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January CONTENTS 2018 • VOLUME 15 • NO. 1

features 46 Calling All Catfish Lovers Best Places to Find this Mississippi Delicacy

62 Serving Sweet Kindness Operation BBQ to the Rescue

54 Mixing It Up Best Chefs from Memphis to New Orleans

departments 14 Living Well Diets and Cancer

42 On the Road Again St. Louis, Missouri

18 Notables Karl Schledwitz of Monogram Foods

44 Greater Goods 68 Homegrown Lexington Coffee Company

22 Exploring Art AlphaWorks in Hernando

70 Southern Gentleman Guy’s Kitchen Gadgets

26 Exploring Books A Mississippi Palate

72 Southern Harmony Jukin’ and Chowin’

30 Into the Wild Cooking Game Meats

76 In Good Spirits Smokey Old Fashion

34 Table Talk World Food Championships

78 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations Oxford’s Chancellor’s House Hotel


80 Reflections Taco Night



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editor’s note } january Welcoming the New Year Everyone at DeSoto Magazine has been waiting for 2018 to arrive with excitement. One of the reasons is because the magazine is celebrating its 15th birthday. And we’ll be giving the gift to you, our readers, with a special contest to celebrate this milestone. Register to win a 2-night, 3-day getaway at the luxurious Chancellor’s House Hotel in Oxford by returning the entry form on page 41 or visiting DeSotoMagazine. com. The winner will be announced April 1, 2018. In the meantime, you can read all about Chancellor’s House Hotel on page 38. The other reason we were anxious for 2018 to arrive is because we’ve been planning our annual culinary issue for quite some time and now it’s here. The foodies among us each have our own favorite stories this month, and we think you will, too. If you are looking for the best catfish, check out the places Karon Warren discovered around Mississippi. Andrea Ross found that Operation BBQ Relief not only provides outstanding barbecue, but also much needed assistance following disasters. We’ve also picked some of our favorite chefs from Memphis to New Orleans, who are gaining international attention for their Southern-inspired cuisines. Friends chuckled when they saw the photo of me in a Culinary Institute of Arts apron and chef ’s hat, known

JANUARY 2018 • Vol. 15 No.1


as a toque. They know I’m more likely to open a box of Lean Cuisine than to prepare haute cuisine. My day at a food writers’ class at San Antonio’s Culinary Institute of America did not transform me into a gourmet cook, but it did teach me that patience, dedication, training, and practice are needed to be a maestro in the kitchen – something all of this month’s featured chefs and cooks have. Happy New Year!

Mary Ann

CONTRIBUTORS Robin Gallaher Branch Polly Dean Mary Ann DeSantis Jason Frye Jill Gleeson Charlene Oldham Karen Ott Mayer Andrea Brown Ross Karon Warren Kathryn Winter PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887

on the cover Mississippi catfish is legendary. Whether it’s fried, baked or sautéed, the indigenous fish has become popular in many places around the world. However, we’ve found the best catfish restaurants right here at home. Read about them on page 46. Cover photo by Alan Goodson of Pride of the Pond Get social with us!

©2018 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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living well } sugar consumption

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Dr. Aleksandar Jankov

Sugary Risks By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography courtesy of Medical News Today and

Sugar consumption is at an all-time high and has contributed to an increase in obesity among Americans. And with obesity comes a higher risk of cancer. If little girls are made of sugar and spice, they may want to reconsider the ingredient list. Is the excessive sweet American diet, especially sugar, driving disease? While the answer isn’t a clear yes, the current evidence strongly points to it. The national health conversation today centers largely on obesity and morbidly obese bodies, regardless of geography, age or income. A morbidly obese individual weighs more than 100 pounds over his or her ideal body weight. Over the last three decades, sugar consumption in the U.S. has increased

more than 30 percent as companies have silently added more and more sweeteners as an ingredient. According to the Food and Drug Administration and The Obesity Society, Americans now consume 300 calories in sugar per day versus 228 in 1977. Even children aren’t immune with today’s child consuming 20 percent more sugar than 30 years ago. While we know with certainty that obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease and many other complicating factors, health care providers are turning more and more to another link: cancer. DeSoto 17

“While definitive evidence for sugar as a cause of cancer is currently lacking, it could be quite likely that association would be proven in the future. However, we have strong evidence that at least 13, if not more cancers, are caused by or associated with obesity,” said Aleksandar Jankov, an oncologist with the Baptist Cancer Center in Memphis, Tenn. “It would be a logical conclusion that the use of concentrated sugar in the diet is strongly associated with being overweight and obese and hence indirectly with cancer.” The Center for Disease Control confirmed in both 2008 and 2010 that obesity rates for men and women now stand at over one third of the entire American population. Ironically, the rates for the morbidly obese now outpace those for Americans who are slightly overweight. While hard research is still needed to quantify the exact risks associated with weight, diet and cancer, the American Cancer Society stands behind World Cancer Research Fund data that presupposes about 20 percent of all cancers could be prevented through lifestyle changes like exercise, diet, and better nutrition. These factors are all related and may all contribute to cancer risk, but body weight seems to have the strongest evidence linking it to cancer. Sugar, as well as its hybrids like fructose and sucrose, have no doubt invaded everything from benign food products like bran cereal to the obvious sugary carbonated sodas. With the 18 DeSoto

September 2017 announcement of the “Sweetener Challenge,” even major companies are acknowledging that consumers are seeking alternatives to both sugar and artificial sweeteners – both of which are increasingly gaining poor reputations with those seeking healthier options. But the push and pull between the dollar and the truth is an undeniable constant. “If the connection between cancer and sugar were to be proven, it would be contrary to the interest of several food industrial complexes and would lead to the decreased consumption and sales,” added Jankov. Jankov himself believes more research will prove sugar as an addiction and the topic will continue to grow as information becomes available. “This is the most fascinating part. Research in lab animals have shown the use of sugar induces the dopamine release, a cocaine-related pathway in the brain, and subsequent sugar restriction induces symptoms similar to withdrawal from opiates.” Women appear to at greater risk due to hormones and menopause. Interestingly, cancer risks change depending on when a woman gains weight in her life, especially post menopause. The GLOBOCAN research, produced through the World Health Organization, estimated in 2012 that 3.5 percent of new cancer cases in men compared to 9.5 percent of new cases in women were due to obesity.

With Americans surrounded by high carbohydrate, sugared, processed food, gaining weight is inevitable. “Foremost is an education about what are healthy and what are unhealthy habits. No one really sets out to be deliberately obese or overweight, but ends up there as a result of the lifestyle that a majority of people think is appropriate. One pearl of wisdom that everyone can implement in the very next minute is to avoid sugary drinks and sodas, including orange juice and sweet tea,” said Jankov. While that may seem like a bitter pill to swallow, the majority of Americans can’t afford to ignore the lessthan-sweet reality about our collective unhealthy lives.

Cancers and Obesity According to the American Cancer Society’s data from the World Research Cancer Fund, strong evidence indicates obesity leads to increased cancer risk. For some cancers, the risk can be twice or as much as 30 percent higher than for people who are within a normal weight range. Those cancers with the greatest association to obesity include the following: Breast (in women past menopause) Colon and rectum Endometrium (lining of the uterus) Esophagus Kidney Pancreas

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notables } karl schledwitz

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Karl Schledwitz & Monogram Foods By Charlene Oldham | Photography courtesy of Monogram Foods

The ‘can-do’ attitude at Monogram Foods is a reflection of its leader whose mission has been to create a good place to work. Karl Schledwitz was just 18 when his father died, and he didn’t get a big inheritance in the traditional sense of the word. But the senior Schledwitz, a salesman and serial entrepreneur, did pass down his love of building businesses. It’s a trait that’s served the younger Schledwitz well over the course of a career in which he’s spearheaded a number of successful business ventures in the Memphis area. That winning track record and his commitment to rewarding investors before anyone else involved draws a payout has helped Schledwitz raise more than $200 million in private capital to fund his entrepreneurial enterprises over the past 20-plus years.

“Basically, when I raise money for a new venture, the investors are put first,” he said. “The formula over the years has worked. So, if it isn’t broke, you don’t try to fix it.” His latest company, which he says is his last, is Monogram Foods, which makes and distributes packaged meat products, snacks and appetizers. Monogram began when Schledwitz and cofounder Wes Jackson acquired regional brands including King Cotton and Circle B from Sara Lee Corp. in 2004. Monogram also manufactures products under licensed brands, private labels and co-packing agreements. The product mix has helped Monogram achieve a DeSoto 21

