Of all the dishes that Walker's Drive-In serves to its customers, Chef Derek Emerson says that tuna is his personal favorite. "It has to do with the way I created it," the James Beard Best Chef nominee says. "I like tuna, and I love working with it."
Emerson's food creations have gained national recognition for him and his Fondren restaurant, in addition to numerous state and local awards including this year's Best Chef and Best Restaurant awards in the JFP's annual Best of Jackson competition. Emerson, 39, and the owner of Walker's, is one of 20 semifinalists in the running for the James Beard title in the south, and the only chef in Mississippi nominated this year for the award, known as the "Oscars of Food."
"It's really cool," Emerson says. "We've been nominated for this award before, but have never made it past this stage; hopefully, this will be our year."
The award's southern category includes chefs from Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana. After the James Beard Foundation notifies the semifinalists, they cut the list to three finalists before announcing the winner in May.
Emerson is taking his food creations further afield this spring: He plans to open a new eatery in Madison on the corner of Highway 463 and Boseman Road, aptly named Local 463 Restaurant. The new venue will feature a fresh-food mentality similar to that of Walker's, and Emerson will split his time between both sites.
"It was just time to open another one," says Emerson, who plans to open Local 463 around June 1. "We've always liked the space, so when it became available again, we took the opportunity to purchase it."
Emerson describes Walker's as "casual fine dining," and says that it has a "new American feel mixed with some southern comfort food." He combines local southern cuisine with elements from all over the country to form exciting dishes like the local favorite redfish Anna with lump crabmeat, and grilled beet and goat cheese salad.
Walker's is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more information, call 601-982-2633, or visit the Walker's Drive-In Web site.
- Yeah, Derek!!!!
- prentiss reeves