“And that’s fine by me because I like to piddle in the kitchen,” said Wallace, 55. “You’ve got to like to play with your food for it to be good.”
Wallace, who was born and raised in Tupelo, works for Stewart Environmental Construction and he also has his own small GPS company that works with rural water systems. So on many days, he sets his own schedule.
“When the kids were younger and we had one in ballet and one in soccer, I learned to do a lot of quick foods, things you could do in 30 minutes or less,” he said. The Wallaces have two daughters, Amanda, 28, and Abby, 21. A son, Presly, died in 2008.
“The one in soccer ended up playing for a team in Jackson, so we went there every weekend,” he said. “I’d take a little grill in the back of the truck and while they were at soccer practice, I’d have fixed grilled chicken sandwiches or hamburgers or some kielbasa.”
Wallace’s parents, the late Al and Grace Wallace, were originally from Kentucky, but his mother had lived in China for nine years.
“We used to eat with ivory chopsticks once a month when I was growing up,” he said. “Mama cooked some, but we had a maid that did most of the cooking. Daddy traveled Monday through Friday, so he had all the duties on the weekend – the grilling.”
Like father, like son.
A typical weeknight meal might include grilled chicken, grilled green beans, roasted new potatoes and a salad.
“I have more time to play on the weekends,” he said. “I’ve got a cooker that will hold 120 small chickens, but I’ve been known to fire it up to cook one little hamburger.”
Wallace actually fired the cooker up last week when two childhood friends, who both work for Ashley, were in Tupelo for the furniture market. He took his smoker to The Summit and cooked 150 pounds of ribs, 200 pounds of chicken, 30 pounds of sausage and 80 pounds of chicken wings, along with cole slaw, baked beans, salsa and five chocolate bread puddings.
“It started with about eight of us at my house years ago but now we’re up to about 250 people,” he said. “It’s grown from furniture reps to dealers. We have a little scholarship, the Presly Wallace Jr. Scholarship, and if people want to give a little money to it, they can. But we’re really just there to have a good time.”
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.