Photo by Stephen Wilson- Originally published in JFP November 2017
Daytime kitchen manager LoDoner Hollis has been serving up southern favorites at Walker’s Drive-In in Fondren since the restaurant opened its doors in 1999. Hollis, also known as “L.D.,” says that co-workers call her “master of the plate lunch.”
“If you cook it, and it’s good, they’ll come,” Hollis says.
The Pelahatchie native worked as the kitchen manager at The Dock, as well as several other local restaurants. She met chef Derek Emerson while he was working at Schimmel’s, and she followed him when he opened Walker’s.
Some of Hollis’ signature lunch specials include her chicken salad, bread pudding, and macaroni and cheese—and a dish she is personally does not like. “I can’t stand meatloaf,” she says. “But I make it well.”
Hollis says she learned how to cook from her grandmother, Kate Hollis, and her mother, Alberta Hollis, and she has been passing down her knowledge to the next generation.
Emerson says chefs who learned under Hollis have gone on to work at his other restaurants, CAET, Parlor Market and Local 463.
Hollis has also received national recognition for her craft. Her southern-style biscuits won Best Cornbread and Biscuits at a food contest in Washington, D.C., during President Bill Clinton’s third year in office.
Hollis says she enjoys working at Walker’s Drive-In due to the staff and
good environment. “It’s just like one big family,” she says. “We all pitch in and help each other, but I keep them on their toes.”
During her 20 years in Fondren, Hollis says she has watched the neighborhood around Walker’s expand
and flourish. “It feels safer, a place where you can bring your family,” she says.
Hollis has four grown children— Aenissa, Willie James, Kenyata and Derrick Hicks—10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“I always cook for them during the holidays,” she says.
Besides being the daytime kitchen manager at Walker’s, Hollis also helps out with the restaurant’s catering.
Though she has cut back her hours to semi-retire, Hollis says she sees herself always being a part of Walker’s.
“When you enjoy what you’re doing, everything else will work out,” she says. “And I’m lucky I love what I do.”