Tammy Levent: COVID Fueled the Creation on Heavenly Puffs
Tammy Levent is a keynote speaker, business strategist, best-selling author and TV travel correspondent. She’s the founder of Elite Travel, an award-winning national travel agency, and the founder of It's My Bag, a nonprofit organization that donates suitcases to children in foster care. But more than that Tammy is a women who has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her life— including cancer, a robbery that left her husband brain damaged and a car accident that left both her young children in intensive care.
So when COVID hit, she was prepared to keep moving — and in the process created Heavenly Puffs, a classic Greek dessert that are like donut holes with the policing crunchiness on the outside, and a unique fluffy, airy interior. She is on a mission to teach others that it's truly not what happens to you, but how you deal with your situation and move forward.
Here’s an excerpt from our interview with Tammy.
Passionistas: How did you start your Heavenly Puffs food truck and what was the impact of COVID on your food truck business?
Tammy: When we first started Puffs about a year and a half ago, I was invited to do a New Year's Eve party at someone's restaurant with the food truck, because that's all we had was the food truck. And we wanted to do something as a side business. Warren Buffett said that if you don't have 51 different streams of income, you're going to go bankrupt. I was like, Oh, my God. I only have two more now. So I said, let's do a food truck. My mother goes, let's get in real estate. I can always get you a food truck because what do you wanna do a food truck for?
I said, because this way we can meet people on the weekends and maybe I can get some more travel business, like register to win a free trip or something like that. So let's just work on the weekends for festivals and we'll be fine. It'll give us something to do. Like we have nothing else to do, right. So we go ahead and we started doing festivals and we were booked every weekend.
Every weekend, we're making $,3000, $4,000 every weekend. That New Year's Eve, we were at this guy's restaurant and people were coming up ordering these puffs, which are so delicious and greet their local mothers to one of the oldest desserts in the world. It was created 766 BC from a Sicilian. They gave it to the Greeks for the first Olympics and only given to the winners.
That's it. No one else could have them. So it's really crunchy on the outside and a really light and airy on the inside. So it's almost like a doughnut. It's almost like a doughnut funnel cake. It's so amazing. We drizzle honey and cinnamon a little bit though.
So we were doing it and we did that event, but now people are drunk. This is what they're doing. $20 round here. I'll have an order of pops. There were only $5, but I get $20 because they're drunk and it's new. Year's, everyone's happy. $50, $20 when gave me a hundred dollars for two orders. I'm like, can you guys do this? Like every night at this place?
At the end of the night, the owner of the place was a little tipsy and he goes to me, Hey, it's four in the morning. I want to get home. He's still partying. The place looks coyote ugly. It's like champagne, everywhere, food, everywhere napkins everywhere, the old Greek day, he says, I'm going to give you an idea. If you can make these frozen. You just tell them to a food service and to supermarkets. And we would buy them because we don't make them because it takes three hours to make. And then some people don't order them. Then we have to throw them out. I go, you would tell me that no one has these frozen. And he's like, no, for real, he's like, yeah, I go, okay.
Year and a half later we have COVID what did I tell you about throwing away people where people say. Listen, the problem with this world is no one listens. Listen to it. Half the time this media, this whole thing with bias is going to do this. Trump's going to do that, blah, blah, blah, is people don't listen to the entire conversation. They take one excerpt and that's the way things are going to go. Listen, Google, learn.
So it’s May. I'm sitting on hold. We can't do Instacart because now they're, I mean, we are, but not really. Cause people are saying, just drop it off at the door. We're not even making the tips anymore because people are going broke. So I decided to go ahead and. Just say home and figure out what I'm going to do.
Okay. I'm making my list of things that I could do. So you're looking for this work, that work. I said, no, I can't work for someone. It's not going to happen. I go home. Maybe I should try making these little Puffs frozen. Like he said, it's not a bad idea. I've time right now. Nothing else to do. So I would start with the truck, go in there every day.
