Mississippi cuisine is a staple in Southern recipes, with its roots deep in coastal seafood and hearty concoctions that make the state a coveted destination for down-home cooking. With a new perspective on Southern food, five culinary stars from across Mississippi will showcase their dishes at the upcoming Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Featured Mississippi chefs will include Cooper Miller from Forklift in Tupelo, Emily Blount and Jon Davis from Saint Leo in Oxford, Nick Wallace of Nick Wallace Culinary in Jackson, Katie Dixon of Birdhouse Cafe in Hattiesburg, and Milton Joachim at Captain Al’s Steak and Seafood in Gulfport. Distilled spirits will be provided by Oxford’s Wonderbird Spirits. It’s a perfect opportunity to wander through flavors from every corner of the state, all in one very flavorful place.
Mississippi Chefs Channel Flavors From Across the State
A Taste of Oxford in Atlanta
Just an hour south of Memphis, Tennessee, Oxford has been touted as the Cultural Mecca of the South, and for good reason. The area’s roots in literary heritage run deep: Visit Rowan Oak, the historic home of award-winning author William Faulkner, then check out the nationally acclaimed bookstore Square Books. Among the boutiques and shops, visitors will find the oldest department store in the South. Locals and visitors find themselves immersed in an exceptional culinary experience that offers a wide variety of cuisine that can satisfy any craving. From classic comfort food to international dishes to famous gas station chicken on a stick, Oxford does not fall short in delivering a chef-driven experience.
Chef Jon Davis was raised by his grandmother, Marene, in Memphis. Growing up, home-cooked pinto beans and cast iron skillet cornbread were delightful after-school snacks, shaping 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, before finding his current home at Saint Leo in Oxford where his focus is Italian cuisine. Davis’ 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.
A Taste of Hattiesburg in Atlanta
A premier city in the Gulf South, Hattiesburg blends culture, art, food and history, making it a modern Southern destination. Known as the birthplace of rock n’ roll and site of one of the most significant social movements in U.S. history, Hattiesburg’s roots run deep. Today, the city is an emerging civil rights destination, preserving and telling history through attractions like the 1964 Freedom Summer Trail and East Sixth Street Museum District.
Hattiesburg is a year-round destination thanks to its mild climate and abundance of outdoor recreation activities, like the Rails-to-Trails project, the Longleaf Trace. A creative community adds flair through nearly 200 locally owned restaurants, craft breweries, vibrant public art, and boutique shops.
Mississippi Chef Katie Dixon opened her first location of Birdhouse Cafe in Hattiesburg back in 2017. Since she’s introduced two other locations as well as Nourished Kitchen in Louisiana. Winning numerous accolades from the Pine Belt and appearing in two seasons of Food Network’s Master Chef, Dixon’s dishes are nourishing and healthy feats. Her restaurants offer a range of power foods that stem from Southern traditions, such as the green goddess salad with shaved brussels and toasted pecans. Her passion for food is only the beginning of her heart for serving others. Dixon cares for the livelihood of the people she comes into contact with each and every day, inspiring others to care for their body, mind and soul. As a certified precision nutrition coach and personal trainer, she believes that nourishing the body is the best way to live a full life.
A Taste of Coastal Mississippi in Atlanta
With a heavy shrimping and fishing business, it’s no wonder that the destination specializes in serving fresh Gulf-to-table seafood that highlights the once-seafood capital of the world. Spend your days on the sand, at world-class attractions, fishing, or whiling away your time bird watching from your kayak on one of many blueways. Feeling lucky? Coastal Mississippi is one of the country’s top gaming destinations, with twelve luxurious casinos. The region is a span of beautiful waters that supply a history of traditional cuisine, stemming from the influx of immigrant groups in the late 1800s who brought recipes and flavors of home. Locals, guests, and long-time lovers of the Mississippi coast swoon over white beaches, gaming destinations, waterways, and a wonderful food scene.
Chef Milton Joachim has been a consistent and dedicated fan of culinary arts, a dream instilled in him by his father who spent his career in the restaurant industry. After receiving a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Orlando, Joachim worked with the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, and Scott Boswell. He absorbed years of experience in restaurants around the country and opened Carrollton Market in New Orleans and Charred in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He is known for his new-school spin on local seafood. He recently took over the kitchen at 30-year-old local favorite Captain Al’s Steak and Seafood in Gulfport, steering it into its next era.
With a passion for the outdoors, Joachim strives to provide the best, fresh seafood directly from the source. For the past decade, Joachim’s cooking demonstrates his values and passion, providing not only excellent taste, but also achieving his dream at the same time.
A Taste of Jackson in Atlanta
From down-home soul food to fine dining experiences, Jackson offers an opportunity to discover a bite of Southern culture that is represented in the vibrant restaurants springing up in some of the city’s burgeoning neighborhoods. The city’s culinary community also demonstrates a diversity of restaurant ownership and clientele, something that is reflected in the varied restaurant scene. The welcoming atmosphere in these eateries befits the attitude of Southern hospitality that makes Jackson so special.
Mississippi Chef Nick Wallace leverages his culinary intuition to highlight the beauty of food, redefine the Southern experience, and introduce the world to Mississippi-inspired cuisine. Drawing inspiration from his early training with his grandmothers, Wallace’s culinary style combines his roots growing up on a family farm with French technique. The resulting is modern, Mississippi-influenced cuisine infused with his culinary innovation and understanding of flavor profiles. He is a celebrated executive chef, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, gaining national recognition in episodes of Food Network’s Chopped and Bravo’s Top Chef.
Committed to his community and using palate-pleasing cuisine to touch lives, Wallace founded Creativity Kitchen in Jackson. This nonprofit provides nutrition education, exposure to farm-to-table practices, and access to flavorful, healthy meals, and culinary experiences for young, public school students and their families.
A Taste of Tupelo in Atlanta
Tupelo isn’t just known for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley, but for its Southern charm that colors the food scene. An emerging culinary destination in the Southeast, Tupelo’s chefs take creativity to another level, bringing new twists and flavors to locally sourced dishes. With more than 160 restaurants from which to choose, Tupelo boasts a diverse collection of eateries with something for adventurous and conservative palates.
Chef Cooper Miller found his passion for cooking while attending Mississippi State University, when he worked as an executive chef at Hotel Chester. His wife encouraged him to go to culinary school in order to hone his skills and learn ins and outs of restaurants. He attended Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta where he spent his time learning from the best chefs in the Southeast. As executive chef and owner of Forklift in Tupelo, his elevated Southern food is seasonally inspired, giving patrons new and exciting experiences each time they walk through the door. Miller takes partnership and collaboration to heart by hosting special events at Forklift with partners from around the area. His quarterly Hog Wild Series features kitchen and bar takeovers by some of his own favorite chefs and bartenders. Dishes he gravitates to include jerk steelhead trout, sweet and hot blackened shrimp tacos, and perfectly fried boneless chicken thighs.
Learn more about Mississippi’s most iconic restaurants HERE.