COOK OF THE WEEK: Saltillo mom juggles work, pets and her culinary dream

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

SALTILLO – At one point in her life, Paige Kelly wanted to be a chef. She even went so far as to study at a culinary school in Paris after finishing college.
In the 1990s, she was into catering and party planning, and she had a small bakery in Saltillo called Celebrations.
But when motherhood called, she closed her shop.
Of course, that doesn’t mean she quit cooking.
“I probably cook five nights a week for my family and the other two nights we eat leftovers or we go out,” said Kelly, 39. “But I really have a hard time cooking dinner. Isn’t that terrible? If someone tells me exactly what they want I can do it.”
She said when she asks her 14-year-old daughter, Mary Clair, what she wants for dinner, she’ll shrug and say she doesn’t care. Her 8-year-old son, Brock, is more specific.
“He’ll say grilled chicken, corn, mashed potatoes and cornbread,” Kelly said. “And the youngest, Mimi Caroline, just wants Ramen noodles.”
While Kelly enjoys cooking for her husband, Tim, and the children, what she really likes to do are appetizers and fancy desserts.
“I like to, like, make a cake that looks like a ladies’ purse,” she said.
Kelly, who sells Stella and Dot jewelry from her home and at trunk shows, figures she tries a new recipe at least once a week.
“I have this big stack of recipes that I’ll never, ever get to,” she said. “I’ve had a few flops, but nothing horrifying. I can usually tell if we’re going to like it.”
If the petite brunette is out of dinner ideas, she’ll open her copy of the Tupelo Symphony’s “Great Performances” cookbook or she’ll turn to a Southern Living magazine or cookbook.
“I know anything in either of those is going to be good,” she said.
Kelly usually tries out new recipes on her family, which includes her parents, Donna and Judd Hambrick, also of Saltillo.
“I figure they’ll forgive me if it’s awful,” she said.
As Kelly talked about cooking, two of her three dogs ran in and out of the room excitedly. Lilly is a Rat Terrier while Mandy is a Feist mix. Humphrey, a Labrador/Basset hound mix, could be heard baying in a bedroom.
“All our dogs found us or were throw-aways,” she said. “We just can’t seem to say no. We call ourselves the SPCA of north Tupelo. There’s, like, this invisible line around our house and animals know they can get food here. Right now, we’re feeding six cats.”

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.