Tim the Girl About Town

It’s an unusually crisp Saturday morning, where beneath the backdrop of a picture perfect blue sky Tim McDiarmid is in the midst of her weekend routine, navigating through the crowd and picking out local fare from the farmer’s market. It’s just a few minutes after nine, but she’s already cleared out one merchant’s entire table of dark green kale, picked up some beautiful purple beets from another, and has an armful of leafy kohlrabi, all of which she’ll deftly stack in a large utilitarian crate to haul home.

It’s a scene that perfectly mirrors who she is and what she does. What Tim the Girl does is impact the community with her unique combination of talents which include special events, design and – most notably – food. An element, that perhaps more than any other, defines her, and has the power to transform and redefine our city.

In a place known for breakfast tacos and Frito Pie, she is one of the people helping push the needle quite literally toward greener pastures, with a heavy reliance on local, organic, plant based foods. Whether it’s a salad of charred shisito peppers and chinese greens, curried lentil soup, or even firecracker shrimp with sweet and sour squash, what you’ll find in her cooking is flavor, color, and attention to detail.

In her role as a food medium she has truly flourished. She’s credited with bringing the pop-up to San Antonio, helped launch the first modern, urban grocery store in Uncommon Fare at Cevallos Lofts, puts together culinary getaways, offers private classes and a meal delivery service – all with a penchant for fresh, healthy, seasonal ingredients.

With all of those credits under her hat, it’s hard to imagine anything she doesn’t want to do. But there is one.

“Don’t look for a restaurant any time soon – it’s not even in my mind,” she says, over a warm cup of tea. “I really love my job and everything I do, but it’s different than having a restaurant. And even without one, I’m always working.”

Case and point: twelve hours ago she had just finished a private event for 60 guests. And this afternoon she was putting the finishing touches on her weekly menu before hosting and catering a special event for 150 people at Temple Beth-El later that night.

While there may be plenty of busy folks in our burgeoning food scene, it’s McDiarmid’s unique background and her fresh, earthy creations that have become her trademark.

She grew up in the Canadian countryside, where her mom maintained an extensive organic garden. “Everyone cooked and everyone had their own garden,” she says. “We were far enough away from the city that there really wasn’t any take-out or going out to dinner … It was kind of a hippie version of ‘Little House on the Prairie, and it’s where I developed my love and appreciation of vegetables. They’re the main part of my diet, and fresh, unadulterated dishes are my version of comfort food.”

From Canada, she moved on to New York where she worked in and around the culinary field, before making here way to San Antonio in 2009, where she quickly recognized the void in the niche market for her brand of sustenance. “It’s something I’m constantly trying to help people with now – to develop an understanding of healthy food made well and with integrity.”

Even today, she says, there are still limits to finding delicious, healthy food in our city. “The east coast and west coast kind of get it, it’s ingrained in the food scene there. And while there are a few more options now in San Antonio, its still hard to find a basic, awesome, healthy salad.”

There’s also the stigma of healthy food being bland and boring and perhaps not as visually appealing as its less healthy counterparts. To overcome those barriers, McDiarmid looks at the dish as a whole and adds her own flair and critical eye to the process so that nothing is lost in the end.

“It all matters to me, and so I try to marry the aesthetics with the flavors and the quality of the food. But it has to make sense,” she says. “It was a concept people didn’t quite get in the beginning, so it was a bit of a hard sell then. But now, in my third year, things are coming along.”

With fall in full swing and the holidays approaching, she expects to be as busy as ever, creating new seasonal dishes.

“Right now, root vegetables are getting bountiful, along with hearty winter greens, and I love those things, and love making those wintery kind of foods, “ she says. “I enjoy working the holidays and making amazing meals for people, because I know I’ll bring them great things they’ve never had before.”

As for the future, she’s moving toward doing more conceptual design work, and helping others realize their own vision with food-related businesses.

“There are lots of people with great ideas who have trouble seeing the whole picture,” she said. “And I really love helping them through that process.”

Aside from helping shift our local food scene, you can bet that whatever project she tackles next will benefit from her vision and unique brand of doing things.

“I’m very picky about every aspect of everything I do,” says McDiarmid. “And in the end, what I create is not typical, it’s mine.”

Originally published in “The Rivard Report”, by Tom Trevino, November 9, 2013