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Evelyn Roughton and husband Tony have been the owners of the Crown Restaurant in Indianola for almost 40 years.

Roughton shares a taste of Mississippi (and beyond)

ALAN TURNER

ALAN TURNER

One of Mississippi’s foremost culinary stars can be found in none other than downtown Indianola.

The Crown Restaurant was begun almost 40 years ago, and today, it continues to be the source for both traditional and non-tradition fare.

Evelyn Roughton, restaurateur, cookbook author, mail order entrepreneur, and culinary star, was born in Cleveland, Miss., and emphatically says that “the Delta will always be home.”  True that may be, but Evelyn and husband Tony spent many years in Europe and other international locales while Tony served his career in the Air Force.

From Evelyn’s perspective, that was a wonderful opportunity to learn about different cultures, and also where she was exposed to continental and French cooking, and that turned out to be a life-altering experience.

“I suppose I was really influenced by Julia Child, as were so many other aspiring chefs,” she said.

When the time came, she and Tony came home to the Delta, just as they had always expected to do.  In the years afterward, they maintained a successful business in antiques, and travelled regularly to England to purchase pieces they would sell in their Mississippi business.  But then, the cooking bug finally prevailed in Evelyn’s life, and they started the Crown Restaurant, originally in a steel frame building “out in the middle of a field,” as she put it.  That building is still there, and their mail order business is run from there.  But in 1997, the restaurant was relocated to downtown Indianola, and today, it serves some “unusual things for Mississippi,” as Evelyn puts it.

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“One of my passions is catfish”, Evelyn said.  How could it be otherwise in Mississippi?  “The catfish industry really took off in the late ‘70s, and I guess we rode the wave, so to speak.”

One of her most interesting dishes is catfish pate.

“That was one of our early successes,” she said.  “We won an award for that at the Fancy Food Show in New York, and we were very proud of that accomplishment. Today, that’s still one of our most popular offerings, and we ship it all over.”

Eventually, she authored a cookbook on “Classic Catfish”, and with the rising popularity of catfish throughout the South and beyond, the book did well.

Having found her creative outlet, Evelyn was able to fully engage her passion for cooking with a combined international and Mississippi flair.

What are some of her most popular offerings?

“Well, the pate, of course, but also people love our Chicken Allison, which is a rich, buttery entrée that customers absolutely love.  We’re also known for our catfish po-boys, and for dessert, our pavlova and Mississippi Delta Fudge Pie is always in demand.”

She also points out that “folks love our bayou beer bread.”  She caters to a wide variety of customers with different tastes.  Because of the Blues heritage and the B.B. King Museum, the area attracts visitors from all over the world, so in any given week, Evelyn and her team may be serving hungry folks from Europe, Asia, South America, and of course, “our good friends right here in the Delta.”

How does Evelyn explain her success in a field that is difficult and competitive?

“Well, we maintain a simple but sophisticated menu,” she suggested.  “The really important thing is that we do our utmost to cultivate a friendly atmosphere, where folks feel like they’re part of the family.  When you come in for lunch, you’ll enjoy a glass of sweet tea that is always brewed fresh that morning.  You know you’ll get a great meal in an intimate setting.  You’ll see people you know and like.”

That sounds like a pretty good recipe for success.

Evelyn’s latest cookbook has just been published by Quail Ridge Press.  Entitled “The Crown of Southern Cooking”, it features a wide range of entrees, desserts, appetizers, and salads, 174 in all.

“This book really does have a good Delta feel,” she said.  “We’re really pleased to see that it’s taking off, and we hope to introduce a lot of people to the great flavors of the Delta.”

As Evelyn defines it, “cooking is fun.  You have to experiment with flavors, and you have to be creative.”

One can hope that she will continue to have fun and deliver great food.  When she visited us here at the Mississippi Business Journal, she brought several tasty things with her, including a Mississippi Delta Fudge Pie.  Believe me, that pie didn’t last more than a few minutes when our staff discovered it, and it was pronounced a definite winner by our culinary experts.

Evelyn’s products and books can be ordered at TasteofGourmet.com.  A short video featuring Evelyn can be viewed on our website, MSBusiness.com, or on our YouTube channel, mbjournal.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.

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