By JACK WEATHERLY
Restaurateur Derek Emerson has made an industry name for himself – reaching the semifinals of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chefs of the South four times.
He’s done that from his base in Fondren and Ridgeland.
Now he’s betting on downtown Jackson.
He and his wife, Jennifer Emerson, are now two of six owners of the Parlor Market at 115 West Capitol St.
The other four are longtime employees at Walker’s Drive-In and Local 463 Urban Dining. Emerson also owns the CAET wine bar.
Parlor Market was opened by Mart Lamar, who ran it for seven years, until June 1.
The deal went through after Matt Kajdan, who had been executive chef for five years, left in May to take that position at the Estelle bistro and wine bar in the Westin Jackson hotel at 315 Tombigbee in downtown, which is to open Aug. 3.
The other partners are Effie Hubanks, general manager at Walker’s, Michael Greenhill, executive chef at Walker’s, and Robert and Lauren Ruston, executive chef and general manager, respectively, at Local 463 in the Renaissance at Colony Park.
“It was time for them to have little bit of ownership,” Emerson said.
Other than loyal colleagues, other threads connect the four establishments, Derek Emerson said.
Local produce and local businesses.
The former is self-explanatory. The latter is illustrated by the fact that Emerson does business exclusively with Brown Bottling Co.
“Coke is a Southern company, but Brown Bottling here in Mississippi provides jobs. I like to send my check to Ridgeland.”
The new owners are shifting moving away from primary emphasis on Southern cuisine. “I feel like if we do Southern again, I’ll be robbing from myself,” Emerson said.
“We’re actually going to do Italian . . . pastas and entrees, not the pizza thing.”
“We make 30 pounds of pasta a day. We do seven or eight different shapes.”
Parlor Market will be the only restaurant in metro Jackson “doing fresh pasta on a daily basis,” he said.
He and his partners are placing their bet on downtown. Walker’s and CAET (pronounced Kate) in Fondren have a following. And Local 463 was originally in Madison but now is in Ridgeland.
“I kind of have the vision for downtown, like we had in Fondren 17 years ago when we took over Walker’s,” he said.
“I see the same thing happening in Jackson. I just hate that downtown isn’t what it should be. There are so many great downtowns in the South.”
Yet with the buildout of apartments and hotels and shops in recent years, he foresees another city on that regional honor roll.
A caption in an earlier version of this article misidentified Michael Greenhill as Robert Rushton.