COOK OF THE WEEK – HOPE JONES: Young caterer surprises even herself with cooking career

BALDWYN – A year and a half ago, Hope Jones took a cake decorating class at Itawamba Community College because she had a hankering to bake some cakes.
Today, she has her own catering business called Simply Sensational.
“In high school I wanted to be in the retail business, designing and marketing clothing,” said the 26-year-old. “I never dreamed I’d be in the cooking business. I wanted to go to New York. Now, I can’t imagine not having a small-town life.”
Jones and her husband, Chet, live in the Pratts community outside Baldwyn, just a stone’s throw from her grandmother, her parents and her aunts.
“We’re very family-oriented,” she said. “We see each other every day or every other day. We’re in and out of each others’ houses all the time.”
When Jones started her business, she knew instantly she wanted to specialize in homemade Southern foods with a twist.
“What I really like to do is heavy hors d’oeuvres, dips, pick-up things,” she said. “I go on the Internet, try new recipes, find ways to make them easier and better.”
Often, Jones invites family members over for a tasting. She’ll make several new dishes and get everyone’s opinion – good and bad.
“I’m all the time hunting new recipes, picking up cooking magazines and church cookbooks,” she said.

Cooking for the Guard
Jones and her brother, Wesley Nelson, have a convenience store together called Fish Lake House, where she also does some cooking. That’s really her full-time job.
“Late at night is when I do my catering stuff. I have a certified commercial kitchen beside my house. It was my husband’s shop first. He was not too excited with me,” she said, laughing.
Chet Jones, a career National Guardsman, has ultimately benefited from his decision to give up his man-cave, though.
“They have drill once a month and I cater their lunch,” she said. “They’re a meat and vegetables kind of group.”
Recently, she prepared meatloaf, creamed potatoes, peas and peach cobbler for them. For an upcoming holiday drill weekend, she’ll make chicken and dressing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, and red velvet and coconut cakes.
“I’m not an exotic cook,” she said “We like practical, easy-to-do, but good food. I try to follow a recipe. I don’t just throw things together. I want it to be good every time I make it. Once I find a recipe I like, I stick with it.”

Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or e-mail them to ginna.parsons@djournal.com.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal