Don't have the PBS App? Click Here
- [Announcer] "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. - [Narrator] Discover Tennessee trails and byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at tntrailsandbyways.com. - This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," we go to Pulaski to see what's cooking at a local favorite, the Hickory House. Then off to Smithville to beat a natural born woodworking wiz. We'll make a sweet stop in Memphis for critically acclaimed donuts. Finally in Fayetteville, it's the 1800s again during the Host of Christmas Past celebration. Hi everybody, and Merry Christmas. I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome to our show. Well first, we had to Pulaski, and there we discover how a couple can run a ranch and a restaurant simultaneously, especially when neither had prior restaurant experience. Well their persistence and passion for cooking has paid off in a place called the Hickory House. The County Courthouse has got to be one of the most attractive we've seen around the state, but we didn't come to Pulaski to study history. We came to visit another landmark famous for barbecue and fine home cooking. The Hickory House has been a local mainstay since the 1960s, first owned by the late Butch White, then in 2013, JP and Jackie Perry took over the reigns. At the time, JP was busy managing the couple's Deer Valley farm, now home to about 2,000 black Angus cattle. Jackie was happily working as a full-time paralegal and a little reluctant to change careers. - The restaurant was my idea, my passion. She was a paralegal for 30 years. She told me when I came up with the idea that I would do it with my next wife, not with her. That absolutely was she not gonna quit her career as a paralegal and run a restaurant every day. And year or two went by and the opportunity came about to buy this building. And it was her idea, and we got in the restaurant business. We were a little naive, had never owned a restaurant, never worked in a restaurant, but thought how hard can it be? We cooked for people at home all the time. We cooked for crowds and entertained a lot. It can't be that hard. Lemme tell you it was baptism by fire. It was quite a learning curve. - [Joe] Well the Perrys quickly navigated that curve and now preside over a popular gathering spot for fine southern cooking, and one of JP's specialties, barbecue. - [JP] My passion for meat and smoking meat is something that I've had all my life and we love to smoke certified Angus beef briskets. We love to smoke ribs, chickens, pork sausage, beef sausage, you name it. And we kind of built the entire premise around great barbecue. And we wanted to to put great steaks on our menus. - [Joe] Of course, it doesn't hurt to have a source of those steaks just down the road at the ranch. And while steaks are a big hit with weekend diners, Hickory House is also a lunchtime destination. You can order from their extensive regular menu or choose one of the daily meat and three specials. - [JP] The things that your mother or your grandmother would cook for you on Sunday dinner we do every day. All our sides, all our vegetables are homemade, in-house, made from scratch. Whether it's mashed potatoes, whether it's green beans, collard greens, dressing. We've got a crew in the back that love to cook. - I have a great team. We all work together. It's fun. I think I had this vision of what the restaurant life would be like, but I enjoy it, it's fun, we make it fun. - [Joe] Some employees have been on board since day one. Well, like veteran cook Sharon Kemp. - We're like a family here. And I'm not just saying that just because they're my boss, but we are like a family here, and JP and Jackie, you can't ask for two better people. - [Joe] And you can't ask for a better dessert than one of Sharon's creations like blueberry cobbler. When I talked to JP, he referred to you as the boss. - Well I'm here every day. I come in every day, keep it going, keep it rolling. - The Southern pride smoker was probably the one of the best investments we've made when we opened this building. We didn't think we'd ever utilize one this big. And we actually had our third one delivered yesterday. So we just keep growing. I think barbecue is very easy if you look at it in this respect. Always start with a high quality piece of meat and don't mess it up. - [Joe] And while the main mission is always turning out consistently delicious dishes, it helps that the owners also love to interact with their customers. - [JP] Jackie and I are both very social. We really love people. We love entertaining. We love being around people. We have a very, very good relationship with our customer base and are blessed with the people that come through the door. - [Joe] No doubt Jackie and JP have been blessed with the success of Hickory House, a fantasy of sorts that turned into a full-time reality. And now years after making that leap of faith, their warm passion for cooking and pleasing guest has never cooled off. - You wish you could go back to day one and say "I wish I'd have known a few more things and maybe done some things differently." But we've been so blessed to come to those hurdles, make it through those hurdles, and go forward and still be viable as a business. We're still married after 10 years. We're