Best of Jackson 2014: People

Jeff Good

Jeff Good Photo by Trip Burns.

Best Local Business Owner; Best Urban Warrior; Best Visionary; Best Campaigner for the Best of Jackson Award: Jeff Good

Mangia Bene (bestjacksoncatering.com)

Jeff Good wears a lot of hats, sometimes literally, in the creative and colorful ads he stars in for the three restaurants he co-owns.

Usually, though, his hats are figurative. Good is a business owner, entrepreneur, idea man, community cheerleader, political activist, husband and dad.

Good grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and moved to Jackson the summer before his senior year of high school. He graduated from Murrah High School and went on to Millsaps College. After graduation, he stayed in Jackson and sold computer systems, but it wasn't until the '90s that he found his place to shine in the city, when he paired up with Dan Blumenthal to open BRAVO! Italian Restaurant and Bar. Since then, the duo has added Broad Street Baking Company, Sal & Mookie's and Mangia Bene Catering to its roster, each a popular addition to the Jackson culinary scene.

For years now, Good has shown that he is the guy willing to do anything for his company and for his city. His passion for Jackson spills out into his frequent social-media posts and his involvement in political campaigns. He regularly collaborates with other Jacksonians, even those technically considered his competition. It's no wonder he cleaned up in this year's Best of Jackson, taking home four awards by himself.—Kathleen M. Mitchell

Best Local Business Owner

Second: Byron Knight (Sneaky Beans, 2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349) / Third: Chris Jacobs (The Islander Seafood and Oyster House, 1220 E. Northside Drive, Suite 100, 601-366-5441) / Finalists: Chris Paige (Custom Cuts & Styles, 2445 Terry Road, 601-321-9292); Nathan Coughlin (Nathan's Salon, 101 W. Washington St., Suite C3, Ridgeland, 601-707-7015); Stephanie Barnes (LaCru Salon, 5352 Lakeland Drive, Suite 600, Flowood, 601-992-7980)

Best Urban Warrior

Second: Brad "Kamikaze" Franklin / Third: Josh Hailey / Finalists: JaVonta Young; Julie Skipper; Ron Chane

Best Visionary

Second: Chokwe Lumumba / Third: Josh Hailey / Finalists: Arden Barnett; David Watkins; Melvin Priester Jr.

Best Campaigner for the Best of Jackson Award

Second: Brad "Kamikaze" Franklin / Third: JaVonta Young / Finalists: Griff Howard; Herbert Brown aka James Crow; Janis Boersma; Jean Powers

Best Public Figure; Best TV Personality: Maggie Wade (WLBT)


Courtesy Maggie Wade

Maggie Wade

Emmy-nominated broadcast journalist Maggie Wade has been a fixture in the Jackson community for many years. Her two awards in this year's Best of Jackson contest only add to Wade's list of numerous community-service accomplishments. Tougaloo College honored her as the 2009 Volunteer of the Year, and the Salvation Army gave Wade the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. In 2009, Wade became a member of the Mississippi Association of Public Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Wade's tireless work with "Wednesday's Child," a news segment that highlights children in foster care awaiting adoption, has earned her the title of Champion of Adoption and Foster Care Causes in Mississippi and an Angel in Adoption in 2011 from the U.S. Senate, and Citizen of the Year in 2009 from the National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi Chapter.

The Crystal Springs, Miss., native attended Hinds County Public Schools, graduating from Utica High School. She began her journalism career while at Mississippi College, working at the school's radio station. She later worked at WMSI (MISS 103; formerly WJDX). During her senior year in college, Wade began working at WLBT and has delighted the Jackson community ever since. With her smoothly professional on-air delivery, top-notch broadcast reporting, infectious smile and commitment to public service, Wade informs Jackson residents about the latest news on a daily basis.—Turry Flucker

Best Public Figure

Second: Barbie Bassett / Third: Malcolm White / Finalists: Chokwe Lumumba; Haley Barbour; Jeff Good; Melvin Priester Jr.; Phil Bryant