Jambalaya with King Cotton Cajun Smoked Sausage

compound annual growth rate of more than 40 percent over the 13 last years. Its impressive expansion has landed Monogram on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. for eight years running, and projections indicate continued growth, Schledwitz said. But customers shouldn’t expect to find King Cotton hot dogs and Circle B smoked sausage in stores far outside the Mid-South. “You’ll never see Monogram with a national brand going against the big boys—the Krafts or the Tysons of the world,” he said. Instead, Monogram tries to spot trends within its targeted product lines, which led to a marriage made in meat heaven. “Up until five years ago, there was no such thing as bacon jerky. There was turkey jerky, beef jerky, venison jerky. But nobody had ever taken pork belly and converted it to bacon jerky until we did. So, today, we probably make 80 percent of all the bacon jerky sold in the country.” But Schledwitz hasn’t always been bringing home the bacon in the literal sense. While Jackson, the company’s cofounder, came to Monogram with extensive experience in the food industry, Schledwitz has launched everything from a home inspection company to a rent-to-own retail chain. And the veteran businessman got his start in law and politics, which he says shaped his approach to entrepreneurship. For instance, when he managed statewide campaigns, he often had to choose a county campaign manager after only a day, making a quick call about the person’s character and commitment. “And it’s a decision-making process that has helped me in business because, at the end of the day, the thing we have that’s different than our competitors are our people and our culture.” Monogram’s can-do corporate culture is, in part, an extension of Schledwitz’s outlook on work and life, which he 22 DeSoto

honed in the years after his dad’s death. “Since my dad died so young, I had to work virtually full time to get through college and law school,” he said. “I think having to learn that work ethic was very influential.” His early experiences also illuminated the impact community and educational institutions can have on people’s lives. Schledwitz, a native Memphian, has served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the University of Tennessee, his undergraduate alma mater. His current volunteer titles include positions as a board member at Memphis’ Orpheum Theatre and the Memphis Zoo. He says he always gets back more than he gives to charitable causes and community institutions. And he thinks his coworkers share that philosophy. Through its Monogram Loves Kids Foundation, the company administers grants to service agencies in communities where it operates facilities. And Monogram encourages individual volunteer efforts, as well. “And that’s been really good for our company because good people want to work for companies that are doing good and trying to be sensitive to the needs of the communities where they live and work.” Unlike many private companies, Monogram publishes many of its financial specifics online and in communications with shareholders and potential partners. And, while solid revenues and earnings per share have been essential ingredients to Karl Schledwitz’s recipe for success as an entrepreneur, building businesses that enrich employees’ lives is the secret sauce. “Creating a good place to work where people can advance their own careers in an environment that’s giving back to the community and, at the same time, make money for the shareholders -- when all that comes together, it’s a wonderful thing.”

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exploring art } alphaworks Austin Ray

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DeSoto Arts Council

A Cut Above the Rest By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of AlphaWorks

Using natural materials to make beautiful things helped woodworker Austin Ray discover himself and share his talents for repurposing trees into useful items. Austin Ray loves to work with wood. He delights in the varied colors and individual characteristics of Mississippi’s many trees. At 26, Ray is well on his way to becoming an artisan. For now, he is part of AlphaWorks, a mill in a warehouse two blocks from the square in Hernando. “We’re a custom-made mill not a high-volume mill,” Ray said. “When a client calls, we’ll talk about choosing the wood, the colors, and the durability.” Invariably, he smiles when he hangs up from those calls because he knows he’s headed for what he enjoys most – working with wood. “That’s when the art starts,” he said. “I am using natural materials to make something beautiful.” Ray certainly beautifies kitchens with wood

countertops, tables, and butcher blocks. Yellowish pine, ambertinted oak, and the like clearly add warmth and welcome to any kitchen. A countertop takes about a week to make; then, the wood is sealed and installed by a contractor. Household upkeep is easy. “Wipe it down with Clorox,” Ray said. A small, custom-made table can run $200 and larger tables into the thousands. “That’s because it’s a piece of art; it’s not mass produced. I’m literally making that table inch by inch,” he said. Ray particularly likes leaving a live edge, a part of the tree exposed, on a finished piece. A live edge enables the wood to be seen from both horizontal and flat angles. Recently a particularly beautiful piece of 6X12-foot wood arrived DeSoto 25

Red Oak counters and back-splash. White Oak top counter at Longview Point Baptist Church

White & Red Oak cutting board

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at AlphaWorks. Ray described it as a red oak, more than 200 years old. “It is so gorgeous. I don’t want to cut it up any more than it is. It’s got a live edge on it. To me, it’s just gorgeous,” he said. The mill is a busy place. AlphaWorks started about two years ago because of a tree. Doug Thornton, 53, president of AERC, a 10-member architectural firm in Hernando, had a 100-year-old tree on his property that had to come down. Thornton could not find a business to repurpose it. “I thought there might be an opportunity for a company to be responsible,” he said. As an architect, Thornton sees many trees that are treated as waste—and he grieves. AlphaWorks seeks to repurpose trees that developers and tree specialists take down. Ideally, the repurposed wood appears again in some form on the original site.   Thornton and Ray discovered their mutual interest in wood after meeting at Longview Point Baptist Church in Hernando. When asked to describe Ray’s work, Thornton said, “He’s a craftsman at heart and a perfectionist. He works with the intrinsic beauty of the wood and lets it inform the piece. He has a natural knack for that.” Thornton, his son Nathan, and Ray worked on an unusual counter for the DeSoto Arts Council. Curving around a corner and measuring three feet on one side and seven feet on the other, the piece stars in a covered patio used for parties. “It’s such a beautiful piece. It looks like art,” said Margaret Yates, executive director. She then amended herself by saying emphatically, “It is art.”   As a small mill, AlphaWorks specializes. For example, the shop does a quarter saw, a specialty cut where the grain is cut perpendicular to the exposed face. “That [kind of] cut makes the piece more stable. The wood doesn’t shrink or warp,” Thornton explained.   Thornton, whose skills go to breadboards, likes sweet gum as a wood. “That’s the tree with the spiked balls that nobody likes,” he laughed. “But the wood is beautiful and grainy. The colors are mottled—gray, brown and white.” Ray’s favorite tree is the American cherry. He described its flexible, durable wood quite poetically as “red, with a white streak running through it, and going to edges that turn black or maroon-like.” Known for its clean lines, cherry has been beloved by American woodworkers for 300-plus years, and pieces of solid cherry have been handed down for generations.   At more than 6-feet tall, bearded, and wearing a flannel shirt, Ray looks like a lumberjack. One of his heroes growing up was Paul Bunyan, America’s legendary woodsman, but Ray also went through phases of wanting to play baseball or to be President. He considers his love of woodworking as “being a long process of finding out who I am.” Ray’s interest in woodworking grew slowly. As a child he tagged along, watching his grandfathers and father “fixing stuff around the house and building stuff.” His father taught him to respect machines. “I knew a saw could change my life. It could take fingers off and I could never get them back,” he said. When asked about his future plans, Ray said he intends to stay in Mississippi and keep learning. He plans to build his own house. And then he came back once again to Mississippi’s many trees. “There are about 100 species of trees that I have to learn,” he smiled, acknowledging that at under 30 years old and only two years into his trade, he has just begun.

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exploring books} a mississippi palate

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Robert St. John and watercolorist Wyatt Waters

A Culinary Masterpiece By Mary Ann DeSantis | Photography courtesy of Different Drummer Publishing; illustrations by Wyatt Waters

The authors of this exquisite cookbook are artists in their own right. One uses a cast-iron skillet while the other uses a #42 DaVinci paintbrush, but they both share a deep-seeded love for Mississippi. Is it art? Or is it a cookbook? In the case of “A Mississippi Palate: Heritage Cuisine and Watercolors of Home,” it’s both. The book by restauranteur/chef Robert St. John and watercolorist Wyatt Waters is the fourth collaboration between the men, both well-respected notables in their fields. And what makes this book so dynamic is the 18year friendship that has taken them on food-related journeys throughout the South as well as Italy. They met in 1999 when St. John visited Waters’ gallery in Clinton to propose working on an illustrated cookbook that later became “A Southern Palate,” first released in 2002. “Working on our fourth book together was a totally different experience than when we [first] began working together,” St. John said when “A Mississippi Palate” was

released in November. “Back then we were just getting to know each other, and now we are best friends who can finish each other’s sentences. I think it shows in the work.” Their latest journey focuses solely on the state of Mississippi, a subject near and dear to both men’s hearts. They are native Mississippians and declare themselves to be the state’s biggest cheerleaders. The 105 recipes in the book are representative of the dishes St. John grew up eating, and Waters’ elaborate watercolor paintings highlight scenes from Pontotoc to Pascagoula. “I wanted to have heritage recipes that reminded me of my childhood, but I also wanted up-to-date preparations. Ultimately, I chose things that were, ‘Mississippi to me’,” said St. John, who owns several Hattiesburg restaurants. DeSoto 29

The recipes range from the basics like traditional fried chicken, with some secrets to success included, to elegant Oysters Bienville. The book is divided into sections from appetizers to desserts, but one of the most helpful sections has to be the ‘pantry and fridge’ where recipes for Sweet Tea Brine or Chicken Broth take cooking to the next level. Waters’ colorful illustrations are stunning additions to the 136-page cookbook, making it a collectible for generations to come. His indelible images include the Jackson skyline, a roadside drummer in Durant, the Canton courthouse, and more. “My childhood was spent traveling the state and seeing the many unique aspects that make up its history,” said Waters. “It’s been a joy to depict the culture and traditions of different areas as I’ve traveled with Robert to work on this book. I hope that readers will find some places they recognize as well as some places they want to visit and discover for themselves.” Waters added that the drives were inspirational, and he would often just say “stop” to St. John who did most of the driving. He would get out and walk around and try to listen for the things that interested him. 30 DeSoto

“I believe in working on location, and we went to a lot of places and spent real time mining the choices for this book,” Waters said. A restauranteur for more than 30 years, St. John is the CEO and Executive Chef of the Purple Parrot Seafood & Steaks, which just received its seventh four-Diamond rating from the AAA Travel Guide, and owner of several other Hattiesburg restaurants. In 2009, he founded Extra Table, a non-profit organization that purchases healthy foods and ships them to soup kitchens and mission pantries. Waters is widely known for his Southern culture watercolors, which are popular among private and corporate collectors. He currently owns a gallery in Clinton. The duo’s other books include“A Southern Palate,”“Southern Seasons,” and “An Italian Palate.” “A Mississippi Palate” has a suggested retail price of $39.95 and is available in bookstores and gift shops throughout the state.

