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- [Narrator] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by - [Phil] I'm Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham, here in Cookeville, Tennessee's college town. We are bold, fearless, confident, and kind. Tech prepares students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living wings up. Learn more at tntech.edu - This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we go to Memphis for some southern comfort soul food. Then check into a beautiful inn, in Lynchburg and become one with nature at a sanctuary at Williamson County. That's the lineup for this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. I'm Joe Elmore. Sure glad to have you. Our first stop is a restaurant called Alcenia's in Memphis. It's a place that's synonymous with good times and great soul food. This is also a story of a special lady who overcame tragedy to become a downtown dining diva. When you think of Memphis, you might think of the Mississippi River, the downtown entertainment district, or even soul food. Well, here at Alcenia's you can not only get that, but also a hefty serving of love and hugs. - [BJ] Hey baby. - Hey, how you doing? - I tell people, you come in as a stranger but when you leave, you part of the Alcenia's family. And I feed the heart, the head, then the stomach. If I get your heart and head, Joe, baby, I got your stomach. Ain't no doubt about it, boom! - [Joe] If there ever should be a queen of soul food, well BJ Chester Tomaio might wear the crown. Her colorful, cheery restaurant north of downtown Memphis is a haven for lovers of good old southern cooking. Add a helping of BJ's exuberance. And you've got a dining experience you won't soon forget. - Hey how you doing baby? I hug every single person come in this door. But that was in my family, my mom, you know, we always hugged. We never hang up the phone without saying, "I love you." So that's just was the way I was raised. - [Joe] BJ was raised on great country cooking, soul food, or whatever you want to call it. All thanks to her late mother, the restaurant's namesake, Alcenia. - [BJ] My mom was such a fantastic cook in how her home, our home, was always open and people would always find a way to come around dinnertime, needing something. - [Joe] Opening a restaurant was far from BJ's mind until tragedy struck her life in 1996 - I lost my only child, Will A, to Mario the third. We called him Go-Go, in a motorcycle accident, August 3rd when he was 22 years old, 1996. I talked to him one minute. The next minute he was gone. - [Joe] So after years of depression and searching for a way to fill the void in her life - Somebody said, "Have you ever thought about opening a restaurant?" No, I didn't cook growing up. I had never been a waitress, done any of that. So I said, "Okay." So my mom, who is Alcenia, trained me, Alcenia Clark Chester, trained me from being in Meridian, Mississippi on the phone. And by coming to Memphis, that's how I learned how to cook. She didn't measure anything. So I say, "Mom, you got to tell me." And she said, "You know, I don't measure." So I just had to keep playing with it till I could get it. You know, like I would never be as good as her but if I can get 75%, I'll be better than a hundred, yeah. How you doing baby? - [Joe] Now 25 years later Alcenia's is not only a local Memphis favorite, but it's caught the attention of major food magazines along with network news and food shows. She's even produced a couple of cookbooks and streaming videos changing her trademark wigs with every episode. - I need somebody to taste the greens to see if they seasoned enough. - [Joe] But her heart belongs in the restaurants, where she consistently turns out people pleasing favorites. - [BJ] Mac and cheese, you know, that's not one of my favorites, but I cook it every day in sincerity because this is a southern tradition. Everybody loves mac and cheese. And so I cook that all the time. I did some greens for you, some cabbage I'm doing today. Smothered pork chop, fried chicken, meatloaf. We do baked tilapias and my vegetables, I don't put meat in them. So if you are a vegetarian, you still can eat, you know, my black eye peas, my pinto beans, my cabbage. - [Joe] By the way, no matter what you order, it all comes with a serving of Alcenia's signature hot water cornbread. And the owner promises every dish will have the same consistent quality every time you get it. - You have to make sure it has the same taste. So, I mean, I would throw away something, I'll come out here and tell my customer, just like other day the grease wasn't right. I came out and told my customer, "I got to redo this. I'm not getting ready to give you anything that's not right." You would never in your life see another restaurant like Alcenia's. - [Joe] To BJ Chester Tamaio, Alcenia's represents more than another cool Memphis diner, more than a haven for honest to goodness, soul food. It's a symbol of what loving family roots and a passion for food can rightfully realize. - You know what the best part is though, Joe? It's the people. When people come in, I say, "Have you ever had a soul food?" And most of them haven't. And then they'll say, "Well, I saw you, you know on the UK because it came on a certain channel and a certain show came on in the UK." So when you have people from all over the world, I mean, it's amazing. It's amazing. - What an amazing cook and wonderful person. Well, as you may know, my friend Becky Madura here is