Best TV Personality

Second: Barbie Bassett (WLBT) / Third: Megan West (WAPT) / Finalists: Bert Case (WLBT); Howard Ballou (WLBT); Walt Grayson (WLBT, MPB)

Best Bartender; Sexiest Bartender (Male): Brad Regan


Julep Restaurant and Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 105, 601-362-1411, juleprestaurant.com)

Cocktail culture is booming these days, which means bartenders are sort of becoming the new rock stars. Instead of saying we're headed to a particular bar, we reference going to see a particular bartender. We find out their schedules with the diligence of crazed fans, so we can show up when "our guy" is working. And for many folks (particularly of the female persuasion), mentioning the bar at Julep is synonymous with bartender Brad Regan. Is it that signature rock star-esque hair? Is it how he shakes a martini? 
 We may never know for sure, but he has that certain something that makes folks remember him and keep coming back for more.

Since Regan has been slinging drinks at Julep for eight of the 11 years it's been open, both management and patrons appreciate his signature hair and tattoos (a manager who shall remain nameless says, "Girls eat it up with a spoon"). But he's just as committed to service. Known for being fast and productive behind the bar, he often has regulars' beverages sitting in front of them in the time it takes to walk from the door to their favorite seat.—Julie Skipper

Best Bartender

Second: Robert Arender (The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs, 655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517) / Third: Ashley Lewis (The Bulldog, 6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502) / Finalists: Amy Boatner (The Islander Seafood and Oyster House, 1220 E. Northside Drive, Suite 100, 601-366-5441); Jamie Moss (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055); Jonathan Webb (Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint, 565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)

Sexiest Bartender (male)

Second: Jamie Moss (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Third: John Ingram (Parlor Market, 115 W. Capitol St., 601-360-0090) / Finalists: Austin Ford (Capitol Grill, 5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845); Rob Toombs (The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs, 655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517); Robert Arender (The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs, 655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517)

Craig Noone 'Rock it Out' Best New Chef: Adam Brown


Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919, salandmookies.com)

The late Craig Noone of Parlor Market believed in finding and cultivating talented people, giving them the encouragement but also the freedom to reach their potential. While one might not think a pizzeria is the sort of place for a chef to innovate, the folks at Sal & Mookie's found just the guy to do that in sous chef Adam Brown.

Brown creates popular daily specials that incorporate unexpected ingredients, such as smoked-salmon pizza with spicy sriracha or a Greek-style burger with feta. He's not afraid to push past pizza, inventing great dinner menus that hit just the right tasting notes for the restaurant's popular craft-beer events, and he wowed this writer with his menu for a craft cocktail dinner. No doubt, Brown will continue to rock it out for years to come.—Julie Skipper

Second: Stephen Kruger (The Iron Horse Grill, 320 W. Pearl St., 601-398-0151) / Third: PJ Lee (Hal & Mal's, 200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888) / Finalists: John Thogerson (The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs, 655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517); Matt Mabry (BRAVO! Italian Restaurant and Bar, 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111); Lance Gammill (Capitol Grill, 5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845); Reynolds Boykin (Parlor Market, 115 W. Capitol St., 601-360-0090); Ryan Bell (Fairview Inn, 734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429)

Sexiest Bartender (female): Ashley Lewis


The Bulldog (6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502, bulldog-jackson.draftfreak.com)

Our city boasts as many beautiful bartenders as intelligent, quick-witted and fun-loving bartenders. The key to being the sexiest bartender is being able to combine all these elements in one person—such as Ashley Lewis. Just as important is enjoying where you work. "The clientele and the people I work with make for a super fun environment," 
Lewis says.