Delta Gumbo

Robert St. John’s brother, Drew, owns a farm in the Delta where they hunt for deer and duck. St. John created this recipe for his brother, whom he says eats peanut butter crackers with gumbo. Ingredients 6 cups      Duck broth (use Chicken Broth recipe in the book, substitute 2 to 3 pounds duck thighs) 2 cups      Diced Roma tomatoes, with juice ½ cup      Tomato sauce 1 Tbsp     Worcestershire 2 Tbsp     Hot sauce 1½ Tbsp Creole Seasoning 1 tsp        Freshly ground black pepper 1              Bay leaf 1 tsp         Dried basil 1 tsp         Dried thyme ½ tsp        Dried oregano ½ cup      Corn oil 1 cup        All-purpose flour 2 Tbsp     Filé powder 2 cups      Medium-diced yellow onions 1½ cups Medium-diced celery ¾ cup      Medium-diced green bell peppers ¼ cup      Chopped green onion 1 Tbsp     Minced garlic 1-pound Deer sausage, sliced   Reserved cooked duck meat from duck stock 2–3 cups Cooked white rice Directions In a large stockpot, bring the duck stock to a simmer. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and seasonings and herbs. Heat the oil over high heat in a separate large skillet, make a dark roux by carefully adding the flour and filé powder and stirring constantly until the roux is a very dark brown. Add the vegetables to the roux and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add the sausage and duck andcontinue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add the roux mixture to the simmering stock, stirring until all is dissolved and incorporated. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.   Place a small amount of white rice in each serving bowl, then pour the gumbo over the rice and serve. Makes 1 gallon DeSoto 31

into the wild } cooking game meats

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Embrace the Game By Polly Dean Food photography courtesy of Chef Scott Leysath. Pheasant and duck images by Polly Dean

Whether it’s for the sport, or for the benefit to their health – many folks prefer eating meats that are harvested in the wild. Getting the gaminess out of meat is a challenge but it can be done with proper handling. While I do hunt, I must admit that most of what I eat comes wrapped in cellophane from the local supermarket. It is extra special, though, when family and friends share a meal they have taken the time to harvest and prepare with their own hands. For many folks, eating wild game or fish has everything to do with the experience of the hunt. It usually originates with fond memories of hunting or fishing with parents or grandparents, and then passing along this important heritage to future generations. It is rarely about the kill, and mostly about enjoying being outdoors with those we love. Harvesting a wild animal, whether it is a deer, a

squirrel or a bird, provides ample opportunity for teaching life lessons, especially to youngsters. We learn how to ethically take an animal and why it’s sometimes important to harvest a few, for the good of the majority. We teach why it is important to follow regulations that are in place for the benefit of creatures on both land and in water. And we only kill what we can use. Though eating wild game has long been a way of life for many, we also have learned that it is healthier than the storebought variety. Today’s livestock have been raised on growth hormones and exposed to antibiotics. Also, wild game is leaner with less fat. The rewards and benefits are many. DeSoto 33



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Get into the Game

Chef Scott Leysath, also known as the Sporting Chef, is an expert at preparing wild game. His specialty developed when patrons of his California restaurant were invited to bring in their wild game for the chef to prepare for them. His popularity grew as he was asked to appear on local television and then HGTV for three years. He created his own sporting chef show appearing on the Sportsman Channel, and is the cooking editor for Ducks Unlimited. Chef Leysath, like many of us, grew up eating wild game such as duck, which was cooked until it turned gray and basically inedible. “People spend way too much time trying to make their game taste like something other than game,” Leysath said. “Really it’s infinitely simpler than they think. For instance, with a piece of deer, if they would just make sure it’s handled properly in the field, make sure it’s been aged properly, trim the fat and gristle away, and don’t cook it longer than medium-rare, it will be a completely different deer steak than what they likely experienced in the past.” “We all know the recipe where we take a duck breast, or a chunk of deer meat and soak it in something overnight, and then wrap it in bacon, jalapenos and cream cheese and folks marvel about how good it is – and that it doesn’t even taste like duck,” Leysath said. “Well, I like the way duck tastes!” According to Chef Leysath, preparing duck or goose is as easy as brining the bird parts in a mild salt-water solution overnight to get the blood out, patting it dry, and rubbing it with olive oil and a favorite seasoning. Cook it on a grill no more than rare or medium-rare, and you have a whole different duck. He also points out that it makes no sense to cook a whole duck at once. “The legs and thighs should be cooked ‘low and slow’ and the breasts ‘fast and hot’,” he says. It is never too late to brine meats. If it wasn’t done prior to freezing, allow the meat to thaw in a brine mixture in the refrigerator. Brining replaces the blood with a salt mixture making the meat moister, allowing it to cook faster with a milder taste. It allows the meat to taste like it should.

Prepping is Key

Most anglers and hunters will tell you that what you do up front to the fish or meat is key. Getting it cooled down as soon as possible helps to preserve flavor. Large game animals don’t need to ride around in the pick-up for hours, especially in the South. To maintain maximum freshness in all game, the best method for freezing meats is to vacuum seal them first. Machines that do this, such as those by FoodSaver, are compact, easy to use and inexpensive. When vacuum sealing isn’t an option, small game birds and shrimp fare well when frozen in water. Don’t do this with larger meats and fish – especially saltwater species. Tightly wrapping meat with plastic wrap before sealing it in a zip lock bag is recommended. Enhance the taste of your game meats making them the best they can be – without trying to mask their flavor. Chef Leysath’s Brine Recipe:

1/2 gallon of water to 1/2 cup of Kosher or any coarse salt. Optional: 1/2 cup brown sugar, other dry seasoning, garlic, onions, etc. Game meats that benefit from brining are: Waterfowl (6-to-12 hours), Quail (3-to-4 hours), Chukar/Grouse (4-to-6 hours), Pheasants (6-to-8 hours), Wild Turkey Breasts (4-to-6 hours), Cottontails (8-to-12 hours)

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table talk } world food championships

Lisa Gwatney

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Staring down 10 steak dishes to taste and score is no picnic; with $10,000 on the line, it’s serious eating.

Memphis, Home of

Champions By Jason Frye | Food photography courtesy of Jason Frye

Memphis showed strong at the World Food Championships recently held in Orange Beach, Alabama, with not just one first-place winner, but two. And both took home $10,000 checks. “It’s just propped up in the kitchen right now, and to tell the truth, we aren’t sure what to do with it,” says Lisa Gwatney from her home in Memphis, Tennessee. “It” would be a comically oversized check for $10,000 made out to Lisa. She won the check and the honor of preparing the “#1 Steak in the World” at the World Food Championship (WFC) in Orange Beach, Alabama, last November. Gwatney’s one of two Food Champions from Memphis; the other is Tommy Shive, manager at Last Burger on Earth, who earned his own giant check for “#1 Burger in the World” that same fateful day.

To take things full circle, I—food writer, critic, and judge—was there to observe how the WFC holds its competitions and to judge two categories: seafood and steak. While many a food enthusiast knows events like Memphis in May, Jack Daniel’s Invitational Barbecue World Championship, and The Pillsbury Bake-Off, or tune in to Chopped or Top Chef, the World Food Championships is a new name. Debuting in 2012, WFC has one goal: to bring food sport to the masses. “Food Sport” is what the WFC calls its style of cooking competition, judging standards, and all the pomp, DeSoto 37

Gwatney Steak Oscar Gwatney’s dish was as close to perfect as a steak can get: excellent seasoning, simple but flavorful crab Oscar, and an outstanding bit of asparagus to round it out.

Gwatney Steak Oscar Show Plate Dishes are presented with a show plate—as it would come out in a restaurant—and the tasting sample plates.

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WFC Judges must complete a certification course and demonstrate they can fairly evaluate dishes based on the E.A.T. methodology.

circumstance, and show that goes on around it. Competitors are restaurant chefs, home cooks, barbecue teams, and private chefs, and they come to Kitchen Arena—a pavilion tent filled with 40 complete kitchen setups—by winning qualifying competitions or by invitation, among other routes. Both Gwatney and Shive won their way in, with Gwatney winning a Steak Cookoff Association competition and Shive winning at the Memphis Burger Fest. Cooking and judging happen in two rounds. First, a sea of competitors—cooking within categories like seafood, steak, burger, dessert—have 90 minutes to cook two dishes, one a required dish (Oysters Rockefeller for seafood) and the second a show-your-best, anything-goes dish, each of which is ushered off to the judging tent. The top 10 of each category cook on the second day—one hour, one dish—and from there one winner emerges, setting the table for the 10 champions to cook off again on April 21-22. As for us judges, we’re a mixed bunch: food writers and photographers, chefs and restaurant owners, barbecue judges and foodies with a serious palate and an opinion to share. WFC uses a proprietary judging system—E.A.T.—to level the playing field for competitors. Under this system, dishes are judged by Execution, Appearance, and Taste, with guidelines for scoring each of the three elements. Still, with the rules in place, when you sit down to judge the final round and 10 steak dishes appear on your judging placemat, there’s a note of excitement and anticipation in the air as everyone prepares to tuck in to what should be a tableful of culinary excellence. Lisa Gwatney delivered excellence. She played things smart, knowing that since we were in Orange Beach, Ala., the seafood would be spectacular. She decided that she needed a touch of seafood to step up her steak game in the final round.