still in business after 10 years. So I'd say that's pretty good success. And we're happily married. - Some of the artists we feature on "Crossroads" went to art school and trained for years to hone their skills, while others, well, they're just blessed to be born with the gift. David Sharp falls into that latter group. You see, the Smithville artist has been winning awards for being able to see what treasures lie beneath the wood he carves. Laura Faber has his story. - [Laura] On any given day on a beautiful piece of land near Center Hill Lake in Smithfield, Tennessee, you can hear the sound of creativity buzzing away inside the studio of a master wood carver. This is where you'll find David Sharp likely working on a Christmas ornament as he is on this day. - On faces, I like doing the area of the face and stuff with power. I use what's called a Foredom, it's a micro Foredom. It's more or less a high price Dremel. It's easier to take and change the bits in and out. - [Laura] Every year, David makes one new design and sells hundreds. - One was Santa Claus, he had his hat pulled down over his eyes and everything and people loved it and they just caught on. And I'm probably the only one in the United States that does a single design each year. I didn't mean for it to go that way, but I found it easier to do. And then it wound up being a collectible. - [Laura] David has even had one of his ornaments picked to hang in the Tennessee Governor's mansion. It was his 2013 ornament. - They do theme type trees, and one of them was woodworking, wood carving. And they come here, handpicked the ornaments and stuff. And then I took it plus a bunch of my carvings down to be on display for a couple of months. - [Laura] That was a career highlight, and he's had many others. David is hired to teach the art of wood carving all over the country, and has won many awards for his work. This prize-winning half skull, half Indian carving was actually a mistake. - It was so hard, it took me like six or eight hours just to get one side of the face roughed in. And when I started on the other side, I hit rot and I thought, man, I was so upset. And I got to looking at it and I've got a skull sitting right here on my shelf. And I'd look at the piece, I'd look back, I'd look and I could see where the rot was was exactly where the eye and all that sockets was. And I halfed the carving. One side was a full Indian face, the other side was a skeleton of it. And that was one of the first pieces that I competed with and I won in every show that I competed with. - [Laura] His start in wood carving came later in life. It was on a Smoky Mountain vacation trip. David visited a working wood carver. He talked David into whittling a bit with him, noticed some talent, and convinced him to come back for a class. - [David] Well I come back the next Saturday and noticed that I had finished the piece before him, and he talked me into coming back the following week and they was doing a class on a realistic Indian bust. And I told him, I said, "I don't even own a tool." And he said, "You're good enough." He said, "I'll supply you with everything and I'm taking the class so you'll have all the tools you need and stuff." And he said, "I just wanna see how far you go." 24 students. I was the only one who finished it. I had the gift to send stuff, but I needed to take and learn how to use the tools and all that. So I took every class I could for a couple years, and by the third year I was teaching. And it's been a great road. - This is the original David Sharp wood carving. The first one he ever made. Created in 2006, he finished this in three days. Today, David is known for his human and animal busts and carvings, and of course his Christmas ornaments, mantles, and specific pieces he's commissioned for. And he carves a lot of big orange Santas and Smokies, animals are much harder to carve than people. David says the nose tells you everything you need to know about a creature's proportions. - [David] And when you do the legs, you always start with the foot. The foot has to go up into all the joints. So you always start with the bottom of the foot and then work your way up to the leg. - [Laura] Most of the wood David works with comes from the area, and he has some favorites. - [David] I use three different woods primarily. Cedar, and then I use butternut, which everybody knows as white walnut. Then I use basswood. All my animals is out of southern basswood. All my ornaments and stuff's out of northern. And the reason being is southern basswood does good with power carving Northern does good with knife and gouges. And then cedar, I do a lot of busts with cedar. I do a lot of fireplace mantles with cedar, carving them. - [Laura] David is a man of many talents. He is also a pastor at a local church and a landscaper in the summer months. But his skill for the art of wood carving is a special thing. By the way, he also paints and finishes all his pieces. - I'm blessed. I tell everybody this is a God-given talent because He just dropped it right in my lap. Carving is a dying hobby. We've become modernized. All tech, stuff like that. People's got different agendas now. You take a 30 year ago, you've got craftsmen that hand done everything. The world's getting away from that. It takes a lot of time to do stuff by