Homemade: Seasoned in Mississippi, Sarah Lee brings cooking to Shelby County

Mothers’ Day 2018 was a good day of business for Sarah Lee.

As several people brought the special lady in their lives for a lunch and dinner at Sarah Lee’s Southern Cooking, located at 6646 U.S. 51 Suite 1, Lee had a chance to chat and interact with the guests of honors.

Throughout the day, the moms and their children complimented her cooking, and some of the dishes drew comparisons to home.

Ema’s little girl has established herself in Millington after opening up her restaurant in August 2016.

“We’re approaching two years,” Lee said. “Things are going pretty well. It was a good decision to open up here. I’ve met so many interesting people. The people are so homely, close knit. They are so family oriented. They have adopted me.

“Sundays are awesome,” she continued. “I have quite a few Sundays with churches filling up the place – nothing but church members. Sundays are my best day.”

The item bringing in the church crowds on Sundays is the $12.99 buffet that started three months ago. The pans are lined with Southern fried chicken, candied yams, peach cobbler, mac and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw, banana pudding and much more.

“We prepare our foods daily,” Lee noted. “I cut my own potatoes daily. I do my own green beans. I cut my own greens daily. They are not canned. It’s pretty much fresh and some is frozen. It’s just like Madea.”

Lee, a Macon, Miss., native, got into the restaurant business 40 years ago with her husband, Roosevelt Mitchell. They build up a devoted following in Frayser before Lee decided to call it quits.

But her love of cooking wouldn’t disappear. The couple decided to bring her talents and love of creating in the kitchen to Millington.

“I’m hoping that it will bring more people looking for a different variety,” she said. “A lot of people don’t eat Southern style food. I’m trying to get some of the people who don’t normally eat Southern food to try Southern food. They might like it.

“A lot of people like that foreign stuff,” Lee added. “Southern foods are not cooked by chefs. They are cooked by cooks – just like Momma. Momma is a cook, not a chef. At Sarah Lee’s we’re cooks, not chefs. That chef’s stuff is some great food. But a lot of the time I don’t even know what they’re saying or even how to announce the dish. But when you say cook, you know that’s what grandma said, ‘I’m about to go in here and cook.’ That’s what Mommas do, they go in there and cook in the kitchen.”

Momma brought Lee into the kitchen at the age of seven. She’s been cooking ever since.

“I enjoy it,” she said. “I enjoy cooking. I enjoy seeing the people enjoy my food. When you eat good food, you’re happy. You have a happy feeling about it.”

As their second anniversary approaches, Lee is seeing a steady increase in business. The word is spreading about the dishes from Sarah Lee’s kitchen.

Lee said she loves seeing familiar faces and never gets tired of hearing the best compliment a Southern cook can receive.

“What I love most of all out of everything I do?” she asked rhetorically. “What makes me feel the best? The first thing that makes me feel really good is when people say, ‘I haven’t taste something this good since my Momma made it.’ When you get compared to how Momma does something, that’s special.”

Sarah Lee’s Southern Cooking is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (901) 873-0906.

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star. Contact him at (901) 433-9138 or thomas.sellers@journalinc.com.