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JaxCoPeople: Ocean Springs Chef Nominated for “Oscar” of the Food World

I hate to tell you I told you so, but I did. I have been beating the drum about Vestige, in Ocean Springs, almost since its doors opened almost six years ago, and the proverbial chickens have now come home to roost.

alex perry
Chef Alex Perry of Vestige in Ocean Springs

This is what Wikipedia says about James Beard Awards:

“The James Beard Foundation Awards are annual awards presented by the James Beard Foundation to recognize culinary professionals in the United States, sometimes called the “Oscars” of the food world.” Did you get that? OSCARS!

It happens once a year, but that does not diminish its importance. Tens of thousands of good chefs labor in obscurity their entire life and never come close to a James Beard nomination. I cannot over emphasis what a big deal it is. To make it even more remarkable, Chef Perry is the first chef in south Mississippi to ever be recognized. Vishwesh Bhatt, of the Snackbar in Oxford, and Alex Eaton of the Manship Wood Fired Kitchen in Jackson were also nominated, and chefs in the past from these two cities have gotten some attention, but Chef Perry is the first to bring the worlds attention to south Mississippi’s amazing food culture via James Beard.

I know there are a few of you shaking your head and wondering at the foolishness of such high end, “fancy” restaurants, but you are mistaken. If you are in the mood for fried chicken, a good taco or a cheeseburger, I can point you to several great places, but if you are interested in quality, on a level that is nothing but remarkable, then it’s another equation all together. Fine dining is not about snobbery, it’s not about having a fat bank account. It’s about a chef that gets all the details right, from buying the best, freshest ingredients, to his technical skills in the kitchen, to running the front of the house as well. It’s about perfection. And about guests that enjoy the best.

Oysters on the half shell at Vestige

Chef Perry got his first degree in biology, so he has a very scientific approach to cooking. He understands why things happen, it isn’t just a matter of having memorized the recipe and what step comes next. Chef Perry also went to the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary school in Orlando, where he was classically trained in the French traditions. I think he would agree when I say his next important career step was discovering Chef Thomas Keller and his famous French Laundry in Yountville, California (named best in the world twice, three Michelin stars and was beloved by Anthony Bourdain). It was the stepping stone which led him to the Vestige concept, what some now call Modern American. You won’t see French sauces on the menu, or Italian influences, but you will see locally sourced ingredients, the best of the best, farm and Gulf to table, and exquisite technique and presentation. I once saw Chef Perry send a plate back three time to be re-plated to his satisfaction. There is no leeway here for just OK. It’s the best or it is not.

Vestige is casual fine dining. There is nothing French on the menu, and you just might be surprised to see pimento cheese & bacon biscuit, along with some amazing salmon, wagyu beef, local veggies and inspired cooking and plating.

kumi perry
Kumi Perry, the wife of Alex Perry mixing up something delicious!

Chef Alex Perry, his wife, baker and co-owner Kumi Perry, the number two man in the kitchen, Carson Neaves and front of the house Rachel Gnapp and Mike Anthony are all to be applauded for a superb job! Well done and congratulations!


Written by Julian Brunt

Julian Brunt is a food and travel writer that has been writing about the food culture of the Deep South for over a decade. He is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, grew up in Europe, traveled extensively for the first fifteen years after graduating from the University of Maryland, University College, Heidelberg, Germany. Today, he's a contributor for multiple publications, including Our Mississippi Home. He's also appeared on Gordon Ramsay's television show, "To Hell and Back in 24 Hours."


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