hand. I know my product, what I've hand carved, whatever it may be, is going back out to a home. - [Laura] David Sharp is leaving a legacy, one cut, one groove, one chip at a time. - Thanks Laura. Memphis has more than its share of iconic places like Graceland, the Peabody Hotel of course, but there's also a donut shop that's pretty near and dear to the hearts of Memphians and famous food critics alike. They consider Gibson's Donuts among the best in the country. Danielle Allen will take us there. - I want chocolate with the sprinkles. - [Danielle] When you want a donut, you go to a bakery. - You want white sprinkles or chocolate sprinkles? - [Danielle] But when you want a donut and a memorable experience, you go to Gibson's in Memphis. - [Clerk] How y'all doing? What can I get for you? - First timers, here you go. First timers, here you go. First timers. - How fun is it to work here? - [Danielle] Gibson's Donuts is a place where everyone knows your name, and if they don't, they will before you leave. - I worked across the street from it over at 25 and they said I spent more time over here than I did over there at work. - [Danielle] This is a fast-paced store where the employees are friendly, the coffee is hot, and the donuts keep people coming back for more. - I like their fluffiness. They always are the same. Some donuts you buy, they don't have the same consistency, but they always seem to be the same no matter what time of the day, - [Danielle] Gibson has been voted one of the best donuts in the country. So we ask the owner, what makes you stand out in the crowd? - We've let them rise three times where most donut shops let them rise once. Some will let them rise twice, but we let them rise three times. That's the biggest key that we do. We might spill a little yeast in there every once in a while, maybe just a little bit of sugar, but it's just, we give it the tender loving care. - [Danielle] Don DeWeese has owned Gibson's Donuts for 22 years, but the place has actually been around since 1967. Although he's in charge now, that was not Don's original plan. - We bought it as an investment for our oldest son, Blair, who graduated in engineering in Mississippi State. He ran it for two years and moved to Italy. My wife took it over and ran it for five years and then she had enough stress, and so I took it over and started running it there. And then my son Britton came back about eight years ago and it takes both of us. It takes both Britton and I now. Try that. - [Danielle] His son will one day take over, but for now, Don is here every day greeting everyone who comes in, when he's not doing that, he's working on the large inventory for the store. - [Don] We're probably the largest single probably on one location donut shop in the country. Don Food Products, which is the number one bakery product in the world, says nobody buys the amount of mix we buy per week than we do right here. - [Danielle] That mix is used to make a wide variety of flavors. Everything from glaze to chocolate to chocolate with sprinkles, you name it. And every few weeks, they do a little cooking outside the box for their donuts of the month. - [Don] This is something that we started, and one of the people that Don Food Products told us about the red velvet with cream cheese icing on, we said cream cheese? So we did that for a month and we took it off and people started fussing. So we put it back as an everyday item and it still has. We did the same thing with maple bacon. My son invented this maple bacon donut, and we used a very, very high, high expensive product of bacon. And we did that for a month. We stopped that. People started complaining. So now we do that every day. Same thing with the Oreo, same thing with the lemon drops. - [Danielle] And if you crave these delicious confections long after the sun goes down, don't worry, the doors at Gibson's Donuts are always open. - [Don] We have to put the old stuff away. We have to put the new product out. So if we're making donuts in the middle of the night and putting the new out, anybody that walks in, we might as well sell them something. And some nights, we'll do over a thousand dollars at night, between 10 at night and six in the morning. A lot of that's done right after 10:00 when we put some donuts on sale. A lot of it's done early in the morning right before six, but it's just easier to stay open than to close. - [Danielle] Now if you think this place is busy during the week, you should see it on the weekend. The crowd could include anyone from the singer Al Green to the regular who's been coming here for 40 years. And of course, lots of children. - [Don] Well, I've got eight and a half grandchildren. And when you get old like me, your grandchildren are, it's the best thing in life. So this is a kids store. We have sprinkles and we cater to the kids. And if a lady and a six or seven year old comes up, I'm gonna ask the kid what they want instead of the mama. A red velvet? Okay, get it. The parents appreciate that. The kids do. And if you make that kid have a fun time, next Saturday, they're gonna say, "Daddy, let's go to the donut shop." - [Danielle] For more than 50 years, Gibson's Donuts has been a stable in Memphis. Now with the help of social media, they're bringing their treats to an even larger crowd, which means more