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50 Fancy Years: Caterer celebrates 5 decades in business

 

NATCHEZ — A local woman, commonly known as “Sissy,” cooks up just about everything in the kitchen and she has been doing it for 50 years as part of her catering service called “Sissy’s Everything Fancy.”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a favorite dish,” said Ann “Sissy” Eidt Browning, 78. “I honestly don’t.”

Her specialties include Italian favorites, such as meatballs, spaghetti and lasagna, and Cajun and Southern classics and anything else that her clients request, she said.

Eidt Browning has dished up her homemade specialties at many different fancy occasions over the years, she said, including weddings, balls, cocktail parties and other Natchez events.

She has fed as many as 800 people at one time, she said, and she does just about all of the cooking with a bit of help in the preparation department.

“I do have help in the kitchen,” she said. “I have one of the best working groups of ladies, men and gentlemen that anyone can ask for. They’ve been with me through thick and thin. … My husband (William Browning) loves what I do, and helps me, too. He’s one of my best vegetable choppers.”

Eidt Browning works out of one of two at-home kitchens, which are inspected by the health department like any other restaurant business, she said.

She as has a regular and commercial stove with eight burners, three large freezers and four refrigerators, she said.

Eidt Browning did not go to culinary school to learn to cook fancy favorites. For her, the skill was already in her blood, she said — with recipes passed down from her grandmother — from Sorrento, Italy — to her mother and now to her, which she shares with her four children.

Italians never cook just a little, she said, but enough to feed and entertain anyone who comes calling.

Before taking on a catering business, Eidt Browning graduated from St. Dominic’s School of Nursing in Jackson and worked as a nurse. However, before her fourth child was born, she found it difficult to work away from home, she said.

That was when her cousin, Angeline Hicks, introduced her to catering.

“I’ll never forget the first party I catered,” Eidt Browning said, which was a newcomer’s tea hosted by the Pilgrimage Garden Club at Linden Plantation half a century ago.

At first, Eidt Browning said she was apprehensive about cooking for a multitude.

After a bit of trial and error, she’s ready to serve anyone and everyone — but the errors are never served to the public, she said.

“They say you should do what you love, and I’ve always loved to cook,” she said.

Sissy’s Everything Fancy Catering can be reached at 601-442-1030.