Lewis has been bartending for almost five years and knows that a good bartender can recall everything from a customer's favorite drink to their most despised sports team. One quality that helps her shine in her job is her ability to playfully talk trash while maintaining a smile on her face. "I say whatever I want, and I think that's something people enjoy—the abuse," she says with a laugh.—Michael Jacome

Second: Amy Boatner (The Islander Seafood and Oyster House, 1220 E. Northside Drive, Suite 100, 601-366-5441) / Third: Courtney Culpepper 
(Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint, 565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919) / Finalists: Adie Smith (The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs, 655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517); Hali Sappington (Babalu Tacos and Tapas, 622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757); Nicole Rogers (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055)

Best Chef: Derek Emerson


Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com); Local 463 (121 Colony Crossing Way, Suite A, Madison, 601-707-7684, local463.com)

Jackson has an amazing food culture, and each year new restaurants and bars make a splash on the scene. Then there's Walker's Drive-In, which not only holds its own against the hype of new eateries, but consistently stays at the top of the restaurant game, all thanks to the delicious cuisine of Chef Derek Emerson. After cooking at Schimmel's and BRAVO! 20 years ago, Emerson made a name for himself by opening the now-iconic Walker's more than a decade ago. Then, in 2010, Emerson and his wife, Jennifer, opened Local 463 in Madison; the award-winning chef now splits his time between the two restaurants.

Although Local 463's menu and experience are different from Walker's, Emerson did bring along one of his most beloved dishes. "I think if I came to Madison without that Redfish Anna, I would have been shot," Emerson told the JFP at the time.—Kathleen M. Mitchell

Second: Alex Eaton (The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen, 1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562) / Third: Nick Wallace (Palatte Cafe at Mississippi Museum of Art, 380 S. Lamar St., 601-960-1515) / Finalists: Dan Blumenthal (Mangia Bene Catering, Inc., 3317 N. State St., 601-362-2900); Jesse Houston (Saltine, opening in 2014, 622 Duling Ave.); Lance Gammill (Capitol Grill, 5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845); Luis Bruno (Adobo, 127 S. Roach St., 601-944-9501); Tom Ramsey (La Finestra, 120 N. Congress St., 601-345-8735)

Best Facialist/Esthetician: Rachel McDuffie


Aqua the Day Spa (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 8001, 601-898-9123, aquathedayspa.com)

Rachel McDuffie became an esthetician because she wanted to help people with problematic skin, something she has dealt with in past years. McDuffie attended Magnolia Cosmetology School and recently graduated from Belhaven University with a business degree. The Jackson native has worked at Aqua the Day Spa for three years. When she's not working, McDuffie enjoys traveling, seeing live bands in the southeast and planning her wedding with her fiance, Ben.—LaShanda Phillips

Second: Ryan Hodges (Sanctuary Body Spa of St. Dominic's, 340 Township Ave., Suite 200, Ridgeland, 601-790-2222) / Third: Jamie Jordan (Blackledge Face Center, 1659 Lelia Drive, 601-981-3033) / Finalists:: Anne Geddie (Complexion, 622 Duling Ave., 601-316-2325); Ashley Ficklin; Diane Henson (Skin by MD, 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 215, 601-212-0955); Laya Parisi (Remedy True Health, 655 Lake Harbour Drive, Suite 900, Ridgeland, 601-
898-0911); Rosmari Kruger (Sun Gallery Tanning Studio, 2720 N. State St., 601-366-5811)

Best Barista: Amanda Ivers


Cups Fondren (2757 Old Canton Road, 601-362-7422, cupsespressocafe.com)

Some people are not morning people. Some are grouchy all day long. That doesn't fly at Cups in Fondren. Amanda Ivers' ability to turn any frown upside down—all while making a mean latte—shows why she is this year's winner. You can expect her to know not only your "name and story," but also your favorite drink.

Her friendliness is matched only by her passion for coffee. "I love coffee, the taste, the science of it, everything," she says.

But don't let her demeanor fool you—Ivers is not to be taken lightly: When she is not working or enjoying a Nicaraguan blend (her current favorite coffee), she can be found practicing marksmanship and archery, a hobby she has had since she was a little girl.—Michael Jacome

Second: Cody Cox (Cups Fondren) / Third: India Jade Clark (Cups Downtown, 210 E. Capitol St., 601-352-0514) / Finalists: Byron Knight (Sneaky Beans, 2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349); Caitlin McNally Cox (Sneaky Beans); Kevin Smith (Sneaky Beans)

Best Filmmaker: J. Lee


Courtesy J. Lee

J. Lee Productions (jleeplays.com)

Celebrating its six-year anniversary in May and wrapping up its 10th production led to an exciting year for Jackson-based media company J. Lee Productions. The short film "The Murderer" also showcased at both the Crossroads Film Festival and the Mississippi International Film Festival. "I was honored to be among a variety of different filmmakers within the state of Mississippi and the national field," writer, director and producer J. Lee says.

Jackson native Lee started writing in middle school and always dreamed of starting his own production company. "J. Lee Productions has always been my brainchild," he says. "I wanted to start my own production company where my work could come to life. One of Lee's favorite film projects is "Black Love," a three-part documentary about the intricacies of romantic relationships within the African American community.

"We try to make sure that all the productions are things that people can relate to—real life experiences that can offer some type of message or give you some insight into something you may be going through," Lee says.

Having hit his stride, J. Lee plans to release another film and play in 2014, and venture into other markets throughout Mississippi and other states.—ShaWanda Jacome

Second: Tate Taylor / Third: Amile Wilson / Finalists: Alex Warren; Clay Hardwick; Robby Piantinida

Best Professor: Noel Didla


Jackson State University (406 College of Liberal Arts Building, 601-979-5864, jsums.edu)

It's no wonder to anyone who has worked with, learned under or even casually met Jackson State University's Noel Didla why she is this year's Best Professor. The key is in her passion for her students and her adopted community. Didla earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in English Literature from Nagarjuna University, India. Since moving to Jackson, Didla has tirelessly worked to improve the lives of Jacksonians in and out of her classroom. A teacher for 20 years, she has coordinated study-abroad programs, been a youth advocate and, most recently, engineered a series of panel discussions between Millsaps College and JSU about race, art and identity.—Michael Jacome

Second: Al Chestnut (Belhaven University, 1500 Peachtree St., 601-968-5940) / Third: Bill Storey (Millsaps College, 1701 N. State St., 601-974-1000) / Finalists: Holly Sypniewski (Millsaps College); James Bowley (Millsaps College); Jean Powers (Holmes Community College, 412 W. Ridgeland Ave., Ridgeland, 601-856-5400); Johannah Williams (Hinds Community College, P.O. Box 1100, Raymond 601-987-8107); Richard Boada (Millsaps College)

Most Soulful Dancer: Kennitra Thompson


Courtesy Kennitra Thompson

Dollhouse Dance Factory (1410 Ellis Ave., 601-969-4000, dollhousedancefactory.com)

When I saw Kennitra Thompson glide across the stage to the song "Take Me to the King" at the Dollhouse Dance Factory spring recital, it moved me to tears. To watch this graceful and petite dancer interpret the words of the song so beautifully was stirring given what Thompson had just survived.

"It was a little bit of mixed emotion," she says. "I was thankful to be dancing, but I was hoping I wouldn't do anything to hurt myself, because a month before I couldn't walk. When I dance, I try to put aside restrictions and go in it wholeheartedly."

In March, Thompson was in a coma for two weeks after contracting Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare and serious disorder in which the skin and mucous membranes react severely to a medication or infection. For Thompson, the disorder started off with flu-like symptoms and progressed to a rash and blisters that covered her face, mouth, tongue and body. The disease affected Thompson's ability to breathe and, at one point in time, while in intensive care at UMMC, she flat-lined.

Now on the road to recovery, Thompson is open to where God will lead her in her life and, above all, is still dancing. "I love the freedom of expression. I love that the stage becomes my canvas," she says.