President and CEO of Nashville Public Television, and she's joining me to help with our Keep Crossroads Traveling campaign for 2023. Yep. It's that time of year. We encourage you to support Tennessee Crossroads and help us out to keep going out there and finding great stories to bring you each week. - That's right, Joe. You know we want to start 2023 out on a firm foundation to ensure we can keep that Crossroads crew on the road. And that's where you come in. Over the next four weeks we'll be asking you to support the show. And if we can get 500 donations at any level, we'll keep Crossroads on the air during our March membership drive. We're also excited to announce an upcoming event right here at MPT that is guaranteed to raise your spirits. - [Narrator] You're invited to Tennessee Crossroads inaugural whiskey tasting February 25th, 2023, showcasing some of the best whiskey producers from Tennessee. Each distillery will feature two to three products with many of them hard to find. For tickets, use your phone to scan the QR code on your screen or go to wnpt.org/events for more information - We would love to have you attend the tasting and meet the Crossroads crew right here at our station on Saturday, February 25th. For ticket information or other details, please visit our website at wmpt.org/events. You know, Joe, it sounds like it's gonna be a lot of fun. - Absolutely, Becky, and I'm looking forward to joining with the crew to express in person how much we appreciate your support. You've already made Tennessee Crossroads one of the most watched locally produced programs in the entire PBS system. We're honored to be a part of your lives and wanna say thank you 'cause we could not produce this show without your support and loyal viewership. Now you can call the number on your screen right now to pledge or pledge online at tennesseecrossroads.org/donate. You know, NPT is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and Crossroads, has been around for more than half of that. Here's a little clip that explains how Crossroads got its start. Hello everyone, I'm Joel Elmore. I heard from a friend that at WDC Inn was starting a magazine show and made a phone call or two, and when they offered me the job I thought about it for about 15 seconds and said, "Yes." I remember when we were sitting around Al Voecks, Jerry Thompson and myself, Susan Thomas as well, talking about what this show is gonna be about. We didn't really know. We thought we might do some kind of more serious stories but it turned out the viewers dictated what our show was gonna be about. We kind of found our footing after about a year and realized that well, people want to know what's going on in Tennessee and the people, the places and so forth and that has sort of led to what we are today. Well, they say ratings aren't everything but you do want people to watch what you do. And the fact that this show is so highly rated is really gratifying. And that makes it all worthwhile. And I think it's because even with so many channels and so many options out there that people love to know what's going on in their backyard, that's good and positive. It's all about everything that's good about Tennessee and it's always gonna be that way. - If you value the wonderful stories you see on Crossroads, please support the station that makes them possible. Now, here are all the ways we want to thank you for keeping Crossroads traveling. - [Narrator] You can help keep Crossroads traveling with a financial gift that's just right for you. Donate at any amount, and you'll receive a Tennessee Crossroads official travel sticker. At $60 a year or $5 a month, we'll thank you with this Tennessee Crossroads baseball cap. At the $72 level or $6 a month, you can show your support with this polyester blend short sleeve t-shirt. Finally, we'd love to see you at our inaugural whiskey tasting on Saturday, February 25th at NPT. Visit the studios of Tennessee Crossroads, meet the crew and sample the best spirits from across the state. Tickets are $100 or $125 for the VIP package which includes a Crossroads hat and t-shirt. Visit wnpt.org/events for details. And thank you for helping to keep Crossroads traveling. - 36 years, that's how long you've kept us on the road and on the air. Your generosity allows us to continue to bring you incredible and heartwarming stories from across our great state. You are an essential member of our crew. Yeah, it's a partnership. A partnership that I hope will last for many years to come. Now, please pick up your phone or go online and keep Crossroads traveling. Thank you. - Joe's right, you are an incredibly important member of our team and we need you now. Help us meet our goal of 500 contributions to keep Crossroads traveling in 2023. Just pick an amount that's right for you and enjoy some of our great ways to say thanks. We cannot make this show without your support so give us a call or pitch in at tennesseecrossroads.org/donate. Now to head back out on the road with a new story that you made possible. Hey, where are we heading next, Joe? - Well, Becky, we're heading to Lynchburg. How about that? Now, when you hear the name of that iconic town, a popular beverage probably comes to mind. Well, as Miranda Cohen can tell you, there's a lot more to the Lynchburg than some famous distillery. In our next story, we check in at the Lynchburg Valley Inn. - [Miranda] Joyce Adam's day starts early here at the Lynchburg Valley Inn. In just a few hours, breakfast will be served. She is a