By Ginna Parsons
NEW ALBANY – All the signs were there.
When Jalisa Pratt was a little girl, her room was filled with Fisher-Price toy kitchens, complete with dishes and pretend food.
At about age 9, her mother taught her how to make a from-scratch white cake with buttercream icing.
She wears T-shirts with cupcakes on them, carries a cupcake totebag and uses cake batter-flavored Chapstick.
For Christmas and birthdays, she gets pans, aprons and cookie cutters as gifts.
It’s clear – Jalisa Pratt was destined to be a baker.
“I love cake, and I like to make cupcakes because they’re cute,” said Pratt, 23. “I think my love of decorating cakes came from my father. He always liked to make us birthday cakes and decorate them for us.”
Pratt can make other things besides sweets. She likes to prepare chicken spaghetti, fried barbecued chicken (she fries it, dips it in barbecue sauce, then reheats it), garlic mashed potatoes with English peas on top, stromboli, and Tater Tot casserole.
“I recently learned how to make cornbread from scratch,” she said.
Pratt has even taken cake decorating classes – on youtube.com.
“I get a lot of ideas on Pinterest and I find stuff on the Internet during the week that I make on the weekends,” she said.
The weekends are when the family comes to the Pratts’ home in New Albany to eat. Her mother, Leona, usually makes the meat and side dishes and Pratt does the baking.
“People are always bringing me pictures of things they want me to make or recipes they want me to try,” she said. “That’s one reason I want to have my own bakery. And I’m going to call it Pretty Good Cakes. People ask me, ‘Jalisa, I want you to make me a cake that’s pretty and good.’ So I thought that name was fitting.”
She graduated from Northeast Mississippi Community College in 2012 with a degree in culinary arts and hotel and restaurant management. She immediately went to work and saved enough money to buy a car with air-conditioning so she could haul her cakes around.
“Now I’m trying to save enough money to open a bakery,” she said.
Presentation is very important to Pratt, who works as an inspector at Worthington Cylinders in New Albany.
“The food I make, even if it’s just chicken spaghetti and a piece of bread, has to have a nice presentation,” she said. “One of my teachers told us, ‘You eat with your eyes first,’ so I don’t want to just throw something on a plate. I like the ‘wow’ factor when people see and eat my food.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.