Food for the soul, straight from the soul
Food for the soul, straight from the soul
|Soul food cook’s expertise can be traced back to dad’s garden, mom’s kitchen
Atlanta, Ga – It was a dream that would grow for six decades, taking
root alongside collard greens and black-eyed peas in her father’s
vegetable garden in rural Georgia in the 1940s.
It was there that Louise Holmes was introduced to the home-grown
produce that was often paired with the soul food classics, like crispy
fried chicken and catfish, beef stew, meat loaf, barbecue chicken and
ribs, that were served at family dinners.
It was in a cramped kitchen inside her family’s three-bedroom home
where Louise Holmes began her culinary training in a style of cuisine
that remains an enduring part of black culture.
Watching her mother make meals of neckbones, collard greens, rice and
cornbread for her and nine siblings, Louise Holmes was able to learn
how to create dozens of dishes rooted in African American history
without ever scribbling down a single recipe. The history of soul food
is an oral one, with recipes passed down from generation to generation
Dating back to the days of American slavery, the first soul food dishes
were invented when African Americans combined leftover meats discarded
by plantation owners with produce they cultivated in their own
Louise Holmes’ knowledge of soul food came to her much the same way,
making do with what was available on the Girard, Ga farm her family
worked and lived on and transforming those resources into fortifying
and flavorful sustenance for the family of 12.
Lard from the hogs and milk from the cows they raised on the farm were
the primary ingredients in her mother’s biscuit recipe because they
were abundant. Flour and sugar were used more sparingly.
At the age of 21, Louise married James Holmes, a self-educated
mechanic, and moved less than 25 miles west to Waynesboro. While her
husband worked as a full-time machinist at a cookie manufacturing
factory and a part-time car mechanic, Louise Holmes put her best skills
to use cooking in a school cafeteria and a hotel restaurant called
Townhouse in neighboring Augusta.
But Louise Holmes stepped out of the food service industry to become a
stay-at-home mom after giving birth to her seventh child, a daughter
who was born with a muscle disorder.
But when Louise Holmes wasn’t tending to her children, she was back to
growing black-eyed peas and collard greens and cooking soul food dishes
for her family.
She often wondered if she could ever make a living serving the same
soul food cuisine that her family savored so much. More than a decade
passed before she decided to find out.
Louise Holmes took out a loan and sunk a significant portion of her
family’s savings into a catering service named after her youngest
Founded in 1997, Kayla’s Catering in Augusta was almost an immediate
success, and Louise Holmes’ cooking was always in demand at weddings,
family reunions, birthday parties and business luncheons.
It wasn’t long before she earned the loyal patronage of the Blue Cross
Blue Shield business complex. The company hired her to bring in
breakfast and lunch several times a week to sell inside their employee
In 2004, Louise Holmes’ business-minded daughters decided their
mother’s cooking would fare well in other markets, too. They began
laying the groundwork to help their mother open the soul food
restaurant she always dreamed of owning.
Tammie Holmes, who has a master’s degree in computer information
systems, and Charla Holmes, who is a registered nurse, scouted several
sites for her restaurant and discovered an ideal location along a
heavily traveled road in midtown Atlanta, a refurbished Krystal fast
The caterer and longtime cook agreed to her daughters’ plan, and Louise
Holmes opened her soul food restaurant Louise’s at 428 Ponce de Leon
Ave in April.
“We’re in this together, as a family, and to see my dream of owning and
running my own restaurant come true with them by my side, that’s really
the dream come true,” Louise Holmes said.
Co-owned by Louise, Charla and Tammie Holmes, the cafeteria-style
restaurant features a rotating menu of traditional recipes that Louise
Holmes has been cooking for her nine children and husband for decades,
including oxtail with homemade gravy, fried catfish, liver, rutabaga,
lima beans and turnip greens.
One of the eatery’s signature menu items is hickory and charcoaled
smoked barbecue ribs. The barbecue sauce used for the ribs is known as
“Leroy’s barbecue sauce,” a three-generations-old secret recipe
developed by Louise Holmes’ father, Leroy Scott.
“People who come in and eat here say it reminds them of their grandma’s
cooking, and that’s what keeps them coming back,” Tammie Holmes said.
On any given day, you’ll find at least one Holmes family member,
Louise, Tammie, or Charla, with serving spoon in hand, waiting to heap
more-than-filling portions onto a guest’s plate.
While Louise Holmes feels fortunate to own a restaurant with her daughters, the business venture requires sacrifice.
For the first time, Louise Holmes lives apart from her husband of 40 years.
Her husband remains in Waynesboro working for the same factory he’s been employed with for 43 years.
Most days of the week, Louise Holmes stays with Tammie, who lives in Atlanta.
Louise and James Holmes devote Sundays to church and each other, the only day the restaurant is closed for business.
“He’s always been a good father and a good provider,” Tammie
Holmes said of her father. “They take turns visiting each other in
Waynesboro and Atlanta, and are very much each others biggest
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