On Saturday, Jackson’s celebrity chef will share the lessons he learned in his grandmother’s kitchen

Chef Nick Wallace remembers clearly the day his grandmother sent him outside the Edwards home where they lived to pick dewberries from vines growing along the fenceline. He can tell you exactly how sour they tasted, and how eating one berry was enough to turn him away.

Like she did with so many other things in her cooking, though, his grandmother knew to play the long game. She instructed him to rinse the berries, fill a pot with water and bring them to a boil. She handled the rest of the recipe while he went back outside to play.

When the family gathered the next morning for breakfast, she insisted he drop a spoonful of the finished dewberry jam he had started the day before onto a fresh biscuit. Reluctantly, he did.

“I put it in the middle and ate it just like she said, I sandwiched it in, and I fell in love with that woman all over again,” says Wallace, who has gone on to win Food Network cooking shows “Chopped” and “Fire Masters,” and was a finalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef.” “She has been a champion in my life for me to realize what food really is.”

On Saturday at 2 p.m. at Catfish Row Museum, Wallace will share the mindset of creating “slow food,” which his grandmother taught him, using a recipe for smoked brisket tacos with homemade tortillas during his cooking demonstration.

If the term “slow food” sounds like the opposite of fast food, you’re correct. But as Wallace explains, it’s so much more than that. The idea isn’t to devote large chunks of time to food preparation and cooking, but rather to incorporate food into the routines of daily life so it happens as a matter of course. While a brisket is on the smoker, for example, a pot on the stovetop can be simmering a stock or soup.

“I want people to understand that ‘slow food’ doesn’t mean that things are gonna take days, but some preparation [is required],” he says. “The premise of it is using your hands for a better outcome in life as far as your food goes, and being creative. Slow food is about being creative; it’s about preservation; it’s about things having an everlasting effect on your life.”

Wallace’s brisket will go through a three-day process of brining and smoking before he brings it to Catfish Row, where he’ll combine it with a goat milk crema and pickled vegetables that he jarred three months ago, and then top it with beet chips. The tortillas he’ll serve with it are handmade, too. 

“I believe people are going to be pretty amazed, from start to finish, how quick and easy this dish is,” he says. “And, you can use seafood, you can use meat, you can use a veggie approach [with] curry cauliflower.

“I really like the approach of food being [presented] in a way that is not intimidating, and showing people that the process is probably easier than what you expected.”

In addition to his signature Nissan Cafe by Nick Wallace at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, Wallace is also developing the Midtown Culinary Center, which aims to provide the Jackson community with access to quality foods, culinary education, workforce training, and community engagement. His first cookbook, “Rooted: A Modern Mississippian Map to American Home Cooking,” is due in 2024 from the University Press of Mississippi.

Catfish Row Museum will wrap up its Summer Cooking Series with a presentation and demo by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in partnership with the Vicksburg National Military Park is planned for October.

This series of stories on this Summer Cooking Series is produced by Lauchlin Fields Digital Media Consulting for the Catfish Row Museum.

Read the story as it appeared in The Vicksburg Post, our content partner.

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Jim Beaugez

Jim Beaugez is a Mississippi-based writer whose work has been published by Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Oxford American, Garden & Gun, Guitar World and other publications. He also created and produced "My Life in Five Riffs," a documentary series for Guitar Player that traces contemporary musicians back to their sources of inspiration.