Thompson, who started training as a dancer in 4th grade at Power APAC, is a former Miss Junior Teen Jackson, Miss Black Mississippi, Miss Rankin County Southwest, Miss Metro Jackson and Miss Mississippi contestant. She recently started her own pageant coaching business, Krown Keepers. She will graduate from Jackson State University in the spring with a degree in mass communications and works as a dance instructor at the Dollhouse Dance Factory. She is trained in ballet, en pointe, jazz, modern, lyrical and some tap and African.—ShaWanda Jacome

Second: Rachel Myers / Third: Bridget Archer / Finalists: Johnny Burgess (UniverSoul Circus, universoulcircus.com); Tiffany Jefferson (Dance Works Studio, 3247 Davis Road, Terry, 601-720-1885; 1104 E. Northside Drive, Clinton, 601-720-1885)

Best Rising Entrepreneur: Byron Knight


Courtesy Matthew Brantley

Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349)

Jackson native Byron Knight has lived in Tennessee and Alabama, but he decided to come back home to open Sneaky Beans in Fondren. The popular coffee shop, which he opened in 2008, triples as a gallery for local artists, a place to get delicious coffee and snacks, and a venue for local and touring musicians to perform. Knight, 33, attended William B. Murrah High School and went to Mississippi College on a soccer scholarship in 1998. He later graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2007 with a music production degree. When he first moved back to Jackson, Knight produced music for local band Passenger Jones.—Briana Robinson

Second: Nathan Coughlin (Nathan's Salon, 101 W. Washington St., Suite C3, Ridgeland, 601-707-7015) / Third: Marissa Simms (Royal Bleau Boutique, 1100 John R. Lynch St., Suite 8, 601-321-9564) / Finalists: Chris Paige (Custom Cuts & Styles, 2445 Terry Road, 601-321-9292); L. Sherie Dean (LSherie Alert, thelsheriealert.com); Stephanie Barnes (LaCru Salon, 5352 Lakeland Drive, Suite 600, Flowood, 601-992-7980)

Best Hair Stylist: Nathan Coughlin


Nathan's Salon (101 W. Washington St., Suite C3, Ridgeland, 601-707-7015)

Five years ago, hair stylist Nathan Coughlin opened his own salon because he saw a need for a creative yet professional hair salon in the Jackson area. Coughlin, a Clinton native, received his training in Los Angeles but came back to Mississippi soon after. Nathan's Salon is expanding to several locations in the Jackson area, including a location in the Livingston development area off Highway 463, and plans to expand outside of Jackson over the next few years. Coughlin is happily married with three kids and, when he's not running his business, he enjoys long-range shooting, working out and hanging out with his kids.—LaShanda Phillips

Second: Crystal Williams (HeadGames Hair Studio, 6712 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-5052) / Third: Nikki Henry (Ritz Salon, 574 Highway 51, Suite H, Ridgeland, 601-856-4330) / Finalists: Griff Howard (Ritz Salon); Kate McNeely (Trim Salon, 419 E. Mitchell Ave., 601-982-5575); Lauren Ellis (Trim Salon)

Best Fitness Trainer: Paul Lacoste


Paul Lacoste Sports, paullacoste.com

A traumatic bout with West Nile Virus in 2012 reaffirmed personal trainer Paul Lacoste's resolve to change the lives of Mississippians.

"The thought of walking up a set of stairs seemed insurmountable. I've never experienced anything like that in my life. ... It humbled me in a big way," Lacoste says. Paul Lacoste Sports runs multiple programs throughout the year in the metro area and on the coast. In 2013, his clients collectively lost more than 22,000 pounds, and his programs changed hundreds of lives.—Michael Jacome

Second: Jenell Ward (Parks and Recreation Community Center, 320 Center City Drive, Pearl, 601-932-3541) / Third: Brandi Derrick (Baptist Healthplex - Clinton, 102 Clinton Parkway, Clinton, 601-925-7900) / Finalists:: Danielle Wells (Baptist Healthplex - Clinton; YMCA - Clinton, 400 Lindale St., Clinton, 601-924-5812); Lauren Smith (YMCA, 5062 Interstate 55 N., 601-709-3760, metroymcams.org); Marci Williams (Fitness Lady, 331 Sunnybrook Road, Ridgeland, 601-856-0535); Noah Hirsh; Terry Sullivan (liveRIGHTnow, 601-717-2012, liverightnowonline.com)

