Calories Aren't Everything

By Sam Stamps:

Diets. Counting calories. We have all been there.

We all want to look good in that cute swimsuit this summer, so we plan (a lot of soul-sucking planning) a diet and how many calories we can have in a day. I have spent many of hours planning what my diet will be and how many calories I can have for each meal, then by dinner I only have 200 calories left so I am left feeling hungry. However, I only ate the number of calories I was supposed to have! We all think that keeping track of how many calories we consume is key for weight loss. Well, sad news - not all those calories may be beneficial to my body if I want to lose weight and look great in that cute swimsuit at the beach.


Calories are how much “energy” a food contains. Calories do not show you the entire picture of food; they are only a small portion of the equation. Most of the time you cannot cut out 100 calories a day and expect to lose 10 lbs. Let’s say you go to a restaurant, they have this menu item, let us call it green goo, that contains high fructose corn syrup, MSG, and sulfites, and it only has 100 calories. They may claim the food as “healthy” because it “only has 100 calories!”

Is it healthy for your body to have those ingredients? It’s important to read labels and see what all you are putting into your body. I know I know, reading labels is annoying, but if you are wishing for that rocking body for the summer, it’s important and beneficial.  

Dieting only handles the symptoms rather than the cause. Let’s say that you have a clogged toilet and the plumber comes and says, “Ok, ma’am, you need to stop using your toilet, which will help the clog.” See, the plumber did not really fix the clogged toilet, only the symptoms. Eating poor quality foods may throw your fat-burning, appetite-taming hormones out of sync. We as people need to look at the long-term solution instead of a short term. If you eat healthy, whole foods, you do not have to count calories.

Think quality over quantity.  It is also important to look at how much you are exercising, how much sleep you are getting and how stressed you are. Losing weight is an individual process; you need to do what is best for you. People always tell me, “Oh, you should try this awesome diet! I lost 20 lbs in 2 weeks!.” So I try this “awesome” diet, and I only lose 1 lb in 2 weeks. Just because that “awesome” diet worked for that person, does not mean that my body will react the same way.

Your body does not treat all calories the same. If you eat high-quality foods that are rich in nutrients, like leafy greens, nuts and chicken, you will fill up quickly and it will keep you full longer. It can also trigger the release of hormones that tell your body to burn fat (yay!). If you are eating processed foods or foods with added sugar and refined grains, they may not be inherently satisfying and you may end up overeating.

These foods may prompt your body to store fat (boo).  Sometimes counting calories may have you ignoring hunger cues. I have 400 calories left for the day, I need to use them all, but I am not hungry. Guess I will eat anyways. I am 300 calories over for the day! I cannot eat anything else, but I am so hungry. It’s important to listen to your body, it usually knows what is best for you. In the past, I have been able to get away with eating low-quality food and lose some weight, but I did not feel as energetic and not as satisfied. So, I always end up eating more than I should and then feeling more tired.

If you overeat one day, do not freak out and continue to overeat because you feel you have ruined your diet - that makes you gain weight. One cheat meal (meal, not day, very important) is not going to ruin everything that you have done. Your body can handle the extra food without making you gain weight. It is healthy to keep your mind sane and happy; there is no use in completely punishing yourself. Just do not make a habit of eating like that every day. I know when I have focused on how many calories I have left, I am not enjoying myself or the food I am eating. Why punish yourself when you can eat delicious healthy food?

When I have counted calories, I feel so restricted, out of control and not enjoying myself as much. I was worried about what I could eat at my next meal and if I was going to stay within my calories for the day. I have tried so many diets and failed at so many diets.


I decided in January of this year that I was finally going to listen to my body. I am now eating whole and high-quality foods. I find recipes that I enjoy and that my body enjoys as well. My body has told me that I do not react to grains and dairy that well. I have more energy now that I have decreased those items (plus items such as soy, beans, and alcohol) from my diet. I am enjoying myself so much more and I am not spending so much time trying to do math with how many calories I can have. I am exercising more and my performance in my workouts has increased. I feel more energetic and not wanting to take as many naps, (I still love naps).