one woman show in the kitchen and no one is leaving here hungry. - I'm in the house by 7:00 and I already have the coffee ready, so whoever gets up first turns on the coffee pot and then I just start cooking breakfast. If I have a crowd, it's bacon, eggs, sausage, sometimes biscuit, gravy, fried potatoes, hash brown casserole. And if I have a smaller group, they can, ham and cheese omelets, pancakes. - [Miranda] Today a little southern delicacy is also on the menu. - It's hard to believe but I've never had fried bologna before. You know, I grew up on bologna sandwiches, you know, and so, but fried bologna never had that. So it's quite a treat. - [Miranda] Adams believes there is a reason breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day. - [Joyce] Because they don't do it at home. It's a treat. They are busy and they're on the run and they don't take time to fix breakfast and sit down with the family. Do y'all have everything you need? - We're good. This is awesome. This is a great breakfast. - [Miranda] The Lynchburg Valley Inn was built around 1808, passing through the hands of Lynchburg Royalty, the Tali family. They were master distillers and blood relatives of Jasper Newton Daniel, or as the world knows him, Jack. - [Diner] Very impressed. Unique location, unique home, just found out was a part of the Jack Daniel's family which I thought was very interesting. - [Miranda] A few years ago, when the property came up for sale, Lynchburg native, Tommy Anderson, had a dream of turning the stately manor into a cozy bed and breakfast. - I just loved the old house and I just thought it was a good idea. I walked through it and I looked and all the bedrooms had a private bath, everything was set up fairly good and I had to do a few modifications. But other than that, it was ready to go. - [Joyce] Well, my business partner, Tommy, has lived in Lynchburg probably 35, 40 years. And he called me one day and said, "Hey what do you think about me buying this house and turning it into a bed and breakfast?" And I said, "Oh, would you like a partner?" And he said, "No." And here I am. - [Miranda] These days Joyce tends to the guests and Tommy tends to everything else. This spacious and elegant four-bedroom, Lynchburg Valley Inn is less than a mile from the shops, sites and sounds of downtown and the famous Jack Daniel's distillery. Now, most guests that visit Lynchburg love to take in some of the local flair and walk away well, very happy. - Oh yes, they do. And I'll pick you up. If you're too happy, I will pick you up. I've got several calls from the winery distillery. "Come pick up your guest." "All righty, on my way." - It seems Tommy and Joyce have thought of every detail. Now, some very famous people have visited the Lynchburg Valley Inn even President Andrew Jackson back in his day. But no one is more famous or more beloved than Buddy the Beagle. He even has his own storybook. Unbeknownst to the innkeepers too of their guests were successful authors. They heard the story of Lynchburg's most adorable ambassador. And suddenly the antics of Buddy the Beagle were captured in a children's book. - [Joyce] And he comes over here and has breakfast. And I say, "Oh Buddy, you're on your way to work." He goes up to Jack Daniel's Distillery hangs around there, comes back, hangs around town, hangs around the cigar store, they make pizza. So he's really thrilled to hang around there. And then he'll get a ride home or he'll walk home and he'll start it again the next day. - [Miranda] So whether you come to see the town or get away from the city, the Lynchburg Valley Inn is the perfect place to soak in some true southern hospitality. - I loved it. It's so relaxing. And just the house is beautiful. The the rooms were very, very nicely done. And it was really nice. - [Tommy] I've enjoyed it ever since. It's just been a good experience meeting a lot of people. - And they have a good time and they share their stories and they all go on their way. And they've enjoyed their breakfast and enjoyed their visit. And I try to make 'em feel at home. I really like everybody. Everybody has a story. And I love the stories. - Now more than ever, many of us feel the need to get outside and commune with nature. And we're lucky to have so many places in our great state to do just that. So in our last story, Laura Faber takes us to a unique spot in Williamson County, a place called Owl's Hill. - [Laura] Who loves animals? - I do! - Who loves nature? - I do. - [Miranda] Take a group of three-to-five-year-olds, add one gorgeous day, plus a pigeon named Murray and you get the best field trip ever. - [Laura] Woo. - [Miranda] This is the Nehi Naturalist Program at Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary in Brentwood, Tennessee. On this day, it's all about birds. The kids learn which feather belongs to what bird. They have a snack, take a hike and explore the property. - Our whole mission is to protect the habitat and the wildlife and along the way, connect people with nature so that they learn more about what their surroundings are here and hopefully learn more after they leave here, take it to their own backyards and wanna protect places like this. - [Miranda] Susan Dubin Hague, executive director of Owl's Hill says The Wildlife Habitat preserve was donated by a woman named Halda Cheek. Her intent was that this property would be protected forever. - [Susan] It's protected in the sense that it's never gonna be developed. Our founder was Halda Cheek Sharp as in Cheekwood. And