This is the weekly ‘Sip of Culture. It’s a partnership between Mississippi Today Magazine and The Sip Magazine. Visit The Sip’s website to see more stories like these or to subscribe to the magazine. Andy Chapman loves food. He enjoys eating food, writing about it, and talking about it. He is proud of the farmers who grow it, and the chefs who prepare it. Chapman has even chosen a career that focuses on local food. Chapman is the founder of Eat Jackson. He has helped to expand the culinary knowledge of thousands of people who visit his websites, Eat Jackson and Eat Y’all. Chapman is as involved now as ever, but he admits that he did not always have a great knowledge of food. As a child, I prepared whole meals for my siblings. I was a Southern kid. We ate what we had even though it wasn’t always much. He says that we were farm-totable before it was fashionable. We had our own farm and sometimes a 4-H lamb would make its way to the table. When I was young, we had chickens, goats we milked, and a large vegetable garden. We even sold okra in Louisville to restaurants. “We used wheat berries to make flour for breads and granola long before it was fashionable. He says that my knowledge of ingredients for food was limited to what was available locally. I didn’t have a good idea of the quality and locality of local food growing up. As an adult, my outlook changed a lot.” Chapman discovered a love for quality food at local restaurants and a new way to enjoy it. He says, “They used the exact same ingredients as us growing up, but in an entirely new and unique way.” Chapman, now 37 years old, created a Twitter account in 2009 and began connecting with others looking for unique dining experiences. He wanted to share what he discovered with others, so he started connecting more. “I started tweeting about my food. My Twitter handle was “eatjxn”, but no one knew me. It was great fun. He says that he used to sit at a restaurant and take photos of his food and then tweet them. People would look around and try to find out who sent them. Andy started eatjxn.com as a hobby, but soon people began asking Chapman questions about food that he couldn’t answer. He would ask local chefs for their advice and then post them on the website. He recalls, “Pretty soon we became a hub for information.” Chapman was certain he was onto something when Derek Emerson (chef at Walker’s in Jackson’s Fondren neighbourhood) invited Chapman and Marianna to dinner at Walker’s. Chapman didn’t know how but he told Chapman that the website would one day be their livelihood. Chapman admits that his wife wasn’t as confident about the site as I was. The idea was a success and Chapman had over 2000 followers on Twitter. I enjoyed engaging people on that platform. He says that he and his wife owned a web hosting company. They also did marketing consulting for other businesses. “But I knew that we could do it when I wrote a story, put it up on the website, and had 42 visitors overnight who I didn’t know. People started to find out more about us and liked what we were doing. He was passionate and excited about what he did. “After that, if there was a question I couldn’t answer, I would just call a chef.” Eat Jackson became a business three months after @eatjxn was created on Twitter. Chapman’s view of food is different than most food-related information on the Internet. We believe in a “redneck over the tailgate” approach to food. Our goal was to remove barriers. Chapman explains that, for example, I thought The Mermaid at Lake Caroline was an expensive restaurant. “My wife and me went there to eat and it was delicious, but it is accessible to all. “We reported on the type of cars that were in the parking lot. This gave people an idea of the number of people eating there.” Chapman summarizes the Eat Jackson experience on the Eat Jackson website, saying, “I’m just like you. There is no snobby foodie in this; it’s just someone who loves good food, great service, and great atmosphere. Eat Jackson was founded in 2011 by Marianna Chapman, who spent two years trying convince her husband to return to “real work”. She eventually gave in and joined the family’s food business in 2011. She is a natural fit for the growing business team, having experience in writing, business and producing a web-based TV show about business. She is a farmer’s child and loves being an ambassador for Southern foods, the South’s farmers community, and local chefs. Chapman describes Eat Y’all eatyall.com as the sister website of the Chapmans. It is where they explain food to the rest of world using a Southern accent. No matter if we are writing about France, San Francisco, Tutwiler or Miss, we bring our perspectives. We don’t want our views to be restricted geographically. Eat Y’all is the ideal platform for us.” There are many food blogs and websites, but what makes the Chapmans unique is that they bring together chefs, producers, content, people, and restaurants in a dynamic manner. They host a variety of food-related events that bring them together with their followers. Chapman explains that the Bread Pudding Throwdown was their first event. It featured bourbon tastings, coffee cuppings, and 17 local restaurants competing to be the best in bread pudding creations. “We’ve had Crab Cake Throwdowns, 15 or so Chef’s Table events, and we’re putting on our second Sweetest Chefs of the South dessert competition on Sept. 12 in Ridgeland (eatyall.com/sweetestchefs/), which will benefit Extra Table, a non-profit specifically created to feed hungry families,” he says. Chapman is especially proud of his partnership with Mississippi Seafood Marketing, which produced the Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off. This event was part of the Mississippi Seafood Experience. Chapman states, “We attracted some of the most talented chefs and judges and Alex Eaton from The Manship (Jackson) won the national title.” The Chapmans continue to grow their brand by promoting Mississippi food products. They also make their own barbecue sauces, rubs and sauces including Sugar Taylor sauce and Sugar Taylor Creamy Sauce, Bonnie’s Hot Sauce, and June Bugg Rub. They also distribute Gourmet Guru grills. You can also visit eatjxn.com or eatmscoast.com for articles and information about events.