Chef Jon Davis of Saint Leo in Oxford, Mississippi, was raised by his grandmother, Marene, in Memphis, Tennessee. Growing up, home-cooked pinto beans and cast iron skillet cornbread were delightful after-school snacks. This shaped Davis’ understanding that the best dishes were crafted from simple, quality ingredients.
After attending the University of Mississippi and finding his way into a kitchen with chef John Currence, there was simply no going back. Since then, Davis has moved through the culinary world and worked in a variety of restaurants in the industry, which lead him to finding his home at Saint Leo in Oxford where his focus is Italian cuisine.
Davis showcases that his choice of simple ingredients isn’t an age-old practice, but an application of mindfulness toward the food put on our tables for friends, family, and ourselves.
Davis’ grandmother taught him that simple, quality ingredients make the best dishes. He showcased his grandmother’s cooking traditions at the Mississippi Chef Jam dinner during the 2022 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, where he prepared a seemingly humble, yet flavor packed, catfish and okra stew.
Back at Saint Leo in Oxford, Davis applies his grandmother’s lessons as he shares comforting, Southern food with family, friends, and patrons. He recommends supporting local businesses by using Doe’s Eat Place Seafood and Poultry Seasoning and Two Brooks Farm Missimati rice when making this for a taste of Mississippi at home.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 diced yellow onion
1 pound fresh okra, sliced ¼-inch thick
6½ cups crushed tomatoes
4 bay leaves
1 thyme sprig
1 oregano sprig
6 catfish fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 tablespoons Doe’s Eat Place Seafood & Poultry Seasoning
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
8 cups cooked Two Brooks Farm Missimati rice
- Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in okra, tomatoes, and herbs and bring mixture to a simmer. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Arrange catfish on a plate and season with Doe’s. Transfer fish to pot, and continue to simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in sugar, vinegar, and hot sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Serve stew over cooked rice.
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