TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Faith, family, football, and now flavor. Those are the ingredients that are fueling Mama Carey’s Kitchen.
But behind the counter, you’ll not only find the one they call mama, Tisha Carey. You’ll find her mother, Deborah Atkins, her kids, and pretty much the entire Carey family. Sharing generations of knowledge in the kitchen.
"Everything that I cook is recipes that they have," said Carey.
This once was all a dream for Tisha Carey and her son Ka'Deem that started roughly five years ago in 2014. The former U of A running back and Canyon Del Oro grad made a deal with his mom that when he was drafted into the NFL, he'd buy her a house and help open up a restaurant.
Ka’Deem would later be drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2014 NFL Draft where he would spend three seasons before going to the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League.
Tisha said that after he made it to the NFL, she decided to hold off on the restaurant saying it would be too much at the time. But she kept on with the catering as a way to have a plan after football. But Tisha said her son kept her focused on the end goal.
"Ka'Deem kept pushing it, you know with opening up the restaurant. 'Let’s get this catering moving so we can open up the restaurant,'” Tisha said.
That dream finally became a reality with the opening of Mama Carey's Kitchen on the NW corner of 6th and Park inside of the Metro Wildcat Convenience store.
Being right next to the University of Arizona was the icing on the cake since most of their family has attended the school.
"When you ask God for something and he goes beyond it you go ‘woah,’ you don’t know how to handle it,” explained Tisha.
One item on the menu that Mama Carey is known for? Fried Catfish. Tisha explaining that it's hard to find that here in Tucson and that she has sort of been coined "The Catfish Lady" after catering several events with it.
The Carey's said what makes the east-coast inspired food even more special is the family recipes behind each dish.
“Generation to generation you get your moms and your grandmas recipes and you just spice it up a little bit to make it your own and I think that’s what my mom did," said Nadi Carey, Tisha's daughter.
Ka'Deem may be living in Canada but is still hands on with the business. He made sure to be in Tucson for Saturday's opening day so he could now be the one on the sidelines, cheering his mom on.
"I’m a mommas boy. I'm proud of my mom I'm happy for what she’s doing. I mean the sky's the limit. I love to see a smile on her face and lets just keep it going," said Ka'Deem.
The sky is the limit for this family with their dreams still growing. Tisha said opening this stop is step one but that they hope to expand to more locations that can accommodate more people.
"Now our dream is to get a location where there’s seating," said Tisha.
But they’ll always keep this spot open because to the Carey’s, this university will always be their home.
“The U of A is a family. It’s just family,” said Tisha.