when she and Walter gave Nashville Cheekwood and they bought 160 acres out here, her dream was for this to be a place for the wildlife and their habitats. And so to this day, we try to balance that human impact with protecting the space for the wildlife. - [Miranda] Today the sanctuary has grown to 300 acres, a home to more than 2000 species of flora and fauna. You see multiple nest boxes scattered throughout the property. Owl's Hill is in its 30th year of Aviary research conducting bird counts and banding. The abundant milkweed lends itself to a monarch study with the University of Wisconsin. And conservation is a big part of the sanctuary, too. - [Laura] A lot of our work on the protection and conservation side is actually removing invasives. If you are looking for a workout these days, I can connect you with a weed wrench and you can have at it to your heart's content. So it is getting rid of invasive species, 'cause when that happens then the native growth starts to come back. - It took a lot of work to create Owl's Hill. This was a cattle farm until 1988, when a naturalist was hired, and the restoration began. Over the years, there are more than a hundred Eagle Scout projects that have helped transform this property. This is one of the most recent, this informational kiosk. - [Susan] When Cheekwood hired their first executive director, their first naturalist, one of her jobs was to try and take back the land, so to speak. And an Eagle Scout back in 1991 was looking for an Eagle Scout project. And she said, "Do I have a project for you!" And it was to try and start to remove the fencing that was just crisscrossing across the land. And that was really the start of the revitalization of Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary. And today I think we're up to over 124, 125 Eagle Scouts who continue to this day to help us make this a vital and engaging place to come explore nature. - [Miranda] And then there is the name. It came from the many wild owls you hear day and night. Though Owl's Hill is not set up to rehab wildlife, a small number of non releasable native owls and other animals do live on site. Boomerang, a gorgeous, great horned owl will spend the rest of her days here. - The most touching story is our great horned owl who a family, good intentions, bad outcome. They found her as a fledgling probably when she was learning to fly, which typically you'll find them at a base of a tree. And good-hearted people think that they've been thrown out of a nest or abandoned when actually it's part of the natural process of learning how to fly. They decided to keep her. And I think when they started to see those talents developing in the strength of that beak they realized they were over their heads and turned her over to a rehabber. Which unfortunately at that time, she is so imprinted on them that she has no idea how to hunt or defend herself. So I think it was when she was found in a local shopping center near a restaurant looking for food, that that was the last straw. - [Miranda] Julie Eprieshi, director of education at Owl's Hill, shows off Shakespeare, a beautiful barred owl who will also live forever here, due to an injured wing. - Her wing is damaged too severe to be able to fly again you know, but our owls here, they get the best medical care. They never go hungry or thirsty. And in exchange for that, you know, people get to meet them up close because this is an animal that you just rarely see in the wild. Now you might hear them, but it's very hard to see them. - [Miranda] With feathers all over her body except her talons, beak, and eyeballs, Shakespeare not only has exceptional hearing but a superpower. The secret weapon of all owls is their silent flight. Their prey literally cannot hear them coming. - Their famous for the, "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?" And you can hear them all day long. We've heard 'em in the morning, afternoon, and evening time. Very unique vocalization. - [Miranda] Whether it's the birds or the purple asters covered with butterflies and bees. This is a peaceful place. A day pass will allow you to come hike the many trails, read and lunch in the meadows, or sign up for one of the mini programs on the calendar, like a marshmallow hike, build a bluebird box. And yes, programs for kids. Owl's Hill is the perfect place to hit your reset button and marvel over Mother Nature. - [Laura] You know, during these times, I think if anything there's a reawaken craving for spending time outdoors. And I think it reminds us all of the emotional and the physical benefits that just being outdoors can do for all of us. - Well thanks Laura, and thank you for joining us the past half hour. Hope you had a good time. Don't forget to join us on our website sometime, tennesseecrossroads.org. Of course, you can follow us on Facebook and please help us keep Crossroads traveling. We'll see you next week. - [Narrator] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by - I'm Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham, here in Cookeville, Tennessee's college town. We are bold, fearless, confident, and kind. Tech prepares students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living wings up. Learn more at tntech.edu.
January 19, 2023
Season 36 | Episode 22
Joe Elmore heads to Memphis for some southern comfort soul food. Miranda Cohen checks into the Lynchburg Valley Inn. And Laura Faber visits the Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary in Williamson county.