Stopping at a local fish market, she picked up fresh crab for a little Oscar topping for her steak. “When I saw the crab meat, the dish settled in my mind. I picked up lump and claw—for their difference in sweetness—and knew I was on the right track,” she said.“I kept things very simple: just the meat, lemon, butter, and salt. I wanted to keep those flavors pure.” Each round at the WFC comes with a twist: an ingredient the competitors must use in their dish. For Gwatney it was coffee. Her bone-in strip was crusted in a rub that combined two chilis, brown pepper, and coffee to create a crunchy, flavorful crust, and that simple crab Oscar was rich enough and citrusy enough to cut through, giving her the top dish. “I just tried to cook like I was at home. Relax, have a glass of wine, work through my recipe,” says Gwatney. “I know how to cook a steak; this was just on a bigger stage.” Shive felt the same. As manager at a burger restaurant, he’s familiar with flipping patties and sneaking innovative toppings between the buns. His ingredient was eggs, a simple one for burgers especially now that a fried egg on a burger is commonplace. But he decided to go another route and poached his eggs, placing them atop a patty that combined beef, pepper bacon, and pork sausage, then adding a drizzle of hollandaise sauce for an eggs benedict-like effect. Add to that the buttery brioche, the smoked Gouda, and crispy bacon, and you have a brunch dish to drool over. Gwatney, Shive, and eight other food competitors will gather on April 21-22 for the chance to cook one more time and win a prize package worth $100,000. When asked about the pressure, Gwatney plays it cool. “Cooking relaxes me,” she says. “I just have to go cook my best, keep my eye on the clock, and try to come home with another oversized check.”

“I just tried to cook like I was at home. Relax, have a glass of wine, work through my recipe. I know how to cook a steak; this was just on a bigger stage.” Lisa Gwatney

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exploring destinations } chancellor’s house

Chancellor’s House Library

Chancellor’s House Lounge

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Lap of Luxury in Oxford By Kathryn Winter | Photography courtesy of Chancellor’s House Hotel

Guests are treated like VIPs at the luxurious Chancellor’s House in Oxford where elegance and first-class service abound. Step into the posh lobby of Chancellor’s House Hotel and you never know who might walk by you. Various VIPs from around the country have graced the hotel’s newly opened doors. Everyone from rock bands to real housewives, politicians, British aristocracy and football fanatics have celebrated the private and sophisticated Southern-glamour-meets-big-city atmosphere. The luxury boutique hotel boasts just 31 rooms and can be described as a miniature marble dollhouse because everything inside is so perfect and quaint. Travelers taking a tour of the South or people wanting to visit Oxford to experience culture and the culinary scene will revel in being just steps away from renowned shops and restaurants. Oxford’s secret charm and class is home to the University of Mississippi, but what makes the town a destination in its own right is the famed literary and writer-inspired scene

that includes Rowan Oak, home of author William Faulkner. Another famed Oxford attraction is the Double Decker Arts festival, hosted each spring. Guests can throw a private party on a balcony suite overlooking the corner of University and South Lamar while watching other tourists parade by. Football games, baseball games and graduation festivities bring a boost of tourism to the Oxford economy and make Chancellor’s House an exclusive destination in its own. Grab a book or a glass of wine and relax by the fireplace while visiting with old friends, or spend the weekend tucked away with your significant other for a romantic rekindling. Several bride and grooms have chosen Chancellor’s House to relax on their wedding night in a honeymoon suite, complete with porcelain claw foot tubs that are perfect for a relaxing late-night soak. The hotel encompasses a library, ballroom, bar and DeSoto 41

Chancellor’s House dining room

lounge, along with fine dining in the Chancellor’s Grill. The Chancellor’s Grill features wood-planked floors, reclaimed furniture pieces and eclectic artwork. The décor complements elegant cuisine where menu options include everything from escargot to veal marsala. Executive Chef Josh Stetson has spent 20-plus years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast working in fine dining establishments like Mignons, CQ , and LB’s Steakhouse. “Our lobster bisque has been a huge success and is one of the most talked about among guests,” Stetson said. “The chicken piccata, 8-ounce filet, and trout almandine are also best-selling dishes.” The elegant lobby lounge, featuring classic cocktails, is decorated with an antique bar and French marble fireplace. Enjoy lunch there in the afternoons or a tapas menu at night. “We are open to the public, and we want everyone to feel welcomed and comfortable so they can enjoy upscale service and a high-end dining experience. Everyone is considered a VIP when they visit,” Stetson said. Hotel General Manager, Weston Arntsen, has been with Chancellor’s House since its inception. “We are grateful to be able to offer a very comfortable setting, genuine service, and a location that is just steps from all the action,” Arntsen said. “We care about serving anyone who walks through these doors, regardless of who they are; everyone deserves to be pampered every once in a while.” Chancellor’s Grill plans on hosting wine dinners, scotch dinners and changing the menu seasonally in the future, all to offer creative and unique dining experiences. Afternoon tea is served daily but requires a week-in-advance reservation. Various assorted teas, sweets and savories like cucumber sandwiches, chocolate cupcakes and scones are served. 42 DeSoto

The hotel is pet friendly and welcomes well-behaved dogs under 35 pounds for a $100 pet fee. Valet parking is available to guests in a private and secured garage during the duration of their stay. Chancellor’s House hosts one of the only concierge desks in the region, available to assist with special requests and transportation, spa services and dining recommendations. Frequent guest John Lucas said after trying all of the other options in and around Oxford that Chancellor’s House is by far his favorite. “This was my third time staying at the Chancellor’s House,” he said.“I come for extremely great service and the rooms are reasonably priced for all the amenities you get.” A standard room rate for a non-football or event weekend is around $180 per night. Room amenities include Egyptian cotton linens, spa bathrobes, marble entryways, large bathrooms and personalized stationery. In addition to overnight guests who are visiting Oxford on their own, the hotel also hosts weddings, seminars, and other special events. The grand ballroom can accommodate up to 150 people for wedding receptions and black-tie affairs. The boardroom, located just off the ballroom, is perfect for business meetings or hosting an intimate dinner party. “There really is a special sense of satisfaction and appreciation when you see a hole in the ground turn into a beautiful hotel and restaurant. I remember planning the concept across the street day-after-day, and imagining our first guest coming through the doors. It ended up being even better than I’d hoped,” Arntsen said.

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on the road again } st. louis, missouri

, s i u o St.L ouri Miss

9:00 Breakfast at award-winning and family owned Chris’ Pancake and Dining. The friendly atmosphere and great food make it worth the wait. Order a huge omelet, French toast, eggs and bacon or a delicious stack of pancakes. The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner. 10:00 After breakfast take a short drive to the Saint Louis Zoo. Located on 90 acres in beautiful Forest Park, the zoo is one of the nation’s best zoos and one of the city’s many free attractions. See more than 17,482 animals, many of which are rare or endangered. 12:00 Head to the Delmar Loop for a fun lunch at Blueberry Hill. For more than 40 years Blueberry Hill has been a place for classic American food, live music and a fun atmosphere. The burger is a must-eat. Other menu favorites include the cheddar cheese balls, the Reuben, homemade soups and vegetarian options. After lunch stroll the Delmar Loop, which has been named “One of the 10 Great Streets in America.” The entertainment and shopping district has restaurants, live music venues, vintage clothing and record stores, and a Hollywood-inspired walk of fame. 2:00 Head downtown to visit the famous Gateway Arch, the internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis. The stainless-steel arch opened to the public in 1967 and has attracted tourists to the city ever since. Ride to the top of the 630-foot-high structure for amazing views of the city and the Mississippi River. 4:00 Visit Grant’s Farm. The 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family offers not only history but wildlife fun. Take a pony or camel ride, feed goats and parakeets and see an animal show. A unique experience for visitors of every age. 6:00 Dinner at Cunetto’s on the Hill. The Hill is a traditional Italian neighborhood full of family owned delis, bakeries, upscale restaurants, and pizzerias. Since 1972 Cunneto House of Pasta has been serving delicious Italian dishes that keep locals and visitors coming back. Start with a St. Louis favorite: toasted ravioli. Then order the house salad paired with any of the traditional pasta, veal, chicken, or seafood dishes. After dinner satisfy your sweet tooth at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. Enjoy a concrete, shake, malt, sundae float or ice cream soda.

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Other St. Louis highlights worth a visit:

• Watch the 11-time World champion St. Louis Cardinals play baseball at Busch Stadium. • Spend a day at Six Flags St. Louis. Ride the Screaming Eagle wooden coaster then cool off in the rapids on Thunder River. • Visit the region’s first interactive children’s museum. The Magic House is full of fun and educational activities. • Tour the historic Anheuser-Busch Brewery, where you can sample a variety of beers and see the Budweiser Clydesdales. • Explore the City Museum, a unique playground filled with caves, slides and climbing walls. Fun for all-ages! • Saint Louis Science Center sends visitors on journeys under the sea or air. Enjoy a space show at the planetarium or take in a film at the four-story OMNIMAX Theater. • Wander through the 79 acres of gardens, statues, fountains and landscape architecture at the oldest botanical garden in the US. • Take in a show at The Muny, America’s largest and oldest outdoor amphitheater in Forest Park, or visit the Fabulous Fox for a Broadway show or concert.

To plan your visit:

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greater goods } cold weather clothing

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10 11

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greater goods } cold weather clothing

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Taylor Grocery, Taylor, Mississippi

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C at fi sh in


A tried-and-true staple of Mississippi cuisine, catfish is easily one of the state’s most popular dishes. No matter where you travel in the state, you’re sure to find some of the best. By Karon Warren Photography courtesy of Taylor Grocery, Jerry’s Catfish House, Rayner’s Seafood House and The Old Watermill Fish Camp DeSoto 49

Taylor Grocery

Taylor Grocery

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Jerry’s Catfish House

Taylor Grocery Taylor, Mississippi Located in the town of Taylor near Oxford, Taylor Grocery has been around since the late 1880s. Originally a dry goods store, Taylor Grocery underwent many ownership changes through the years. “It was always a country store first and sold catfish on the weekends,” said Lynn Hewlett, who purchased the business in 1998. “I always thought it would be a good restaurant. It was where I was raised and grew up. I knew it would be interesting.” Hewlett already had a restaurant background, running a barbecue restaurant in Oxford along with a catering business. However, after purchasing Taylor Grocery, he gave up the barbecue restaurant because he couldn’t dedicate the time to both restaurants. It seems he made the right choice. Open Thursday through Sunday nights, Taylor Grocery stays busy from open to close. Hewlett said he thinks people come for the quality of food and the atmosphere. “People like to find a place that’s different and take their friends there,” Hewlett said. “Everybody likes to find that little hole in the wall.” Of course, they also want their catfish. The fried filets

are the most popular menu item, although diehard catfish fans want their whole fish. “Those who want the whole fish are most adamant about it,” Hewlett said. “They won’t eat anything else.” He seems to be among that crowd, stating the whole fish are his favorite as well. So what makes the catfish so good? “We start with a good product,” Hewlett said. “I think it’s the best in the world: Mississippi farm-raised catfish. Our fish breading (cornmeal) is very simple. We don’t overdo it.” Apparently, it’s a winning recipe that keeps bringing customers back again and again.

