Couple brings bold flavors back home
NATCHEZ — From a food truck to grocery stores, two Natchez natives say the secret to the success of their seasoning business “really is in the bag.”
Cedric and Joan Anderson of Hattiesburg have been frying up catfish for years using a special seasoning they mixed up right in their own kitchen.
The couple, both South Natchez High School graduates, were hosting fish fries and catering events while living in San Antonio when they decided to bring their catfish to the masses in a mobile concession trailer in 1999.
“It took us about six months to convince the local health department that we could sell fresh seafood out of a mobile concession because no one had done it,” Joan said. “There were plenty of barbecue and other mobile concessions, but no one was doing seafood.”
Word got out about C.J.’s Southern Fried Catfish, Joan said, and hungry customers were driving across town to taste the fish. The couple was also invited to set up during special events at Lackland and Randolph Air Force bases
“People were saying it was the best fish they had ever had,” she said.
The Andersons relocated to Tennessee for Joan’s job and eventually to Hattiesburg, where she is a district manager for Burger King.
Even though the catfish trailer had shut down, the Andersons were still sending out bags of their seasoning to people who asked for it.
“It got to the point that people were asking for it, so we set up a Facebook page so people could buy it,” Joan said. “Then we realized ‘Oh, this is growing,’ so we got a website, and we’ve shipped to people all over the country and Afghanistan, Germany and other places.
“It’s just continued to grow.”
Mayder’s and Tayder’s in Hattiesburg was the first store to pick up C.J.’s Southern Seasonings.
“They were really the first ones to give us the opportunity to sell our seasoning,” Joan said.
The seasoning has now been picked up by three chains, Butcher, Brewer, & BBQ Supply in Indiana, Rameys Inc. and Roberts Company, putting the seasoning in 23 retail stores.
And as of Saturday, C.J.’s Southern Seasonings is available locally at The Markets. Cedric was a bagger at Natchez Market when he was in high school, and said he is excited sell the seasoning in The Markets.
“It’s something you want to bring back to your hometown,” he said. “We still have family around there, and I think it would be a great thing for us and for Natchez.”
The bag may say “fish fry,” but C.J.’s seasonings isn’t just for fish.
“We’ve had people telling us they’re trying it on squash, zucchini and even fried green tomatoes,” Joan said.
Joan said C.J.’s Southern Seasonings has been a dream come true and hopes the business continues to grow.
“I think in trying to be role models, we’re showing people that whatever you believe in, you can make your dreams come true,” she said.