As of today, I have lost 30 pounds just by choosing to eat whole and healthy foods (like Taziki’s!) and watching my portion control. I was able to run a half marathon (not running the entire time, let us be real). Now, I still have my cheat meal every now and then, but I am not feeling as guilty when I treat myself to a sweet treat. So, listen to your body and live the good life!

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About Sam:

Samantha was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and has worked for Taziki's for 11 years and started out as a cashier at the Taziki's Lee Branch location. She is now a Training Specialist and support for online ordering. She does CrossFit at a local gym (CrossFit Gardendale), loves Disney and loves to cook. In February she completed her first half marathon, the Disney Princess Half Marathon. She will be doing the Tough Mudder in Nashville later in the year.

Three Reasons We Don’t Have Fryers

The start of 2018 brought a wave of health goals and high ambitions to achieve a healthy lifestyle. As we get ready to enjoy spending our summer at the pool or at the lakehouse, we are reminded what it takes to be more health-conscience.

At Taziki’s we focus on great food that nourishes the body and sets it up for peak performance because that's how we believe one can #livethegoodlife.

How? No fryers (also no freezers or microwaves). Not only does this allow for us to achieve our standard of providing fresh food but it also provides nutritional benefits.

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Reason #1 - Fryers Often Use Hydrogenated Oils Which Results In High Trans Fat:

The trans fat forms when it undergoes a process called hydrogenation, which occurs when the oils are heated to high temperatures during the cooking process.

It gets worse when the oils are reused, which makes them break down each time, ultimately changing the composition which increases the oil being absorbed into the food. Despite the FDA’s plan to put a ban on trans fat,  this doesn't mean fried foods will become any healthier since the food will still be cooked in unhealthy oils that end up being recycled in the cooking process.

Instead of using fryers, all of our restaurants use flat top grills. 

Instead of using fryers, all of our restaurants use flat top grills. 

The trans fats end up working against the body in many ways by blocking the production of chemicals that combat inflammation and benefit the hormonal and nervous systems.

Our approach is to focus on details that make a lifelong difference in the lives of ours customers, which is why we cook on flat top grills in every restaurant. We don’t use fryers because we’re committed to FRESH food that is intentionally nourishing.

Reason #2 - Eating Fried Food May Increase Risk For Disease:

In a report on ‘Fried Food Consumption and Cardiovascular Health..”, its stated that eating more fried foods is associated with a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Another report on fried-food consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes conducted two large observational studies which found that the more people ate fried foods, the higher the risk there was for developing heart disease. The statistics showed that consuming 4-6 servings of fried food per week were 39% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to those who were consuming less than one serving per week.

With the increase in calories in fried food, caloric intake can quickly increase as this food is consumed. With a trend in eating more and more fried food, the increase for diabetes rises as well. The higher the intake of all fried foods leads to the higher risk of developing any one of these diseases.

Reason #3 - We Value A Clean Produce-Centered Open Kitchen:

With all of the chemicals that are taken into the body, the ‘normal’ functions suddenly are put on hold to help take care of the digestion process. These negative side effects are the reason we focus everything in our restaurant on the Mediterranean diet. The premise of this diet and lifestyle is to embrace the daily practice of finding a sustainable way of living through food, the mind, and the body.


Though this philosophy makes our menu complex, we value the challenge that’s created by our passion for variety. At Taziki’s, we are obsess over serving food to our guests that not only satisfies our taste buds, but also provides nutritional value that our bodies can benefit from.

The core of our brand is built around making extraordinary food, serving our communities, and creating relationships. We know food is a medium to do that which is why we open our doors at Taziki’s every day. If you have a great healthy food story, please Tweet us @tazikis.

Lessons From Lettuce

By Rachel Layton (VP Marketing & Growth):

My latest adventure has been joining the incredible team at Taziki’s. If you don’t have a location near you, there’s a chance you’re on our growth list (hopefully).

As a customer, I had visited these locations many times for their fast service and healthy food items. As a new employee, I began my training at the store level, in the kitchen, with two different teams in Nashville at Taziki’s Green Hills & Taziki’s Gulch. José (local owner pictured below) and his sweet team became my family.