Jerry’s Catfish House Florence, Mississippi Just south of Jackson in Florence on U.S. Highway 49, Jerry’s Catfish House has been serving catfish since 1986. The restaurant was the brainchild of Jerry Bridges, who opened the restaurant with his wife, Wanda. Unfortunately, Jerry didn’t get to enjoy the restaurant for very long, passing away in 1990. Today, the business is run by his wife and sons, Jay and Daryl. The restaurant’s unique architecture—a dome-shaped building—has been catching the eye of passersby for years. DeSoto 51

Jerry’s Catfish House

Rayner’s Seafood House

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According to Jay, during a vacation his father saw a church built like an igloo, and he had the idea that if he built a restaurant with the same architecture then people would come for the first time to see the building and return for the good food. It appears the idea worked, given the restaurant continues to draw a crowd every Thursday through Sunday. Wanda said she thinks customers return because they love their fresh-cooked catfish. “The way we cook it in a cornmeal batter and fry it, we take care in preparing it,” Wanda said. “It’s golden brown when we take it up. And we use only Mississippi farmraised catfish. Everybody loves catfish.” Jerry’s Catfish House serves up all-you-can-eat catfish, both filets and whole fish, as well as an a la carte menu of steak, seafood, chicken and burgers. Not surprisingly, the fried filets accompanied by French fries, coleslaw and hushpuppies are the most popular.

Rayner’s Seafood House Hattiesburg, Mississippi Further south on U.S. Highway 49 in Hattiesburg, Rayner’s Seafood House welcomes customers to enjoy catfish every Wednesday through Saturday at this familyowned restaurant. Opened in 1965 by James and Jeanette Rayner, Rayner’s Seafood House was a second career for James. His first was working in the oil fields, where he always talked about how good the cooks were, said Kim Rayner, who now owns the restaurant with her husband, Mickey, who is James’ son. “He also learned a lot of good recipes from different cooks on the oil rigs,” Rayner said. Those recipes have evolved into a menu of fried catfish, shrimp and oysters, along with a few items for those who don’t like seafood. “We always fry our food fresh as it is ordered,” Rayner said. “We always fry in fresh oil and use a fine breading and fry to a golden brown. We have a special hushpuppy recipe that James came up with, and it is really one of the best hushpuppies you will ever eat.” While their customers return for the food, Rayner said they also love the restaurant’s atmosphere. “We try to treat our customers like DeSoto 53

The Old Watermill Fish Camp

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family,” she said. “We have customers that have come to Rayner’s for 40 years and also customers that travel each year to visit with us. We have been blessed to be able to raise our children, and now our grandchildren, in a family environment.”

The Old Watermill Fish Camp Ellisville, Mississippi Situated between Laurel, Collins and Hattiesburg, The Old Watermill Fish Camp in Ellisville has served up catfish since 1973, when the restaurant was founded by R.F. Lowry. “He was raising catfish and decided to sell it in a restaurant,” said Alice Haigler, Lowry’s daughter, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Scott. “He got so busy, he had to start buying catfish from others.” Haigler started working in the restaurant when she was 15; her children also worked there, and now her daughter and son-in-law work at the restaurant with her. “We have a good home and family atmosphere,” Haigler said. Of course, the catfish is quite popular as well. “It’s fresh, Mississippi farm-raised catfish fried in peanut oil,” Haigler said. “We use plain cornmeal with a little salt. I guess they like it.” The Old Watermill Fish Camp serves whole catfish and filets along with shrimp, oysters, smoke ribs and chicken. While there are the usual sides, the coleslaw is a customer favorite. “It’s the dressing,” Haigler said. “It’s a family recipe developed by my mom, Flo.” Although Haig ler said the restaurant is “kind of out of the way,” that doesn’t seem to stop customers from frequenting The Old Watermill Fish Camp. “Some customers come the same night every week, and some come two or three times a week,” Haigler said. And why not? It’s hard to pass up good catfish.

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Mixing Culinary Masters From Memphis to New Orleans

By Mary Ann DeSantis Rebecca Wilcomb photo by Huge Galdones Alex Eaton & Manship photos by Elizabeth Augustine Snackbar provided Vishwesh’s Boudin Ball food shots The Second Line provided by Choose 901

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It Up The South is known for its food – whether it’s simple, traditional dishes or spicy nouveau cuisine that combines Southern flair with international flavors. DeSoto Magazine has had its editorial eye on these four Southern chefs for a while now. Their names are becoming known throughout the South and beyond because of their culinary expertise and creative menus. DeSoto 57

Boudin Balls at Snackbar

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The Second Line, Memphis

Kelly English Memphis, Tennessee Restaurant Iris, Second Line, and Magnolia House at Harrah’s on the Gulf Coast Sometimes people find their calling in life in the least expected ways. Kelly English was studying pre-law at the University of Mississippi and working as a cook in local restaurants to pay his way through college. That experience was enough to convince him to pursue studies at the legendary Culinary Institute of America following his graduation from Ole Miss in 2002. After finishing at the CIA in 2004, he returned home to his native New Orleans where he worked and trained under Chef John Besh. While managing Besh’s restaurant in Tunica, Mississippi, English fell in love with Memphis. In 2007, English opened his first Memphis eatery – Restaurant Iris in the historic Overton Square of Midtown. Restaurant Iris specializes in French-Creole cuisine featuring local and seasonal ingredients and the restaurant has received numerous accolades from around the South. Only two years after the restaurant opened, Food & Wine magazine named English as its “Best New Chef ” in 2009. He has since opened two more restaurants: The Second Line, also in Midtown Memphis, and the Magnolia House at Harrah’s on the Mississippi Gulf

Coast. The Second Line features authentic New Orleans favorites including po’boys, seafood plates, roasted meats, and unique cocktails in a casual atmosphere. The Magnolia House was recently named “Best Romantic Restaurant” on the Gulf Coast by Casino Player Magazine. English, who has been featured in numerous food magazines and in the Wild Abundance cookbook, is known for his endless creativity and passion for food. At the same time, he says, “I want people to have fun when they eat out.” Vishwesh Bhatt Oxford, Mississippi Snackbar Tucked in a strip center a few miles away from Oxford Square, Snackbar doesn’t look like the kind of restaurant that would be the domain of a four-time nominee and two-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef designation or for the People’s Best New Chef nominee from Food & Wine magazine in 2011. But Vishwesh Bhatt is right at home in the restaurant that has been recognized by national media as one of the best in the South. The long, sleek 40-seat table running through the DeSoto 59

The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen

The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen

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center of Snackbar adds to the ambiance that has been described as a French bistro meeting up with a north Mississippi café. Pop one of Bhatt’s Fried Boudin Balls or Broccoli Fritters into your mouth, and you’ll understand the “snacks” are anything but ordinary. A native of Gujarat, India, Bhatt studied biology at the University of Kentucky and later political science at the University of Mississippi. He also has a culinary arts degree from Miami’s Johnson and Wales University. While his academic background is diverse, his true passion lies in his cooking and creating new dishes with lots of spices. He also finds inspiration by working with younger chefs. “I am 51 years old, and they make me younger,” he said with a grin. “I see the ways they use spices that I grew up with. It’s definitely been an evolution.” The gregarious Bhatt once told National Public Radio that when he came to Mississippi he did not want to be “the cliché Indian guy in a Southern town cooking Indian food.” As the popularity of Snackbar grew, he added a dash of India into his cooking but he infuses other distinct cultures into his dishes as well – including Southern. Since opening Snackbar in 2009, Bhatt has become the corporate chef for the entire City Grocery Restaurant Group. One of Oxford’s biggest cheerleaders, Bhatt said, “We definitely have something special going on here.” Alex Eaton Jackson, Mississippi The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen and Aplos Restaurant Jackson native Alex Eaton first learned to cook in an unlikely place: over the open fires at Boy Scout camps. It’s not surprising, then, that his Eagle Scout skills would eventually lead him to open a restaurant where wood-fired pizzas, seared meats, and spit-fire chicken dominate a menu that is inspired by Mediterranean flavors and Southern soul. “Something about fire in general warms your soul and makes food and friendships better, especially when sitting around a fire,” Eaton said. “Food just completely tastes different over a wood-fire.” DeSoto 61

