COOK OF THE WEEK: General store owner has finally found his niche

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

ENDVILLE – Jason Steele has worn a lot of hats in his 31 years.
He worked in machine shops during high school and college and spent some time on a riverboat as a deck hand.
For about a year, he and his wife, Amber, leased the Pine Ridge Speedway, a dirt track in Baldwyn.
Now he’s back where he thinks he belongs: as owner and operator of the Endville General Store in Pontotoc County.
“I bought this place from John Russell in 2004,” said Steele, 31. “I added a complete line of plumbing supplies, some hardware and horse, cattle and chicken feed. Plus, I doubled the inventory of basic grocery items.”
He also started a hot plate lunch, a big Sunday lunch and a complete breakfast line, complete with pancakes, omelets and chocolate gravy.
“But then in 2006, we went through a bad run of help and it was so confining,” he said. “We weren’t happy, so we sold it.”
Next came the dirt track and the riverboat stint.
“And then one day while I was working on the boat, I got a call from the guy who had bought the store from me and he said he wanted out. I took that as a sign to come home. I did a lot of growing up the year and a half I was away from here.”
Good help helps
Although Steele does some of the cooking at the store, he gives most of the credit to his employees, especially his head cook, Sharon Chunn.
“Like any business, you’re only as good as your help and I’ve got the best,” he said.
But he does do the majority of the cooking at his home, which is just across the road from the store.
“Amber’s a good cook, but she doesn’t enjoy it like I do,” he said. “I started cooking after my mother died when I was 16. It was just my dad and me. My sisters were 10 and 13 years older, so they were already gone.
“Dad wasn’t much of a cook, so my friends and I just started cooking steaks or deer meat or fish. Everything we did was grilled or fried. You know how guys are – we weren’t too big on casseroles or desserts.”
When Steele’s cooking at home now, he still turns to the grill at mealtime. The couple, who is expecting their first child in October, enjoys grilled rib-eyes with french fries and a salad some nights and grilled pork chops, stir-fry vegetables and fried okra on others.
And if he’s looking for a new recipe to try, you can bet he’s going to pull out a church cookbook.
“Most of the time that’s the best place to find recipes,” Steele said. “Those 85-year-old women know what they’re talking about. Of course, mine never tastes as good as theirs.”
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.