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Let me preface this by saying, I grew up in hospitality. It’s not like I had no knowledge of the inner workings of a restaurant, chefs have been my best friends for over four years now but I hadn’t used my body and hands in hospitality or a restaurant kitchen for a long time (about 6 years).

If you haven’t been in hospitality before, let me take a minute to brag on the people who prepare your food. A restaurant kitchen starts sometimes as early as 4 am, (depending on the restaurant and catering schedule) prepping items for the daily menu. Many different positions must show up in order to make this run smoothly and any one of them can cause a glitch by under performing. It’s intense, it’s physical, and an environment full of pressure but the creativity is normally oozing out of there because innovation comes from improvising. A bustling kitchen is always the perfect place for problem-solving. To put it plainly, the level of teamwork required is unmatched in any other industry/environment besides the military. Needless to say, I was hooked on the movement and thrill long ago.

As I walked into this kitchen which ran as a well-oiled machine, I felt intimidated — mostly because the thought of being in the way or not useful completely shattered my psyche. I know just enough to know that being in the way is the same as messing up a recipe. It’s not good. Anyway, I digress.

The first step is prep. Seems simple but it’s actually very intricate. One of the main menu fixtures on the Taziki’s menu are these beautiful, fresh salads. I got assigned to prepping the lettuce that makes up these bountiful wonders and I learned a few things about life in the process.

Chef Cesar, my trainer for the day walked me through the process from full vegetable to sliced salad, and there were many steps. After the lettuce is cut to perfection (intentionally sized so it’s easier to eat), it’s put into a produce wash bath where it soaks. While it sat in the bath, Cesar was careful as he explained to me how to properly treat lettuce — and there is etiquette for this type of thing.

  • Be graceful: Lettuce, though sturdy and versatile, is also fragile and delicate so it’s not meant to be shoved down into the water. Too much force will brown the beautiful lettuce and it won’t be fit to serve.

  • Have a system: Post-bath, all the lettuce is spun (in a 50 gallon salad spinner with a crank) to remove the water. Always remove the lettuce from the same corner of the bath container every time, so you can ensure you’ve got plenty of water for every handful to remove dirt as it spins. Too little water will keep the lettuce from getting totally clean.

  • Don’t rush: Spinning the lettuce happens in two steps for a reason. The first set of spins removes the excess water normally containing little dirt particles from nature. You take the lid off the spinner, remove the salad strainer and dump the tub of water. Then, you put the salad strainer back in and spin again. The second time is to ensure the salad is totally dry before it hits the line (and your salad plate). Too much excess water will cause the salad to wilt into a tasteless, soggy mess. SAD!

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Here’s me and my friend, Chef Cesar on my last day of training in his store. I found the lessons he taught me about lettuce to be a good reminder in general for life and leadership.

Grace is a powerful tool. It makes an impact — whether you’re displaying simple elegance while handling lettuce, or honoring a person for their talents and heart though they’ve made a big (or little) mistake. It’s great for perspective and good leaders always search for context.

Systems are the reason we achieve success. Though they normally seem mundane, they protect us from mistakes when we’re being too casual and susceptible to distraction. People achieve excellence when it comes from strong, relevant systems — never winging it.

Being present and in the moment takes a level of consciousness that breeds intention. Being rushed doesn’t honor time for what it really is — defined, it’s continued progress of existence (past, present, and future) regarded as a whole. Leaders establish cadence and set the pace for those looking to them for a help. Intentional, conscious leaders build teams that achieve wins together and enjoy their journey together.

I’m grateful for food and how it nourishes bodies, along with minds. Today, I’m especially thankful for lessons from lettuce. Thanks for reading.

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I appreciate you.

How Moving To A New City Opened My Eyes To New Things

  By: Andrew Chirico

It was a warm September afternoon in Chestertown, Maryland.

I was walking back to my room after class when I received an email from Anna Duffy, asking if I was interested in interviewing for a position as Taziki’s Digital Marketing Strategist. To be completely honest, being a New Jersey native, I wasn’t familiar with the brand or the food.


