An emerging culinary destination in the Southeast, Tupelo, Mississippi’s chefs take creativity to another level. One such chef is Cooper Miller, executive chef and owner at Forklift in Tupelo’s Jackson West neighborhood. His elevated Southern food is seasonally inspired, giving patrons new and exciting epicurean experiences every time they walk through the door. An extensive bar menu includes an array of craft cocktails and one of the best bourbon selections around.
Miller started cooking while in school at Mississippi State University. One day, he walked into Hotel Chester to apply for a position as a line cook and walked out as the executive chef. Quickly realizing that he had no idea how to run a restaurant, his wife promptly put in applications for him to all of the country’s best culinary schools.
When the acceptance letters started rolling in, he ultimately chose Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta where he graduated summa cum laude in 2007. He spent the following decade in Atlanta, learning from some of the best chefs in the Southeast.
Miller’s process in the kitchen is by no means the best-kept secret in Tupelo. He recently won the title of King of Mississippi Seafood at the 11th Annual Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off in Coastal Mississippi. His winning dish of potato and chorizo crusted snapper with a summer corn puree, roasted jalapeno sauce, and heirloom tomato pico de gallo, earned him the coveted honor and the chance to compete in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off.
At Mississippi Chef Jam during this year’s Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, Chef Miller prepared the tasty chorizo and potato crusted snapper. His recipes and unique sense of ingredients allow Miller to base his cuisine around the seasons and locally grown and available foods.
Get the Recipe
Chorizo and Potato Encrusted Snapper with Summer Vegetables
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 (1-ounce) bag corn chips
Salt and pepper to taste
4 jalapeño peppers
1 green bell pepper
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
½ ounce agave syrup
2 heirloom tomatoes, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
½ bunch diced cilantro
1 ounce tequila
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
8 ounces chorizo
1 cup instant potato mix
4 (4-6 ounce) snapper fillets
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh cilantro for garnish
For the summer corn purée:
For the roasted jalapeño sauce
For the heirloom tomato salsa:
For the fish:
- Make the summer corn purée: In a medium pot, combine corn, cream, and stock and stir to incorporate. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let mixture simmer for 15 minutes. Use a sieve or chinois to strain corn from liquid, reserving the cooking liquid.
- Transfer corn to an upright blender and add just enough of the reserved liquid to barely cover the corn. Add ½ bag of corn chips, salt, and pepper, and blend at high speed until completely smooth. Set aside.
- Make the roasted jalapeño sauce: In a large pan over high heat, cook whole peppers, garlic, and shallots until charred. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let cool 10 minutes. Remove plastic wrap and remove charred skin and seeds from peppers.
- In an upright blender, combine roasted vegetables with remaining ingredients and 2 ounces of water, and blend at high speed until smooth. Set aside.
- Make the heirloom tomato salsa: In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and stir to mix evenly. Let sit for 30 minutes then drain excess liquid.
- Make the fish: In a plate or shallow dish, whisk eggs with milk, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook chorizo. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat from pan, reserving cooking oil.
- On a plate, spread potatoes in an even layer. Season fish with additional salt and pepper, then, working one filet at a time, dip top half of fish in milk mixture then dip in potatoes. Heat pan with chorizo oil over medium-high heat, add fish, and cook, skin side down, until a nice crust forms. Flip filets and add butter to the pan, basting filets until fully cooked.
- To plate, spread a thin layer of jalapeño sauce on plate and top with corn purée in the center and sprinkle with chorizo. Place fish over purée and top with salsa. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Video by Damien Blaylock and Josh Clegg
Edits by Ed Foose
Sound design by Cole Furlow
Production by: Maggie Ward and Tim Mask
Location: Epicurean Hotel Atlanta
Shrimp and Grits: A History
Tea Cakes, A Brief History
A First Look at Vern’s Menu
A First Look at Bar La Fête in Birmingham
6 Food and Drink Recipes that Honor Black History Monthby Erin Byers Murray
More From Partnered
Discover What’s New in Tupelo, Mississippi
Eat Local in Tupelo, Mississippi
Building an Appetite in Tupelo, Mississippi