Best Jackson Visual Artist: Wyatt Waters


Courtesy Matthew Brantley

Wyatt Waters Gallery, 307 Jefferson St., Clinton, 601-925-8115

Watercolor is a fairly unforgiving art medium. It's beautiful, sure, but unless you have a lot of experience with it, you may find that your colors blend together or that you've ruined the paper.

Wyatt Waters makes it look easy. A fan of the en plein air style, Waters paints his works from real life rather than using photographs. He mostly depicts Mississippi, but he has also painted places such as the Caribbean and Italy.

In October 2013, Chef Robert St. John and Waters published their third collaborative cookbook, "An Italian Palate," full of recipes from Italy and Waters' watercolor scenes of the country.

The brushstrokes of Waters' paintings are detailed despite the medium, and he has the ability to transport the viewer into the scene. It's as if you're there in his beautiful, slightly watered-down world. It's easy to see why Jacksonians voted Waters the Best Jackson Visual Artist numerous times.—Amber Helsel

Second: Josh Hailey (joshhaileystudio.com) / Third: Tony Davenport (tonydavenportimages.com) / Finalists: Ellen Langford (ellenlangford.com); Ginger Williams-Cook (gingerwilliams.tumblr.com); Jason Jenkins (instagram.com/artiejynx); Jerrod Partridge (jerrodpartridge.com); William Goodman (enhancedmixture.com)

Best Server/Waitperson: Chandler May


Babalu Tacos and Tapas (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, babalums.com)

"To give real service, you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity." —Douglas Adams

A veteran server, Chandler May is the epitome of down-home hospitality. In the last three years, Babalu Tacos & Tapas has made its mark in the Jackson metro area as a premier hotspot. Part of its appeal can be attributed to the service of this young man—although he wasn't always "best" material. "I started as one of those servers you never wanted to get," May says. His willingness to learn and the help of the staff at Babalu made May the server he is today.—Michael Jacome

Second: Janis Boersma (Nick's Restaurant, 3000 Old Canton Road, 601-981-8017) / Third: Cathy Ambrose (Fenian's Pub, 901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Finalists: Keandra McNeil (Fenian's Pub); Kris Bennett (Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint, 565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919); Lindsay Cash (formerly of Nick's Restaurant, 3000 Old Canton Road, 601-981-8017)

Best Massage Therapist: Martha Howell


Baptist Health Complex (717 Manship St., 601-968-1766, mbhs.org)

Big things are happening for massage therapist Martha Howell this year. Besides turning 30, she has been accepted for a competitive internship with the Mayo Clinic February through August. Howell is one of 12 candidates accepted into the program. She has been a massage therapist for seven years and has been at the Baptist Healthplex for six years. Besides perfecting her craft, Howell has traveled nationwide and to about 10 different countries, mostly European. In 2011, she interned in a month-long program in China.—LaShanda Phillips

Second: Jermaine Sims (Sanctuary Body Spa of St. Dominic’s, 340 Township Ave., Suite 200, Ridgeland, 601-790-2222) / Third: Kali Horner (Jackson Posture Center, 3670 Lakeland Lane, Suite 23, 601-842-8221) / Finalists: Courtney Mansell (Professional Massage Therapists Group, 16 Northtown Drive, Suite 106, 601-966-1459); Jessica Hollis Edwards (Mellow Inc., 2906 N. State St., Suite B4, 769-226-9166); Karl Bombich (AcuCare, 644 Lakeland East Drive, Suite F, Flowood, 601-345-8621); William Boren (Mississippi Medical Massage Therapy, 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 239, 601-942-5014)

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