My First Taziki's Experience

I'll always remember the first time I was able to take my family to Taziki's. It was all of our first time's which made it a very special afternoon. 

After doing my research, I immediately found the food and mission compelling.

Long story short, after a couple of interviews, I was offered the position with the option to move to the greater Nashville area. Before I tell you why I chose to take the job, let me give you a quick background story.

I became a creature of habit and routine for the past six years, which comes with both positive and negative effects. The positive was, I did well at school but the negative was, I stayed in the zone of contentment.

Taziki’s was an opportunity not only to build a digital department but also to break out of my comfort zone and try something new. It took a lot of hard thinking, discussions with family, pros and cons lists, etc. but ultimately, I realized this was my chance to grow.

I pulled the trigger and accepted in early November and have enjoyed every single moment. Yes, of course, I miss home, family, friends, my mom’s cooking (especially that chicken parm), but I’m doing what’s right for me with an amazing team at Taziki’s.

To be transparent with you all, there are times when I do think about if this was the right decision and I end up getting those thoughts quickly knocked down by my parents over Facetime. (Man, that app has been used a lot these last four months.)

These past five months have opened up a new world to me. I’m getting the opportunity to travel and see new places, eat different food, make new friends from work and my town, try new things (like running a marathon in Carmel, Indiana). The list goes on and on. If two years ago you told me I would be on a plane flying to WVU for work, I would have laughed at you and said, “no way.”

Moving to a new city can seem daunting, and it should. What I’ve recognized is that if you do something new with an open mind and with the right support from family, friends, co-workers, you will succeed.

This year I’ve been able to redefine what success looks like for me. Before it was staying within the guardrails of life, and now the growth that has come with saying, “yes” is making me the most successful version of myself. The next time someone asks you to do something, I challenge you to lean into a yes instead of a no. You might just find yourself in a new city, trying new things, and working for a company that you love.

I hope you enjoyed this post and would love to hear your story of when you tried something new. Connect with me on LinkedIn @AndrewChirico!

About Andrew: Andrew Chirico is a New Jersey native and recent graduate from Washington College where he studied Business and Marketing. He recently moved to the greater Nashville area to take on the role as the Corporate Digital Strategist. Andrew takes on all digital, social, and email marketing projects. 



Why I Love My Mom

By Keith Richards: 

This past week in honor of Mother’s Day, we have asked you what you love about your mom. As I reflect on my mom and her passing 6 years ago, I am reminded of what I loved about her. Wow, you name it! I loved it about her! My mom’s kindness was probably the biggest thing as well as her dedication to the Lord and my dad.

It was always J.O.Y. Jesus, Others, and then Yourself. She lived that out in her life and taught us how to do the same. My mom probably had one of the biggest hearts - and I’m not just saying that because I am her son - but she really did care for everybody. Growing up, I remember her always getting us ready for church on Sunday, and being a part of everything. Our home was like the Kool-Aid House where everyone came to play. If someone got hurt when we were playing, Mom was always there. They even called her “mom,” too! After we opened Taziki’s, Mom was still there. She cleaned tables before we opened and greeted guests.

   A life-changing memory of my mom was when I started working at Bottega in Birmingham and it just didn’t feel right. I didn't use the company culture and customers, and I decided I was going to quit. So I went out the back door. Before making this big decision, I called my mom and told her what I wanted to do. She said, “Son, you need to go back in there. You told the man you were going to work. You’ve never quit anything in your life so you need to take the opportunity he has given you and go back up there and work!”

She always based her decisions off of what God would want you to do. So I went back in and worked. If I hadn’t, I never would have found my love for people and cooking and ultimately opening Taziki’s.

After we decided to open Taziki’s, my mom’s advice was still a huge influence in my life. She told me, “Take care of Amy and work hard. The people will come and God will provide.” She was a constant encouragement and always reminded me of Joshua 1:9 which says:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

My mom was always a huge supporter of Taziki’s. Being a good cook, it was definitely a compliment. Looking back, some of my mom’s favorite dishes include the Greek Salad with grilled chicken, Salmon Feast with rice, Roll-ups with fruit and not chips, and she loved the Shrimp. I am forever grateful for the influence she was and continues to be in my life and Taziki’s.

