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The Dart: Natchez woman cooks up career in her house

Queen Wilson adds barbecue sauce to one of her guest’s plate of chicken and ribs for her Fourth of July celebration at her house on Miller Avenue. Eight years ago,  Wilson transformed half of her carport into a kitchen for a catering business. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
Queen Wilson adds barbecue sauce to one of her guest’s plate of chicken and ribs for her Fourth of July celebration at her house on Miller Avenue. Eight years ago, Wilson transformed half of her carport into a kitchen for a catering business. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — On July 4, one can turn into the driveway of Queen Wilson’s residence and you’ll likely hear the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Bobby Blue Bland and B.B. King encased by the smell of good southern cooking.

The Dart found Wilson, the music and the aroma of good food at her house on 2717 Miller Ave. in Natchez.

As a child Wilson helped with her mother’s catering business, cooking alongside her mom, but what Wilson didn’t know is that she would follow in her mother’s footsteps more than 20 years later.

Lola Knight, right, and Queen Wilson set out the Fourth of July Feast of chicken, ribs, baked beans, macaroni and cheese and other foods for Wilson’s celebration at her house. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
Lola Knight, right, and Queen Wilson set out the Fourth of July Feast of chicken, ribs, baked beans, macaroni and cheese and other foods for Wilson’s celebration at her house. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Wilson said she learned everything she knows about cooking from her mother, but being surrounded by pots and pans as a child led her to another profession.

“I was around cooking so much, I kind of ran away from it,” she said.

After several years operating Wilson’s Printing, Wilson closed down her business in 2004.

One day, Wilson was asked by a coworker at a nursing home to cook for an event. She said the woman came back and said, “You can’t print, you cook too good to worry about printing.”

“I must’ve thought on it for a while, and then I decided to go back to catering,” she said.

Wilson said she wanted to be able to have her catering business at home, but she was told that a catering business could not be conducted in one’s home kitchen.

She almost gave up her endeavors after hearing the unsettling news, but she said she received an epiphany that would jump start her business.

“The Lord gave me a vision to turn my garage port into a kitchen. I told my husband about my plans and he asked me how we were going to do that. I told him we can make it work,” she said.

As Wilson and her husband, Lee, cleared the space in their garage to make room for the kitchen, all they needed now was a kitchen.

In Wilson's catering kitchen is a sign that let’s her visitor’s know who is the real royalty in her kitchen. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
In Wilson’s catering kitchen is a sign that let’s her visitor’s know who is the real royalty in her kitchen. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Wilson said that, in a weird way, Wal-Mart paid for the contents of her kitchen.

“I have a cousin who worked for Wal-Mart’s overnight shift, and I told him I could feed his entire crew every weekend in order to get my kitchen supplies. He agreed and I started feeding the overnight crew, making about $175 a week and started gradually investing that money into my kitchen,” Wilson said.

In 2006, Wilson finally got her catering business off the ground and she hasn’t slowed down since.

In addition to her business, she also feeds the inmates at the Natchez City Jail.

Every year on July 4, Wilson hosts a party at her home in celebration of independence, life and good old southern cooking.

July Fourth is not just a day to salute the country for Wilson; it is also her husband’s birthday.

“I have been having get togethers at my house for about 28 years, ever since I met my husband,” she said. “We get the music going, the food and the drinks out and by the evening there are about 60 or 70 people in my yard.”

Wilson serves her signature banana split crumb pie at the event along with barbeque ribs, chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. She combines her love for cooking with the love for her husband.

Soon, Wilson said she would be moving her catering business away from her home and into a multipurpose building on Washington Road.

Though she is separating her business from her family, food — and Teddy Pendergrass — will always be what connects her family and friends on Independence Day.