meats.

I did music, theater, and scouting all through high school and college.

I was in recreation and turned down a high profile job at a park in Oklahoma City to take my first prep cook/line cook job at a pub called Chadwick’s. I am also a 12-string artist and song writing musician.

I often played where I cooked. We called it flip a burger and sing a song.

I did a lot of radio and TV with the awesome band TrueStar, a multi-cult band way ahead of it’s time. There was also the Toughie Band, said to be one of, if not the first all female bands in O.K.C.

I followed the bass player here to San Francisco and she went on to co-found 4 Non Blondes. (You can listen to more of Tuffy’s music on her SoundCloud station)

I went to work for an Italian food company shortly after moving here 1982.

I started as a driver for Auntie Pasta and worked every station. I made sauce for several years. I developed a Cajun Crawfish Sauce that is still sold today in Noe Valley. I also made pasta, ravioli, cappelletti by hand, I became the in house Product Demo Person before opening my own Demo Company in the mid 90’s. I also did double duty as the mascot. A giant Ravioli (two huge pillows with me stuffed in the middle) for events and store promotions. Fun and funny!

Tuffy and Chef Jonathan in the kitchen at Jillian’s getting ready for the Mayweather/McGregor fight

After a few years of great success with the Demo business, I decided to get off the road. I choose to go into the new world of Whole Foods retail. I went to the brand new store on California Street in San Francisco cicra 1997. Team member of the year 1999.

There I met a young culinary student who had a passion for cheese knowledge. As I have done with those with that gleam in the eye, every time he would come the counter I would show him something new or something he had not seen had before. The student was Chris Cosentino. He has become an amazing American chef. I am proud to have played a tiny role in his culinary life.

All through my retail life I have kept a hand in catering. My own company is called Black Maverick Catering. I have sliced beef for Rita Moreno. I have cooked breakfast for Emmy Lou Harris and sung bluegrass to call her family to the table. I have had the pleasure of working with countless others over the years prior to and with Pared.

Pared has become an invaluable way for me to keep the passion for cooking alive in my life. A friend of mine mentioned that she had signed up and I was intrigued.

I feel like the business model is really well thought out. All of the people I have met for the company have been head above people I have met from other agencies. Any concerns I have are always handled in a timely and professional manner.

Swag from working the U2 concert at the Cow Palace. Had a blast working in the VIP tent accommodating 3000, with Paula LeDuc Fine Catering.

My favorite gig with Pared has to be going to the Cow Palace for the VIP tent for the Salesforce U2 concert. Big tent event. Lots of us. Lots of them.


Jamie Li

Jamie Li heads up our elite forces known as the Pared Pro Operations team. Prior to Pared, Jamie worked in operations at Lyft and marketing at Yahoo!.

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