Growing Hope at Taziki’s

By: Meagan Campbell

One of my favorite times to walk into the Birmingham stores are in the mornings because I’m greeted by the sweet, smiling faces of employees with Down Syndrome. They are busy cleaning tables, rolling silverware, and picking grapes off the stem. Some of these people have been with Taziki’s 3 to 4 times longer than I have! If I walk into Chace Lake, Daniel comes to give me a hug, ask me how I’m doing, then tell me he has to get back to work. If I walk into Lee Branch, I get a smile and hug from Mark and Erica, and then an (expected) eye-roll from Brandy, Keith’s first hire with Down Syndrome. These employees are a huge asset to each of their stores.

Why did we start hiring individuals with disabilities? At first, for no other reason than Keith’s friend Cindy Vinson was finding a job placement for one of her students. Then later, we saw that we didn’t want to operate the store without them. These employees complete their tasks full of contagious joy; joy that every store needs.

Basil grown by HOPE students from Shelby County High School with their teacher Marisol Lilly.

Basil grown by HOPE students from Shelby County High School with their teacher Marisol Lilly.

Basil grown by HOPE students from Shelby County High School with their teacher Marisol Lilly.

So why wouldn’t you hire an individual with a disability in your business?

The HOPE Project began with Keith hiring Brandy more than 12 years ago and has grown into something so much bigger. HOPE stands for Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment; individuals find enrichment through gainful employment, whether that is working at a store or growing herbs for a restaurant.  We now see HOPE grown by special needs programs at local schools and non-profits; it’s so simple, yet so purposeful. They grow herbs and we buy them to use in our food.

So why do I help with the HOPE Project? Observing these individuals work is such a tangible way to see good, purposeful work. I want to help people grow in all aspects of life, and connecting individuals, schools, and restaurants together is a wonderful way that I am able to do that.

Employees from almost all of the Birmingham locations celebrating 20 year’s of Taziki’s!

Employees from almost all of the Birmingham locations celebrating 20 year’s of Taziki’s!

Employees from almost all of the Birmingham locations celebrating 20 year’s of Taziki’s!

Our plan is to make all of the education about the HOPE Project available, strengthen the web of mentors who have started other HOPE Projects, and be an example to the restaurant industry. We can make a difference, it just starts with hiring one.

Are you interested in making a difference? Here are 5 ways you can get started.

  1. Support local businesses that hire individuals with disabilities.
  2. Look at what types of jobs individuals with disabilities can do in your business and reach out to your local employment agency that places these special individuals. Focus on ability—what they can do, not what they can’t do.
  3. If you’re a restauranteur, connect with a local school or non-profit and see if they would want to grow herbs for your restaurant.
  4. If you’re an educator or non-profit leader, brainstorm restaurants that serve fresh herbs and reach out to them to see if they would be interested in buying herbs from you.
  5. If you want more information, check out

About Meagan:  Meagan Campbell is from Birmingham and graduated from Auburn University with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management. She lives in Birmingham and work with Taziki’s Home Office in the training Department and coordinates for The HOPE Project. She has a heart for the least of these.

Live The Good Life With CEO Dan Simpson

Written By CEO Dan Simpson:

Going on vacation is not a big part of my childhood memories, but it was always an adventure.

My dad was focused on starting a new life and building a house in rural Maine after leaving 12 years in the police force in Philadelphia and my mom was putting in long shifts at the hospital where she worked as a nurse to pay the bills. I am in the middle of five kids, so there were seven mouths to feed. After our initial fast start in the city lights of “MoTownPhilly”, my siblings and I were thrown into the adventure that awaited us up in rural New England on forty acres that became our playground.

We were pioneers. We hiked into the woods to find the best tree to climb or stream to fish. We built forts and got lost in our imagination, converting piles of moss and bark into delectable recipes that we cooked into a feast fit for a king!