The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen

After earning a business degree from Mississippi State University in 2007, Eaton studied culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. He finished in 2009 as a Magna Cum Laude graduate and headed to New Orleans, where he perfected his skills with chefs John Besh of Domenica and Michelle McRaney of Mr. B.’s Bistro. He always wanted to return home to Jackson, and in 2011 he joined restaurateurs Al Roberts and Bill Latham to help open Table 100 in Flowood. By 2014, he was ready to establish his own restaurant, The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen, with business partner Steven O’Neill in the Belhaven section of Jackson. A year later, the Jackson Free Press voted him Best New Chef in Jackson, and in 2016 he earned the King of American Seafood title at the Great American Seafood CookOff, sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Prior to competing in the national cook-off, Eaton had already won the Seafood King title in Mississippi. Eaton, who is half Lebanese, will open Aplos Restaurant in Jackson’s Highland Village in late spring. The fast-fine dining concept will be a fusion of Greek, Lebanese and Italian influences. Very proud of his heritage, Eaton went to Lebanon last summer to study the culinary traditions in time to open Aplos. 62 DeSoto

Rebecca Wilcomb New Orleans, Louisiana Herbsaint Bar & Restaurant Most first-time nominees do not win a James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef award on the initial go-around, and rarely are they women. Rebecca Wilcomb, however, defied those odds when she won the coveted Best Chef in the South award last year for her work at Herbsaint, a New Orleans restaurant on St. Charles Avenue in the Warehouse District. Shortly after winning, Wilcomb told reporters that the award was especially meaningful because it was given by peers in the industry. “For your peers to say, ‘I see you, I like what you’re doing … good job,’ that means everything to me,” she said at the time. Formerly from Massachusetts, Wilcomb was inspired by her mother’s Italian roots. The family traveled to northern Italy frequently where she enjoyed the rustic dishes prepared by her grandmother. Wilcomb moved to New Orleans in 2008, hoping to land a position at Chef Donald Link’s Cochon restaurant. However, she made a quick stop at Herbsaint – also owned by Link – to drop off her resumé. Link happened to be there and hired her immediately as a line cook at Herbsaint, which she

describes as a Southern French bistro with Italian and Spanish influences. Link himself is a former winner of the Best Chef in the South award in 2007. In her Beard Award acceptance speech, Wilcomb called him “the best friend and mentor anyone could ask for.” In 2011, she was promoted to chef de cuisine, where she has maintained high standards as well as the New Orleans TimesPicayune‘s Top 10 Restaurant designation every year during her tenure. Wilcomb is an active member of the Oxford-based Southern Foodways Alliance.

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Q B B 64 DeSoto


! Q s e R e th By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of Operation BBQ Relief

Operation BBQ Relief is a welcome site during natural disasters. The non-profit organization has provided more than 2 million meals since beginning in 2011. DeSoto 65

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There are moments in life which can have a profound effect on us… a time when we realize we will never be the same. For John David Wheeler, a volunteer with Operation BBQ Relief, his time came about three years ago. While working as a firsttime volunteer serving hot meals to tornado survivors in Moore, Oklahoma, he caught a glimpse of something that he couldn’t shake. “I saw seven crosses erected for the students and teachers who had lost their lives. It was like the crosses kept looking at me, even after I returned home. At that point, I knew I wanted to continue to help with this great organization,” explained Wheeler, who lives in Southaven, Mississippi. O p e r a t i o n B B Q Re l i e f h a s provided nearly 2 million meals to displaced residents and emergency personnel during times of disaster since being founded in 2011. Classified as a disaster relief organization, it is run completely by volunteers. Beginning with providing relief efforts in Joplin, Missouri, the organization has now responded to disasters in more than 24 states and utilized over 6,000 volunteers. As Wheeler explained, the organization began by a group of volunteers showing up to help. They didn’t call anyone ahead of time per se. They just came, set up, and started feeding the displaced. Now recognized as a reputable relief organization, corporations often donate supplies, including food and equipment. Wheeler, who currently serves as one of the heads of “deployments” or relief efforts, elaborated on how the organization responds to a disaster. “I get there as quickly as possible and begin setting up generators, lights, and smokers. We prepare to meet semi-trucks from our corporate sponsors supplying particular food items,” he said. Wheeler continued,” It’s amazing how big our footprint can be. Sometimes we take up as much as two football fields with supplies, volunteers, and trucks. We sleep wherever we can, whether it be personal RVs, campers, hotels, church classrooms, or even pitch tents.” Having completed 12 deployments thus far, Wheeler commented that the organization has to be ready for anything. “On my second deployment, to Washington, Illinois, we pulled in with 70-degree weather. When we woke up the next morning, it was about four degrees! This created a unique challenge trying to DeSoto 67

barbecue. Everything was frozen or trying to freeze, including some of our equipment, along with the food.”            A spectrum of disaster relief opportunities happened in 2017 – from the wildfires in California to the hurricane and subsequent flooding in Florida. However, the organization’s largest relief effort was in August 2017 in Houston, Texas, and surrounding areas. Dealing with the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane, known as Hurricane Harvey, and 40 inches of rain, Operation BBQ Relief provided 371,760 meals in 11 days.               “Our average cost is about $1 a meal. We call in for more supplies as warranted and as available. We also will cook donations from the locals. For example, we had a deployment where a local grocery store had lost power. They brought perishable items to us, and we prepared those. We feed citizens, first responders, and other people who may be involved with cleanup efforts,” Wheeler explained.   Volunteers stay for as little or as long as they can. For some, this may mean one day; for others, they may volunteer almost two weeks.             “I’m not in the same situation others are in,” said Wheeler. “Being selfemployed as a home builder and restaurant partner, I have the flexibility to go and stay as needed. While we were deployed in Houston, I actually came home to attend an alderman meeting on a Tuesday evening. I saw my kids, slept in my own bed, and then headed back on Wednesday.”             Wheeler stressed that volunteer efforts are appreciated regardless of their duration. And while not everyone is a barbecue pit master, they may lend their talents and time to other aspects of the organization, such as marketing or as a warehouse volunteer.             “After you’ve been doing this a little while, you find your niche. You also gain an ability to recognize when a community is poised to get back on its feet and become more self reliant. Usually, it takes about a week, two weeks max, for a community to get that process going,” he shared.             For those who have not experienced a disaster, participation in this organization can be eye-opening. Wheeler shared that he was in the U.S. Army back in the 1980s and early ‘90s before the Persian Gulf War. While he never saw combat, military friends have told him that a natural disaster is in some ways worse than a combat zone.             “In combat zones, the areas may be somewhat contained or limited to where a bomb or missile struck, but a natural disaster seems to go on for as far as the eye can see,” explained Wheeler. “When I first became involved, my family had already donated clothes, but as I watched television coverage of the Oklahoma disaster, I kept asking myself what else I could do. I had heard of Operation BBQ Relief and gave them a call. We fed 144,000 people the first day I volunteered. I thought it was fantastic!”             Wheeler has an immense gratitude for the opportunity to serve.             “It allows me to serve others. My teenage children have accompanied me on deployments on occasion. It’s helped make my son a good influence on other kids. We’ve even had local scout groups become involved. He’s a better kid for it. I’m a better person for it. Thank goodness!” laughed Wheeler. How Can You Help?

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Using His Pitmaster Skills for Greater Good John David Wheeler brings a particular skill set to his volunteer efforts with Operation BBQ Relief. He is recognized as one of the most award-winning barbecue cooks in the world. Twice winning the overall Cooking Team of the Year award in the Memphis in May World Grand Championship, Wheeler has received thousands of other awards, also. Head cook for the Natural Born Grillers BBQ Team, as well as partner and pitmaster in the Memphis Barbecue Company, he was also recently elected as an alderman for the city of Southaven, Mississippi. Wheeler was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year for Operation BBQ Relief in 2014. Most recently, he was named 2017 Non-Profit Leader of the Year from the Southaven Chamber of Commerce for his work with Operation BBQ Relief.

When people have lost everything they have to lose, we give everything we have to give. Operation BBQ Relief

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homegrown } lexington coffee company

Brewing Up Success By Karon Warren | Photography courtesy of Lexington Coffee Company

Fundraising and coffee roasting seems like an unlikely combination, but for Lexington Coffee Company it has been a winning brew. Approximately four years ago while working on fundraising efforts at Central Holmes Christian School in Lexington, Mississippi, Nancy Barrett decided she wanted to do something different. Something beyond the usual gift wrap, cookie dough, candles and such. When coffee crossed her mind, she started researching the possibilities. Those possibilities turned into reality when she and her husband, Don, purchased a coffee roaster machine from Germany. The Barretts, along with Jane Smith who serves as the company accountant, purchased and converted the old Holmes County bank building into Lexington Coffee Company. They hired a roaster to create a blend they thought would appeal to 70 DeSoto

customers. Once they had a product they liked, they held their first fundraiser for the school. “Everyone loved it,” said George Newton, sales manager and coffee roaster for Lexington Coffee Company. “It went over like gangbusters. Parents loved it. It was something different. Coffee is the second most consumed liquid in the world, so everybody knows somebody who’s going to drink coffee. The people who bought the coffee loved the coffee.” As the word spread about Lexington Coffee Company, the company started growing, thanks to other fundraisers with local churches and groups looking for ways to raise money. Today, the company sells eight different coffees, with its best

seller being Magnolia Morning. Other blends include such flavors as Tanzanian Pea Berry, Costa Rican La Magnolia and Colombian Excelso EP. “Magnolia Morning is hands down everybody’s favorite,” Newton said. “It’s a good coffee.” Coffees at Lexington Coffee Company are created using arabica beans from what’s called the “Bean Belt,” the region near the equator around the globe with the best growing climates for coffee beans. Think Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras and Peru. “The higher the bean is grown in the mountains, the better quality the bean,” Newton explained. “The higher elevations tend to have the better weather conditions for a better bean.” Newton works on creating new coffees with Janie Harris, manager of development and also a coffee roaster. He describes the process as a science. “You have to roast and taste, roast and taste,” he said. “Some beans you can blend, and some have to stand on their own. They have to complement each other.” As interest in Lexington Coffee Company increased, the Barretts began looking for other ways to grow the company. One avenue they discovered is through collegiate licensing. “The Barretts are Ole Miss fans, so they applied to license coffee for the school,” Newton said. “Then we also got Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and Missouri. We are the official coffee for those colleges.” While the Ole Miss and Mississippi State licensed coffees have been available for purchase for some time, the company recently finalized packaging designs for the remaining schools, so those are now available for purchase, too.

