“Oh, that Tammy, I love her.”
That’s the usual response when students are asked about the Bean’s “omelet lady,” and she loves them right back.
Tammy Gonzalez started creating warm hearts by filling tummies as an 8-year-old growing up in California. There she would enjoy impromptu beach adventures with her family and friends, where she perfected her chicken salad recipe
“We had flea markets. We had the beach. We had Disney land, Six Flags, Magic Mountain, you name it,” she said.
After moving to Abilene in her teenage years, the city stole her heart. She graduated from Abilene High and soon after met the love of her life.
“I didn’t like my husband at first. When I met him, he looked like a gangster,” she said, jokingly.
After three weeks of Joe’s persistence with his late-night phone calls and lunch run-ins, they went on their first date at Olive Garden. There sparked the magic, and they began to date.
Within a year they got engaged and started the wedding planning process.
“It was nothing too fancy, of course,” she said.
“We had a backyard wedding. I didn’t care what colors anyone wore as long as it wasn’t white,” she said.
She started working at Cracker Barrel as a cook and soon was plucked up by Annie, ACU’s original “omelet lady,” to work at The World Famous Bean in 2008.
She started in the deli and salad stations, refilling the fruits and veggies. But her real desire was to get behind the stove and rise through the ranks as a cook.
She watched Annie start a contagion of smiles every morning and saw her love of food infect the students.
“Cooking is like art. You love art. You love food. You love your food, and you’re happy,” Gonzalez said.
She wanted nothing more than to do what Annie did. Here is where she met the challenge of an omelet.
As Tammy reaches for her water for a much-needed break, a student interrupts our conversation.
She had gotten married over the summer to a fellow student whom Tammy knew.
Tammy’s face lights up with joy as she congratulates her with a hug. It is clear to see that moments like these are about more than just omelets.
She was drawn to understand the intricate craft of the savory, fluffy dish. After many lessons with Annie, she finally got it down.
“I’ve always been curious and I love challenges,” she said.
She began substituting for the omelet station and replaced Annie when she retired.
For many new students, the Bean is the first place they make a connection. Tammy understands this and uses it as a perfect opportunity to create a loving environment.
She calls everyone she cooks for her children, even though she has none of her own. She works to embody Christ’s unconditional love, not only through her cooking but also through every interaction she has with people.
“I don’t care what nationality you are or what color you are, we are all the same and I love you,” she said.
Tammy’s life and work hit a pause in January 2021. She noticed problems with her eyesight that were impacting her cooking. After months of dealing with the issue and seeing six different doctors, she finally found out what was wrong.
She was going blind with cataracts.
She scheduled her surgeries, one for each eye. She was out for what felt like forever to her loyal Bean customers.
Tammy carries her love for others in her heart but also on her body. She has numerous tattoos, each designed and colored with a story.
The dolphin on her left arm is her reminder of home and where she grew up.
The ring on her middle finger represents her Hispanic husband, who also works for the university.
The one on her right forearm holds the most weight for her: cancer patients.
She has been helping cancer patients since she was 16. She would act as an aid helping them physically, spiritually or just being a friendly face.
Starting with her aunt, all the patients she served – whether they survived or were beaten – are represented on her forearm.
Each person has a spot, and she can tell you their name and favorite color.
She views her true calling as more than just making delicious food.
“Between ACU, cooking and helping people with cancer, that’s my life,” she said.
Tammy hopes to impact the students on campus in many ways, but mainly with a friendly face.
“Well, you can call me Mama T, or Mrs. Tammy, I don’t care, and I love to play around,” she said.
But she is not playing when she tells customers what may be the biggest shocker of them all. She does not like eggs.
Shocker, or not, she has clearly found her place among the students at ACU.
Whether she is reminding you to not text and drive, correcting foul language, or screaming your name to pick up your omelet, it is all done with love.