It was not all fun and games though, as we kept a massive garden that required weekly weeding, but also yielded a bounty of root vegetables and canned goods for the winter. And speaking of the winter, we chopped, split and stacked ten cord of firewood each summer to keep us warm through the snow and cold that was always just around the corner.

I remember my older sister, Becky doing most of the cooking in our home. I learned to make an apple pie one Thanksgiving and have fond memories of my mom baking bread or setting up the crockpot with pork-chops, sauerkraut, whole apples and onions to cook all day. The few times we did go on a “vacation”, it was back to Pennsylvania, to the Pocono Mountains, where my grandparents retired. We’d walk into an oven-warmed kitchen with my Grandmother’s strawberry-rhubarb, apple and peach pies lined up on the table – evidence that she was working in the kitchen all day and preparing for our arrival. My grandfather was a chef in Philly and a cook in the Navy and he and his bride clearly shared the love for food.

Years later, when I met my wife, Kim, I discovered we too shared a love for food. After moving to Nashville, where we still live with our three kids, we formed a supper club (Kim prefers to call it a “dinner club”) which has been going on for over a decade! We meet monthly after the host decides on an international destination inspired menu. We challenge ourselves by picking recipes that are out of our reach and pair it with wine and cocktails and desserts. Everyone contributes and we have a myriad of shared memories and stories we will always cherish.

We’ve also discovered how a love for food dovetails into a love for travel, as there’s nothing like tasting homemade pasta in Florence, Italy, enjoying coffee in Antiqua, Guatemala, or entrecôte sauce au vin in Bordeaux, France.

That said, my humble beginnings bring me back to the simple pleasures that can be found in making a salad picked from our three 4×8 raised box gardens in our Nashville backyard. This, to me, is the essence of what it means to live the good life. Grand or small, it starts with gratitude and curiosity. We always have something to be thankful for. If we view life as an adventure, it is. If we savor the good moments or create them, our lives will be filled with eudaimonia, or what the Greeks called the good life.

Reflecting On Twenty Years


March 7th, 2018 was a day in my life I thought may never happened. Last Wednesday we celebrated 20 years of Taziki’s and it’s been amazing to reflect on all the blessings that have occurred in two decades. It all starts with my beautiful wife, Amy, as we took our first trip to Greece and decided that we wanted to bring back the food, flavors, and culture that we experienced. After returning to our home in Birmingham, Alabama we started building our dream (literally). We took out a line of equity on our house and used that money to refurbish an old Sneaky Pete’s into our first restaurant in the Colonnade off Highway 280 in Birmingham.


My mom worked on the floors, my dad helped me rewire the place, and I can still hear my sweet little nieces running around the restaurant before we opened. I was just 33 years old and so excited to see my dream come to fruition. We opened in March of 1998, an after the first couple of months, I knew we were building something that could be pretty special. During our construction of our 2nd location we became pregnant with our first set of twins, and during the construction of our 3rd location we were surprised with another set of twins.


By greeting each customer that walked through our doors and spending a little extra time listening, we have not only created great memories but also great friends. We were fortunate in building our first store and making it successful, which turned into two and then three, and now I sit here today typing this knowing that number 83 is about to open next week. I can look back on 20 years and think of countless ways that God has blessed me, but one of the proudest moments was walking my 15 year into his first job at Taziki’s, showing him how to clock in and get started on his first day of employment.

Taziki’s hasn’t just been a job that has kept me busy. It is an accumulation of partners, employees, and friends that have grown my family to stretch across 16 states. One woman in particular, Cindy Vinson, introduced me to Brandy, who was the first of many people with special needs I employ. Brandy is one of the most hardworking and intentional employees I have, and I can count on her to do her job 100%. Without creating a relationship with Cindy and understanding the need to employ special needs, I would have never co-founded our HOPE program.

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Last Wednesday it was incredible to serve 200+ people free signature pasta and take the time to hug my wife in the same spot I did 20 years ago. We are excited to see what the next 20 years brings!

-Keith Richards