COOK OF THE WEEK: Well-traveled student fascinated by other countries’ cuisine

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

When Mason Walker was a young boy and all his friends were watching Saturday morning cartoons on TV, he was instead tuning into cooking shows.
“Food is just innate with me,” said Walker, 26. “I just instinctively know what to do in the kitchen. It’s like poetry or music flows out of some people – that’s the way food is with me.”
Walker, the son of Barry and Holly Walker of Tupelo, especially likes to experiment with the cuisine of other countries.
He’s traveled to Italy, Argentina and Costa Rica, and has made three trips to Jamaica.
“My dad is an immigration lawyer, so I’ve always been exposed to different cultures,” he said. “And my family is into the creative arts. My mother is an artist and my sister is an architect.”
Walker, who is studying history at the University of Mississippi, said he’s particularly fascinated by the Afro-Caribbean cuisine in Jamaica.
“Every time I go to Jamaica, I try to pick old black ladies’ brains and soak up everything they do,” he said. “The Jamaican people are all so wonderful. They all have stories to tell. They’ll say their recipes come from their 300-year-old grandmother who has died four times. Every one of them will tell you that.”
Walker said the first two times he went to Jamaica, he asked every guy he could find what he put in his Jerk Chicken marinade. The third time he went, he asked a woman why hers was so good.
“She said it was because she used free-range chickens that had been running around the island,” he said. “That’s when I realized the importance of organic and free-range food.”
Fortunately for Walker, his best friend is fellow Tupeloan Will Reed, who has Native Son Farm, which sells certified naturally grown produce.
“I have access to more vegetables than I can ever use through Will,” Walker said. “You just don’t understand vegetables until you eat fresh organic vegetables. The difference is night and day.”
Walker cooks the evening meal just about every night for his parents, who he said are on a “vegetarian kick” right now. Their meals always start with a salad and then he might serve something like an organic black bean concoction.
“They try to get as close to vegan as possible, but I did get them to try my wild duck on Sunday,” he said. “It was awesome.”
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 email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.