Also, many customers have turned to Lexington Coffee Company wanting private label coffee to use for corporate gifts, which Newton said has taken off really well. In fact, he said the future of the private label sector is really bright for the company. While most of the customers are in-state, the company is gaining attention beyond Mississippi as well. “We’re expanding out and talking with groups and organizations out of the state,” Newton said. “We found a niche no one has done with regard to fundraising and private label. No one has actually gotten boots on the ground and walked into these offices, so when I walk into an office with a bag of gourmet coffee with someone’s name on it, they’re like, ‘Wow. I can do that.’ It’s just a really good corporate gift.” Today, the company sells coffee through four avenues: online retail via Amazon and Facebook, collegiate, private label and fundraising. Newton said the company is experiencing growing pains, but is proceeding carefully to avoid any unnecessary pitfalls. “We don’t want to get so large that we lose quality,” he said. “I think eventually we have to take the next step up. To take it to the next level, we’ll have to hire some more people. We’re roasting wonderful coffee for whoever wants it. It’s really wide open.” For now, Lexington Coffee Company will continue doing what it’s been doing thus far: striving to create greattasting coffee. Although competition is strong, the company is holding firm in the marketplace. “There’s a lot of micro roasters like us out there,” Newton said. “We have a passion to make good coffee. We roast and taste every day, and we only put out what we feel is the best coffee we have. It’s fun and interesting.” DeSoto 71

southern gentleman } manly kitchen gadgets

Men in the Kitchen By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of Boos Block and Smithey Ironware

It’s no secret that gals love guys who cook. Make sure your kitchen is date-night ready with these tools and gadgets that make the preparation as enjoyable as the meal itself. My undergraduate years were the time of cold pizza for six consecutive meals, but in my life as an actual adult I’ve become serious about cooking. Gone are the days of having a mishmash of cast-off pans and hand-me-down knives, my kitchen has quality cookware, sharp blades, and tools to tackle almost any culinary situation that may arise. To keep you from wasting time with sub-par pots and pans, dull knives, and all the things that make cooking harder, I spoke with chefs and food writers about their go-to kitchen tools. Here’s a list their favorites and why you need to go out and buy them today. Knives You can get a cheap knife that will never hold an edge, will rust if you don’t dry it, and will cause you more trouble 72 DeSoto

than it’s worth. With an inadequate knife, cooking prep ceases to be enjoyable. Invest in a knife you’ll love to use. William Sonoma carries good blades, but look beyond the mall and try something from South Carolina’s Middleton Made Knives ( or BootHill Blades (www. from Tennessee, a favorite of Matthew Register, owner and pitmaster of Southern Smoke Barbecue, in Garland, North Carolina. A Honing Steel and Knife Sharpener On the topic of knives, you must keep them sharp, so invest in a better (read: not the cheapest one you can find) honing steel and knife sharpener. Honing steels keep the blade keen between sharpenings by trueing the edge where sharpeners help you re-establish the edge and restore old

blades. Many chefs and fellow food writers advised me to say “avoid electric knife sharpeners,” but I love my Chef ’s Choice three-stage sharpener. As long as you sharpen occasionally but steel your knife frequently, it’s all good. Cutting Boards Counters are not made to be cutting surfaces, so get a cutting board… two, to be exact. You’ll want a solid wood one (bamboo works as well), like a Boos Block (www.johnboos. com), and a synthetic one. Why? Because you want to cut meat, anything that might promote bacterial growth, and odiferous items like garlic or onions on the synthetic one (easier to clean and sanitize), and chop vegetables and herbs on the wooden board. Once the meat is cooked, your wooden cutting board can become a slicing or serving tray if you buy the right style, giving you a two-for-one kitchen device. Kitchen Shears These cut everything from bags to tags to herbs. Everyone I asked agreed: buy a pair that comes apart as they’re easier to clean. Wüsthof and Shun are excellent choices, and both are available from Williams-Sonoma ( Cast Iron Cast iron skillets, particularly 8-inch and 12-inch skillets, are essential in a serious kitchen. They retain heat, cook evenly, can go from stove-to-oven and back, and are easy to clean. Lodge, the famed manufacturer from Tennessee, is an option everyone knows, but barbecue wizard Matthew Register says they use only Smithey Ironware (www.smitheyironware. com) at Southern Smoke Barbecue. Chef Jesse Roque of Never Blue in Hendersonville, North Carolina, recommends a 12-

inch cast iron skillet that is at least 4-inch deep so you can fry, roast, and braise with ease. Dutch Oven These deep cookers are often large enough to roast a chicken, braise a pork shank, make a mess of butterbeans, or cook a soup or stew. Start on the stovetop and move to the oven, then serve right from the pot — they are versatile. Le Creuset’s dutch oven is a cast iron workhorse that looks beautiful, while Emile Henry’s ceramic cooker is a great option. You can also stay loyal with Lodge and let cast iron be cast iron. Sea Salt Salt? On a list of essentials? Yes. Sea salt bring a greater—and different—salinity to your cooking. It can be a great finishing salt on the right dish, and shows you’re serious about your craft. Sea Love Sea Salt ( and Outer Banks Sea Salt (, both from North Carolina, are favorites of many chefs, whereas chefs in Charleston, South Carolina, use the hometown favorite, Bulls Bay Saltworks ( Chef Says Chef Bud Taylor of The Bistro at Topsail, in Surf City, North Carolina, has a few words about his choice of kitchen essentials. He says every kitchen needs 12-to-14-inch stainless steel tongs (“good for the grill and the kitchen”), an immersion blender, a Microplane grater, and a commercial blender (“VitaMix, BlendTech, just anything that will make soup, crush ice, and blend or mix anything you want”). And his last word: “avoid any kitchen gadget that does only one thing.”

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southern harmony } mississippi juke joints with the choicest chow

Dining at Ground Zero

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Club Ebony, Indianola

Jukin’ and Chowin’ Mississippi Juke Joints with The Choicest Chow

By Jill Gleeson | Photography courtesy of B.B. King Museum and Ground Zero Blues Club

It’s not fine dining, but some say Juke Joint food is as close to heaven as your taste buds can get. Next time you’re in the mood for blues, stop by one of these legendary places and chow down on their authentic Southern fare. Juke joints were once as prevalent in the Mississippi Delta as cotton fields—and every bit as fertile. But while rich Delta soil gave rise to a crop that would spread plantations up and down the riverfront, the region’s roadside bars birthed something with arguably even greater cultural importance: blues music. Housed in mostly tumbledown, mainly rural shacks, they gave musicians from Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters a chance to hone their craft playing dirt cheap shows that would earn them just enough money to get to the next one. Juke joints were serious fun, too, stuffed full of joyous people dancing, drinking and dining on down-home southern fare. While the list of Mississippi juke joints has dwindled, there are still a handful where you can find not only the best of the blues and beyond but great belly-filling grub to keep you fueled for the night ahead.

Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale You don’t have to be a music fan to have heard of this joint. Co-owned by movie star Morgan Freeman, Ground Zero Blues Club routinely raises the roof with blow-out shows from names known and not. Willie Nelson played there to a packed house; so have George Thorogood and even The Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis. “Jerry Lee went non-stop, just lit it up for one hour,” recalls co-owner Bill Luckett. “The crowd was screaming ‘One more, Jerry Lee, one more!’ I went up onstage and I sat next to him on his piano bench and I said, ‘Jerry Lee, please can you give us one more song?’ And he looked at me and said ‘Bill, I gotta go.’ He was totally spent. The analogy would be the football player who left it all on the field. Jerry Lee was like that that night. It was an unbelievable concert.” DeSoto 75

Ground Zero Blues Club

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Ground Zero Blues Club, which opened in May, 2001, cooks up plenty of hearty Southern fare to keep you going no matter how much dancing you plan to do, including blackened catfish, fried green tomato sandwiches, locally famed Larry’s Hot Tamales and pulled pork made from pork shoulders cooked out front on the club’s grill. Club Ebony, Indianola Once owned by beloved bluesman B.B. King, Club Ebony is now in the hands of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. It’s open yearround for special events, rentals and tours, and every Thursday from March through September for live bands. If your stomach starts rumbling, there’s a full menu of bar food like wings and hamburgers, but Robert Terrell, the museum’s director of operations, recommends the catfish. “You can get it as a sandwich or as a meal, so it’ll come with coleslaw, salad, French fries, and toasted bread. It tastes good, too, I ain’t gonna kid you,” says Terrell, chuckling. “I get that catfish, oh Lordy, I go to heaven—alive.” Of course, there’s a lot more to Club Ebony than food, tasty as it is. Long one of the South’s most jumpin’ juke joints, Club Ebony, which opened around 1948, has hosted the likes of Ray Charles, Albert King, Count Basie, Ike Turner, Howlin’ Wolf and James Brown. For more than three decades B.B. King ended his “homecoming” concerts in Indianola with an appearance at the club. gone, but the show goes on, with this year’s B.B. King Homecoming set for June 2nd. The Hollywood Cafe, Robinsonville The last time this historic joint hosted live music was a year ago Christmas Eve, when Tunica-based band Turnrow Cowboys filled the 75-seat room for their farewell show. But hope springs eternal that The Hollywood Cafe, which debuted in 1969 at its original location, seven miles south of Robinsonville, will once again offer musical performances. After all, The Hollywood Cafe gained national fame when Mark Cohn name-checked it in his hit single, “Walking in Memphis.” In the meantime, it’s open for lunch and dinner and serves up plenty of Southern goodies like fried green tomatoes, pecan pie and its signature dish, fried dill pickles. The Juke Joint, Ocean Springs The Juke Joint may be the new kid on the block—it opened in 2010 under a slightly different name — but this Gulf Coast rock venue pays homage to its forefathers with its home. Tucked away in a century-old house, The Juke Joint offers live music inside and out, thanks to an expansive patio with a stage and bar shrouded by seven soaring live oaks. The menu tends toward bar food, but there are nods to The Juke Joint’s seaside locale like fried oysters, breaded shrimp and blackened tuna. It’s open seven days a week until 4 a.m.

