A new restaurant has joined the diverse array of vendors in the Lebanon Farmers Market. Aunt Hocker’s Fish Fry, owned by Latasha Gante, opened June 10.
“The community’s been great,” said Gante. “Everybody’s been very receptive and very welcoming. You would think I’ve known them my whole life.”
The stand serves fish sandwiches, fish tacos, deep-fried fish, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and mac and cheese. The types of fish that are available rotate every few weeks.
Gante sources her fish from E. Goodwin & Sons, a seafood wholesaler in Maryland that she visits every other Thursday. She then cooks the fish to order to ensure it’s fresh for her customers.
“Nobody wants fish that’s been sitting around,” said Gante. “Everybody wants a fresh hot piece coming out [of the fryer].”
Gante puts her own spin on family recipes that have been passed down from her grandmother and mother, which gives her the opportunity to share the food she grew up eating with a new audience.
“I think it’s amazing because I’ve been able to broaden horizons,” said Gante. “A lot of people have never had collard greens or catfish, so I think it’s cool I get to do something new that’s opening other people’s eyes to more food options.”
Gante is the only fish fryer in Lebanon and one of very few African American women that own businesses here.
“It really means a lot,” said Gante. “I feel like a trailblazer right now, like I’m setting the tone for other women to come along, black or white. Hopefully, I can also be an inspiration in some other ways.”
Gante has two sons, ages 26 and 9, and she has been cooking ever since her older son was born. She cooked for him and his friends before deciding to make a business out of it.
“[My inspiration] is my kids,” said Gante. “They inspire me to cook all the time because they’re always hungry.”
In addition to serving as her inspiration, her sons have been supportive of her and her new business. Her youngest even helps handle the money at the stand.
The influence of her family is also evident in the name “Aunt Hocker’s Fish Fry.” It is based on the last name of a man who was a boarder in Gante’s family’s home when she was a child and became like a grandfather to her.
“We didn’t realize how much he meant to us [at the time], but he was really a part of our family,” said Gante. “I wanted to honor him.”
She has owned various other businesses throughout her life, including a corner store at the age of 18. This past experience has helped prepare her for opening Aunt Hocker’s Fish Fry.
“I’ve always been into business,” said Gante. “It makes me feel good and I get to show my sons how hard-working I am and that [they] have to work to do [what they want].”
She also had a tent serving fried fish at this year’s Lebanon Area Fair, which allowed her to expand her reach. In fact, several people that saw her at the fair decided to check out her stand in the Farmers Market.
“I really enjoyed the fair,” said Gante. “It was a good time and I got to meet a lot of people and just let them know the market’s back open and we’re here.”
In the future, she hopes to also open stands at other markets so that she can be open on the days of the week when the Lebanon Farmers Market is closed and share her food with even more people.
“My favorite part is talking with the people” said Gante. “I really enjoy our customers. You get so many different personalities throughout the day [and] I love that. You never know who you’re going to get to talk to.”
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