‘I Garontee’: Granddaughter of renowned Cajun chef puts her spin on cooking

Published 7:12 am Monday, April 8, 2024

Clélie Stone’s paternal grandfather Justin Wilson was the story-telling Cajun chef who made his mark when he became a notable television personality in the 80s and 90s with his cooking shows that aired on the Public Broadcasting Services.

Wilson is often credited with introducing the country to Cajun cuisine and some say he even paved the way for famed Louisiana chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse.

Wilson was also instrumental in passing on his art of preparing food to Stone, who is the owner of Suffit, a catering kitchen that also offers products at select retail stores — one of which is the Turquoise Chandelier in Vicksburg.

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In recalling time spent with her grandfather, Stone said what she learned from her “grandpa” was not just how to cook, but how to appreciate food and to be able to distinguish quality.

“We were adventurous eaters, and we would talk about all aspects of it, like where it came from, who had the best rabbit, who was making the best sausage, that type of stuff,” Stone said. “So, we were really reared in an atmosphere of appreciating what it takes to make great food products.”

Suffit, which means enough in French, opened in 2022 and is a 501(c)(3) company that aims to help those transitioning out of correctional facilities.

“We see that there is a true need there,” Stone said. “But we haven’t really made the inroads into that like we want to because of a lot of red tape. There is a lot of stuff to go through, but we’re making little bitty baby steps. So right now, we’re just working with people. 

“We have one young man we hired on who has a lot of things going on in his life and we’re working with him to give him marketable skills in the hospitality industry so that he can be a valued asset to any place.”

Stone said she knows from experience that life has challenges, which is why she wants to help others and pay it forward.

“If you just close your eyes and put your finger and let it land on any part of my timeline, you would land in a place where there was no reason for God to save me,” she said. “And not based on anything that was done to me I experienced homelessness from my own poor decision making. But through God’s faithfulness, he continued to find someone who was gonna decide to help me. And then when I would wear that person out, God would find someone else. He’s just been really faithful to help me do that.”

In addition to helping others through her business, Stone and her husband also serve as local pastors at the First Methodist Church in Tallulah, La., and the Methodist Church in Lake Providence, La. Stone said in caring for others, she sees the immense value of sharing a meal with family.

“A big issue for me is the breakdown of the family, which is the breakdown of family mealtime,” she said. “Families aren’t getting to the table, establishing that order and creating an environment of good, safe boundaries where you know who the leader is, which helps you understand your place and you feel safe. And when you don’t have that as a child, you’re disoriented.”

In a fast-paced society, it is difficult for families to prepare and share meals, Stone said, but added that in a crunch, pre-prepared meals can be an option, which are available locally at 3412 Pemberton Square Blvd. Ste. 7

Marion Murphy, who is the owner of the Turquoise Chandelier, said she first had Stone do a taste testing at Christmas. Murphy’s clientele loved what they tasted, so Murphy said she decided to carry Stone’s casseroles, cookies and grab-and-go style items in her shop.

Suffit, pronounced soo fee, offers a variety of meal options.

There is ready-to-eat chicken salad and spicy pimento cheese.

“Chicken pasta carbonara is probably the number one requested casserole,” Stone said. She also makes chicken and rice with red quinoa.

“I just thought why not do quinoa. It is water chestnuts, chicken and we make our own cream of mushroom soup so it can be gluten free,” she said.

Other casseroles, which come in single or family-sized servings, include Shrimp Company and pasta creole shrimp and crab with white wine sauce. For last-minute appetizers Stone makes a smoked salmon and herbed cream torte and a sun-dried tomato and basil pesto torte. And for soup lovers, varieties include chicken and sausage gumbo, creamy butternut squash and broccoli and cheese taco soup.

Stone’s salted caramel cookie is also a customer favorite.

For more information on Stone, visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/suffitlp/.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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