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in good spirits} smokey old fashion

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If There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor Mary Ann DeSantis Photography courtesy of Opal Sands Resort/Sea-Guini lounge & Restaurant

“I’ll have what she’s having,” is not just a line from a popular movie, but something Justin Burk and his team of bartenders hear whenever they prepare the Smokey Old Fashion at the Sea-Guini Lounge and Restaurant at the Opal Sands Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida. “It’s definitely a drink we hope people will order when they see it,” said Burk, who is the director of food and beverage at the luxury resort overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, the smoke billowing from the snifter glass is certainly eye-catching but the mellow flavors of the whiskeybased drink have made the cocktail a favorite among locals who frequent the award-winning seafood and Italian restaurant. Burk, a former bartender who still likes to get behind the bar, created the cocktail by playing around with a smoke infuser that is more often used in culinary recipes than in cocktails. The device produces cold smoke and infuses a variety of smoky flavors and aromas into foods and liquids. “I just grabbed a smoke gun and decided to try it in a drink instead of just food applications,” he explained. “There was a lot of trial and error before we got the drink just right.” Burk uses small mesquite or hickory wood chips that are sold in 2-ounce jars with a handheld smoke infuser. The restaurant uses Jack Daniel’s whiskey although other types of bourbon or whiskey can be used as well. “The key is the 100 percent maple syrup,” he said. “Any brand will work as long it’s 100 percent.” Men are usually the first to order the Smokey Old Fashion, but once women taste how mellow the drink is because of the maple syrup, they’ll order their own. “The syrup really cuts the harshness of the whiskey,” Burk said. He recommends filling the snifter with smoke until it just begins to billow out. A ‘stand-cap lid’ traditionally used on room service trays is placed on the glass to keep the smoke contained in the glass until it’s served to the customer. When the lid is removed, the smoke billows up, creating quite a show

stopper… and inspiring customers to ask for “what that table is having.”

Smokey Old Fashion 1.5-ounce Jack Daniel’s whiskey 3/4-ounce maple syrup 3 Splashes of Bitters Prep: Stir Jack and maple syrup pour over ice sphere-add smoke/cover. Glass: Snifter Burk recommends buying molds for ice spheres online. He uses the Smoking Gun Pro from PolyScience, but says consumer models are available for less than $100.

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exploring events } january Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration January 5 - 8 Memphis, TN The 2018 celebration which marks Elvis’ 83rd birthday will take place in Memphis January 5-8, 2018. Enjoy four days of music, events and great memories. For more information, updates and to purchase tickets, visit or call 1-800-238-2000.

The Temptations January 12 Horseshoe Casino Tunica Resorts, MS 8:00pm Fans of Motown can relive all the classics with The Temptations. For tickets visit horseshoe-tunica, or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

Panola Playhouse Presents Dogfight January 5 - 14 Panola Playhouse Sardis, MS Directed by Erica Peninger. For more information visit or call 662-487-3975.

Kevin Hart Irresponsible Tour January 14 Landers Center Southaven, MS Kevin Hart has made a name for himself as one of the foremost comedians, entertainers, authors and businessmen in the industry today. His memoir “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons” debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list and has remained on the list for nine consecutive weeks. Last year, Hart voiced a title character in “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie,” and appeared in the Sony reboot of the classic film “Jumanji” alongside Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black. Purchase tickets at Landers Center box office 662-470-2131, ticketmaster. com or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

WWE Monday Night Raw January 8 FedEx Forum Memphis, TN 6:30pm The Superstars of WWE are returning to action at FedExForum for WWE Monday Night Raw. Tickets start at just $15. To purchase tickets visit, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at (800) 745-3000 or at the FedExForum Box Office. Memphis Boat Expo January 12 - 14 Cook Convention Center Memphis, TN The Expo is on track to feature the largest display of boats, watercraft, and performances ever displayed in the Mid-South. Each Day will include a theme focus. Friday is the VIP preview party with country mega star Josh Turner, presented by Sugar Loaf Boat Sales. Saturday is themed “The Boat Show That Rocks” and will feature a concert from Journey former lead singer Steve Augeri, the recording lead singer responsible for the comeback of one of America’s most loved rock bands. Sunday’s theme is all about Faith, Family, and Freedom. Sunday’s event will include a talk by Chad Williams, author of Seal of God and Navy Seal. For more information visit or follow MemphisBoatEXPO on Facebook.

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Styx January 18 BancorpSouth Arena Tupelo, MS 7:30pm For tickets visit, call 1-800-745-3000 or visit Harlem Globetrotters 2018 World Tour January 20 FedEx Forum Memphis, TN 2:00pm The Harlem Globetrotters, known for their one-ofa-kind family entertainment, will bring their 2018 World Tour to FedExForum on Saturday, January 20 at 2 p.m. to take on their long-time adversaries the Washington Generals. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations,, the FedExForum Box Office, by phone at (800) 745-3000 or at

John Scofield January 20 Germantown Performing Arts Center Germantown, TN 8:00pm In addition to being one of the principal innovators of modern jazz guitar, John Scofield is also a creative artist of an even rarer sort: a stylistic chameleon that has forged a consistent, rock-solid aesthetic identity. For tickets visit or call 901-751-7500. Bill Engvall January 20 Gold Strike Casino Tunica Resorts, MS 8:30pm For tickets visit or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Monster Jam January 20 - 21 Landers Center Southaven, MS Monster Jam® is the world’s largest and most famous monster truck tour where world-class drivers compete in front of capacity crowds in racing and freestyle competitions. Show times are January 20 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. January 21 at 2:00pm. Purchase tickets at Landers Center box office 662-470-2131, or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. For more information, visit

The Sound of Music January 25 Bologna Performing Arts Center Cleveland, MS 7:30pm The Hills Are Alive! A brand new production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC is coming to the Mississippi Delta. The beloved musical story of Maria and the von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award® winning Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and the title song. For more information call 662-846-4625 or visit Author event with Nathaniel Rich: “King Zeno” January 31 Turnrow Books Greenwood, MS 5:30pm New Orleans, 1918. The birth of jazz, the Spanish flu, an ax murderer on the loose. The lives of a traumatized cop, a conflicted Mafia matriarch, and a brilliant trumpeter converge—and the Crescent City gets the rich, dark, sweeping novel it so deserves. For more information call 662-453-5995 or visit

Finding Neverland January 23 - 28 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN This breathtaking smash “captures the kid-at-heart,” says TIME Magazine. Vogue cheers, “It’s a must-see you’ll remember for years to come!” Directed by visionary Tony®-winner Diane Paulus and based on the critically-acclaimed Academy Award® winning film, Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan. For more information and tickets visit or call 901-525-3000.

Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration

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reflections} taco night

Taco Night By Adam Mitchell

Teaching children and teens to cook can have a lifetime of rewards and cherished memories. I was lucky to have grown up in a home where the kitchen was the heart of the house. Part of the reason, I’m sure, was because my mother is an excellent cook. She grew up learning recipes from her grandmothers and still follows their handwritten notes today. When I was a child, 6:30 p.m. was dinner time, and that meant it was time to stop doing my homework or playing outside and join my family at the dinner table. My sister and I savored all our mother’s home-cooked meals. Chicken ala king, beef stroganoff and Rotel chicken spaghetti were some of my favorites. When my sister and I were in high school, our mother wanted us to learn how to cook. She assigned a specific night of the week for each of us to cook for our family. We also got to choose the meal that we would prepare. Well, there were many, many taco nights in our household. It was easy to prepare, and it was one of my favorite meals. Every week, when it was my turn to cook the family dinner, my family knew it was taco night. I eventually got tired of tacos, and I’m guessing my family did too. After I graduated from tacos, I began to grill burgers, pork chops, steaks and chicken. Now the possibilities for dinner were endless! In college, I would make myself simple, somewhat healthy meals. After planning what I would cook for a week, 82 DeSoto

I made a trip to the grocery store. I thought that’s what every college student did. I incorrectly assumed everyone grew up learning how to cook in the kitchen and sear the perfect ribeye on the ol’ Weber grill. I was surprised to learn that most of my friends lived on fast food and Ramen noodles! I still love to cook. I actually enjoy walking around the grocery store shopping for that night’s dinner. These days, I go without a list or a plan. I see what’s fresh, what looks good, what smells good – until I get inspired. My wife is very grateful for that. I don’t want to say that she can’t cook! She does have a few recipes that I love, but she knows how much I enjoy it. Her teenage boys are big fans of my cooking as well, and I am thrilled to see them try new dishes. Over the summer, I demonstrated to my 15-year-old step-son the process of loading and lighting charcoal in the Big Green Egg grill. He seemed a little overwhelmed when it came to controlling the temperature with the air vents, but he was excited to learn. My wife and I recently gave her boys the opportunity to cook the family dinner one night a week. Guess what?... TACO NIGHT IS BACK!

DeSoto Magazine January 2018  
DeSoto Magazine January 2018  

Regional cuisine, great chefs, kitchen designs and the latest gadgets.