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Our Southern Souls: The doctor nicknamed me ‘Death by Tomato Can’



Chef Stu
(Courtesy: Our Southern Souls)
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The following was republished with permission from Read the original article here.

“I grew up in Mobile. My dream was to be a band director, but that dream changed to rock star. I completed three years of music school in Mississippi then moved to Nashville.

I was one of the few jazz trombonists in Nashville. I enjoyed improvising and exploring the ways a melody can go until playing music for a living killed the fun. I put that creativity into cooking.

I’ve always loved food. I was a chubby kid, and I’m a chubby adult. I realized the only way to eat the dishes I saw on cooking shows was to work in restaurants and learn how to make them. I went to Nashville a progressive rocker, turned into a jazz trombonist, and came back to Mobile as a chef.

No restaurants were hiring when I returned in 1998. I worked at a Russian exhibit, at Hertz Rental Car and at a call center. I realized cubicle life wasn’t for me, but stayed at the call center for five years to become fully vested in the pension plan. I mailed out 20 resumes on my fifth year anniversary. Within a few months, I was back in the restaurant industry. I worked at Wintzells and helped open Bay City Grill in Satsuma and Little House Midtown. I also helped turn around Mars Hill Cafe.

I was a chef at Lucky Irish Pub and Grill where we were known for our burger of the week. We went crazy creating new hamburgers– adding peanut butter and jelly, fried mozzarella and fried pepperonis, or Irish nachos. Two years later, LoDa Bier Garden asked me to work for them. I had worked there for five weeks when the basement floor gave way underneath me. I fell into a pit and was impaled onto a tomato can, perforating my colon. I was lucky because the best gut guy in Mobile was on call and saved my life. The doctor nicknamed me ‘Death by Tomato Can’. I was told I may not be here today if he hadn’t been in the ER.

I was in and out of the hospital for two years and couldn’t work. The Bier Garden stood by me, even if I’d only worked for them a few weeks. I couldn’t cook for two years, but I competed in the World Food Championships within six months of being back on my feet. I placed 37th out of 400 in 2017 and 26th in 2018. My career wasn’t over.

I helped open the new Greers grocery store on St. Louis Street; our St. Louis Burger with purple blueberry barbecue sauce won ‘crowd favorite’ during Mobtown Burger Week. I was supposed to have a supervisor job, but there were manpower issues, and I still had to cook. I promised myself that if I ever worked in a kitchen again, it would be mine. I left Greer’s and started the Mac and Cheesery as a pop-up for parties and BINGO nights.

Mac and cheese is a comfort food everybody loves, but I tinker with flavors to take it beyond expectations. I saw Mexican street corn flavored chips and created a Mexican Street corn mac and cheese, topped with cotija cheese. The Memphis mac and cheese has pulled pork topped with crushed pork rinds. There are no limits to mac and cheese. I sketch out complex ideas in my notebook then test out what flavors go together.

I have dreamed of having my own restaurant for 20 years, and I am finally taking that step. I just opened The Mac and Cheesery at the Box Owt food court in downtown Mobile. This city is the heart and soul of the deep South and it deserves good mac and cheese. I also serve gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and soups.

I wanted to be the boss in my own kitchen before I retired. I am thankful for this chance to be the best boss I ever had.”


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