Chef Austin Sumrall believes that his home state—so often the butt of jokes—produces some of the world’s greatest food. “It’s hard to put into words what Mississippi cuisine really is,” he says. His Biloxi restaurant White Pillars occupies a 12,000-square-foot neoclassical mansion that’s listed on the National Historic Register. It houses two dining rooms, a patio, and a massive lounge. Rather than trying to define Mississippi cuisine, Sumrall says his focus is on “using the beautiful products that are available in Mississippi.” While local sourcing drives the ingredients, dishes run the gamut at White Pillars. The menu features shrimp pad thai and pork tonkatsu alongside heirloom tomato pie and Gulf barbecue shrimp. In addition to celebrating Mississippi ingredients, the restaurant itself is a platform to showcase the state’s fishermen, farmers, and artisans–just check out the signage, wall art, and dishware, all crafted by regional artists.
From James Beard Foundation recognized chefs to up-and-coming, eco-minded talents, here are the standouts reigniting the movement.