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July 3, 2021
Local Food Truck Launches Comfort Food Menu
What started as the fight of her life has turned into a love for food/cooking. Heather Stallings was born with a combination of orthopedic issues, which led her to spend most of her life in a hospital.
Instead of spending summers going to camp or traveling to a distant relative's house, Stallings would spend her summers at Lenox Baker Children's Hospital, where she would have over a dozen surgeries during a span of 5 years. And like most hospitals, the food wasn't that great, especially to a kid. However, Heather's mom would bring her food daily, and that gave Heather comfort.
When Stallings wasn't in the hospital, she would spend her days with her grandmother while her parents were at work. That's where she developed her love of cooking southern comfort foods. She fondly remembers watching The Young and the Restless, cutting up fresh vegetables and making scratch-made dinners with her grandmother; pure comfort.
By the time Heather turned 14, doctors had told her she would soon run out of steps and never walk again, despite her multiple surgeries. "Growing up in the hospital and having multiple surgeries all the time sort of instills a persistence in you. It's hard to describe, but when everyone tells you 'you won't be able to do something' your persistence grows even stronger." says Stallings.
The Raleigh native has used that mindset for every obstacle that she's faced in her life. Despite some life-altering setbacks, like her father's death, she started BytheGrace in 2018. It all began with serving her signature AngelCakes, a divine take on the traditional angel food cake. In 2019, BytheGrace received a request to start making savory food items. Then in 2020, the pandemic strikes, leaving many people scrambling to pivot, including Heather. She lost her part time job BUT Heather adapted, just like life has continually taught her to do; figure it out and keep pushing. Thus her "Wednesday Dinner" series was born. She decided to focus on cooking full time, building her catering business and planning for her future food ambulance.
The search for a truck wouldn't be easy, especially an ambulance, but Stallings, who's no stranger to adversity, knew she would eventually find her vehicle. Finally, after a year of dead ends and multiple setbacks, she found "Faith."
It only fits that "Faith" is a 1995 Freightliner ambulance. She served as a rescue vehicle with the Sophia City Fire Department in West Virginia from 1995 and retiring in 2018, coincidentally the same year BytheGrace was born. Although Faith has retired from the rescue industry in one sense, she will now continue in her new role of bringing comfort food to the rescue!
BytheGrace has achieved local notoriety status with their 2nd place win of Midtown Magazines 2020 Diamond Awards "Best Food Delivery" category. It was awarded their first year as a delivery-based business. But the highlight was when Paula Deen served their signature AngelCakes to her family. Stallings has the personalized inspiring letter from Deen, whom she admires greatly, on her wall as a daily reminder of what's possible.
BytheGrace will be launching their food truck on Saturday, July 17, at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, NC. A location that is comforting for Stallings, as it is the place where her grandfather was a cook, her grandmother was a nurse, and where her grandparents met. This family-friendly event will take place from 12 noon - 3 pm. There will be live music by Raiz, Fairy Hair by Twinsel, yard games, and food.
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