The Local Palate, in partnership with the City With Soul and Visit Mississippi and sponsoring partners, will welcome the inaugural JXN Food & Wine Festival to downtown Jackson on March 2, 2024. The event will be held at the Mississippi Museum of Art and will feature a stellar line-up of local and national award-winning chefs.
Get to Know the Talent
Vishwesh Bhatt – Snackbar
Vishwesh Bhatt, who was named Southerner of the Year by Southern Living and Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation in 2019, has been a part of chef John Currence’s City Grocery Restaurant Group since 1997. Vishwesh started as a prep cook at City Grocery and worked his way up to executive chef at Snackbar, which opened in 2009. At Snackbar, using his years of culinary experience and exposure to worldwide cultures, he has developed a menu that intertwines both Southern and subcontinental foodways. He and his wife live in Oxford, Mississippi, with their cat, Bitbit, and Bob the dog. In January 2022, Vishwesh was inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans & Chefs. His first book, I Am From Here, was released by W.W. Norton & Company in August 2022.
Sponsored by Visit Oxford
Austin Sumrall – White Pillars
Austin Sumrall is the chef and co-owner of White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge in Biloxi, Mississippi. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Sumrall is a champion of Mississippi food culture and farm-to-table cuisine. In 2020, he was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef in the South. In 2021, he brought home the title of King of American Seafood after winning the top prize in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off. This year he was featured in two Food Network televised cooking competitions. He came in second on the Southern round of Chopped: All American Showdown and brought home the winning title against Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli on her show, Alex vs America.
Cooper Miller – Forklift
In Tupelo, Mississippi, an emerging culinary destination in the Southeast, chefs take creativity to another level. One such chef is Cooper Miller, executive chef and owner of 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, earning him the chance to compete in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off.
Sponsored by Visit Tupelo
Jordan and Amarys Herndon – Palm&Pine
Owned by business and life partners Amarys and Jordan Herndon, Palm&Pine is a vibrant restaurant on the edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter serving the cuisines and culinary traditions of the South as well as the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. The food, cocktail, and dessert menus change every few weeks and feature hyperlocal seasonal produce and locally sourced meat and fish. The Herndons opened Palm&Pine in the summer of 2019, and since have been serving guests a progressive and soulful take on New Orleans flavors, alongside beautiful cocktails from the restaurant’s Pine Bar that hosts an agave and cane spirit program with classic and original cocktails, New World wines, and regional craft and Latin American beers. The two also landed on the 2023 James Beard Award semifinalists list for Best Chef: South.
Lauren Joffrion – Radish
Lauren Joffrion learned to cook at a young age from her parents. She attended Mississippi State University for architecture but dropped out to pursue her love of cooking. She learned by starting at the bottom and working her way up under renowned chefs such as David Dickensauge at Baton Rouge’s Beausoleil Restaurant. Joffrian received her first executive chef job at the age of 26, running Field’s Steak & Oyster Bar in Biloxi. After Field’s, she moved to Thorny Oyster before landing at Radish and Kaiteki Noodle Bar in Long Beach. In 2021, Joffrion was named Best Small-Town Chef by Country Roads Magazine.
Sponsored by Coastal Mississippi
Lawrence Weeks – North of Bourbon
Lawrence Weeks dedicated himself to cooking when he was a child growing up in a Creole and Cajun household in central Kentucky. His professional career began in 2010. After culinary school, Weeks worked under James Beard-recognized chef Todd Richards at The Pig and The Pearl in Atlanta, where Richards encouraged him to find his roots in food. When Weeks returned to his home state, he started LocalsOnly, a Louisville pop-up that focused on local people, products, and food. After returning from time in Lexington working under chef Ouita Michel, Weeks is currently heading the kitchen at the much-anticipated North of Bourbon in Louisville, focusing on deep Southern cuisine with an emphasis on the connection between Louisville and New Orleans.
Michael Carr – Barbecue Shine
Michael Carr, owner of Barbeque Shine in Ridgeland, Mississippi, began catering in 2017 with a food truck, initially juggling it with his job at Nissan. However, when the pandemic hit in 2020 and indoor dining was restricted, his food truck business took off and customers were delighted by the quality of his food. His food truck’s quick rise in popularity led him to make the pivotal decision to leave Nissan and focus on his business full-time, which he expanded to include a building and two food trucks. Carr’s commitment to his craft is evident in his barbecue preparation. In addition to spending hours smoking pork and other meats, he also takes the time to make smoked corn and other traditional barbecue side dishes to represent Mississippi and its culinary traditions.
Sponsored by Visit Ridgeland
A native of Taiwan, Ming Pu credits his mother for instilling in him a true passion for cooking. He learned the importance of utilizing only the freshest seasonal produce the Asian markets had to offer from his time spent helping her prepare home-cooked meals every night. When Pu was 7, he and his family moved to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, where they lived for two years before making Louisville, Kentucky, their permanent home in 1999. Along the way, Pu gained a diverse food vocabulary of eastern Asian and French techniques, along with expertise with a wide range of ingredients that are evident today in his melting pot of new American cuisine at Brooklyn and The Butcher, as well as his new venture, Outcast Fish & Oyster Bar.
Pu attended culinary school at Sullivan University in 2009. During this time, he honed his skills in varying positions at restaurants in Louisville, including Volare and English Grill at The Brown Hotel. Pu was recognized by FSR magazine as a 40 Under 40: Restaurant Star on the Rise in 2018, and in 2019, his restaurant was named to the Good Food Media Network’s Good Food 100 Restaurants List. He was also named a James Beard Smart Catch Leader in 2020. Pu has also been a contestant on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay.
Learn More about JXN Food & Wine
All ticket holders will enjoy tastings from more than 20 local and regional chefs along with samples of wine, beer, spirits, and nonalcoholic offerings, a demo stage with Top Chefs, and live music.
Doors open for general admission at 6:30 p.m. VIP ticket holders are invited to arrive at 6 p.m. for early access, including an exclusive VIP area with hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary bar, dedicated restrooms, and a celebrity chef meet-and-greet.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Mississippi Restaurant Association Education Foundation. This initiative supports aspiring students pursuing higher education in restaurant management and culinary arts.
Visit jxnfoodandwine.com for more details.
- by Erin Byers Murray
- by TLP Editors
- by Erin Byers Murray
- by TLP Editors