I was making 500 to 700 of them and throwing them out. They were not coming out. Right. I go, no wonder no one did this. Cause it's stupid. They're coming out like silver dollar pancakes. I would take them. I would cook though. Halfway put them in the freezer, excited to get up in the morning to look and see.
And my little round ball was like, It was like flat out, like, no, he can't look like that. So I practice and did it over and over. My husband was helping me like the first week. And after that, he's like, why do they know what's invented it? You know how my mother's whatever. So I was stuck there doing it myself.
I was determined to get it done. And then the chemistry came from school. Uh, everything is temperature, temperature. Let me start using temperature control and temperature. That's the temperature of that.
And the yeast I started researching and reading, I could write a book about yeast right now. I read everything there was about use. I got rid of the instant yeast that I was using. I got rid of the other yeast that I was using, and I started making my own yeast and using the real old fashioned like grandma used to make use of. What a difference.
Anyway, so I did that. They made it opened up the freezer. It was still around ball. I'm like, Hey, so I started frying up my oil. I said, I'm going to defrost them. Cause I don't want to put them in there frozen. And now I'm going to see what happens when I cook them. I put them in the fryer. I tried it. I go with that. It's tastes like I just made it like from scratch on believable. Let's see what happens when I leave it in there for two weeks.
So now we're looking at the end of May, about the beginning of June. Sure enough, they were perfect. I take them June 1, take my little bag of frozen bag. Go to the guy who said you should embedded them. I said, I want you to try these. I went to the chefs that do not tell them what they are cooked in them back, watered in the front.
He says, Tammy brought these over. Oh yeah, she makes them amazing. Well, thank you. I said try them because I've had them before I go try them now. So he tries no disease. You're super good. Just like you make her the best. And I go, huh? They've been frozen for two weeks. He goes no way. And I go, yeah, he goes, you need to get a package.
This, you do that. I know nothing about food service. I was thrown to the wolves, but I had time and I had COVID on my side. He was the first restaurant to get it. Then I went to another one and another one and another one before you. No it, and I have, I built a sales team. Then I, then somebody from food service called goes, I've been in the business 40 years.
What you have is amazing. You're the only one in the world with this. I want to help you. He comes and helps me. He's a consultant. He turns 300 an hour helps me for free. Helps me get distribution. Now this week. Just today. They got it. Yeah. Where a supermarket in Canada wanted five pallets. They just got their sample today at a clear customs and at 500 supermarkets. This is only since June that it got created, but we didn't get it. We were testing it out here or there. And then I got my manufacturing license in September.
And then got asked to be in the Super Bowl experience because I can't make these in the food truck anymore. So I partnered. With a catering company. Cause I knew that they're deader than dead and I can't use the space in a restaurant. It's not enough room for me. So I partnered with Delectables, fine catering, what do I do again? Another strategic partnership, pay them very little rent. Every time I had an interview, make sure that I included them.
But she had a way to get into the Super Bowl because she did it every time it was in Tampa. So she got me into the Super Bowl. And we were in front of 35,000 people a day. Like I was blown away. I was there going, is this for real? Like, it keeps on pinching myself. Like I just created this just a couple months ago. And here I am at the Super Bowl experience.
And today I have a letter of, this is my first announcement. You guys want the first news ready? We just got invited to do the Grand Prix today. We, I just can't believe we will be honored if you were participating in partaking with your heavenly puffs of the Grand Prix. So we went from starting it from zero money, nothing to, I don't even know where we are right now, to be honest with you.
All I know is that we just keep growing every day. I mean, I have like six employees now, and now we're looking for a bigger space. We already outgrew that and now they want us to stay there and they're trying to work away that we could still stay there and build a bigger place within the place. We're trying to figure all this out now. Like we need to figure out something.
To learn more about Tammy’s delicious Greek dessert visit HeavenlyPuffs.com.
Hear Tammy’s whole interview here.