people are hearing about a little shop with big flavors. - It's like a jigsaw puzzle why we're so famous, we don't know how many pieces is in that puzzle, and we don't know which piece is the biggest, but I think social media is probably gonna be the second biggest pieces because the absolute biggest pieces is the quality of our donut. Thank you. We appreciate you, my friend. - Thank you Danielle. You've seen pictures and movies of what Christmas was like in the 1800s. The period dress, less emphasis on shopping and more on togetherness. Well the town of Fayetteville has captured that experience. It makes it come to life with their annual Host of Christmas Past. Tammi Arender is gonna take us to Lincoln County for the annual affair. - [Tammi] You know it's almost Christmas when you can hardly stay in your seat. From the very young to young at heart, the Host of Christmas Past in Lincoln County stirs up more than just visions of sugar plums. The town square in Fayetteville is turned into a scene from the 1800s. It takes you back to the time when people congregated around the courthouse and engaged in commerce at local businesses instead of driving to a mall. - The festival is centered around our beautiful downtown. There are some surrounding areas that have events as well, but we have snow. Actually, the snow is falling in Fayetteville today on this beautiful day. And there's a kid zone, carriage rides, all kinds of food vendors and vendors around the downtown area as well as all of our great stores too. - Hey Carolyn. - how's it going? - Marvelous. - Good to see ya. - [Tammi] Carolyn Denton with the Lincoln Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce says this town of just 7,000 can swell to nearly 20,000 during this three day event. - Just started out with an idea. Someone thought that it would be good to have a festival and got a committee together and they brainstormed on it. Didn't really have a budget or know how it would work out, but 20 years later, we've brought tens of thousands of people into our community and some people have even moved here after they've come for Host of Christmas Past. - [Tammi] Carol Foster is with Fayetteville Main Street. She says it's not just a time to do your Christmas shopping, it's a time for renewing old friendships. - You walk in the streets, you meet people, you see people you haven't seen in a long time. It's like a huge large family reunion and you make new friends. - While all the visitors to Host of Christmas Past come here and get a jump on the Christmas food and fun, it's actually the local charities of Lincoln County that benefit. - Right behind us is Leadership Lincoln. And we sell corn every year. Probably they'll sell a thousand ears of corn. It's a big fundraiser for us. A lot of church groups. I think there's a church group right next to us and a baseball little league. It's a way for all them to earn some good easy money say as far as keeping their operations going from year to year. - [Danielle] Fayetteville Mayor John Underwood loves the fact that the Host of Christmas past takes him on a trip down memory lane. It's almost like a page from a Charles Dickens novel leaps to life as friends greet each other with the tip of a hat. - Bah humbug. - [Danielle] Even Ebenezer Scrooge doesn't miss this gathering. And other holiday heavyweights make appearances as well. Santa Claus never misses this event. - Give a good smile. - [Danielle] Miss Claus doesn't either. - "Santa, remember the letter from Angela?" Said Mrs. Claus. - [Danielle] And what would Christmas be without snow? Even on a 72 degree day, a snowball fight can break out during the Host of Christmas Past. - We just wish for snow and it snows. There's a company that comes in, has big blocks of ice, and they crunch it up and it turns into snow. And it's really fascinating because it is snow. - [Danielle] The festival also focuses on food, from mouthwatering barbecue to beautiful baked goods. But there was one temptation that no one could turn down. - I have a roasted corn ear, it's so good. - [Danielle] Amy O'Neill of Fayetteville says it may not sound like a Christmas time treat, but the grilled goodie is definitely a gift for the taste buds. - I've never seen how they cook it before, but they soak it and then put it on the fire and it's so good. And you got butter all over it dripping off your chin and off it. It's good, good stuff. - [Danielle] Whether eating or watching the Flat Creek dancers, the adults have just as much fun as the kids. Seeing the town of Fayetteville in its festive finest can be done on foot, or riding in the Moo Moo train, or hitching a ride on a horse-drawn carriage. However you choose to experience it, the Host of Christmas Past is one event that is sure to usher in those visions of sugarplums, maybe even before the sun goes down. - Well, that's gonna have to do it for this time. Thanks for watching. And don't forget our website, tennesseecrossroads.org. And there you can download that PBS app. Meanwhile, from all of us at "Crossroads," Merry Christmas and we'll see you next week. - [Announcer] "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. - [Narrator] Discover Tennessee trails and byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at tntrailsandbyways.com.
December 21, 2023
Season 37 | Episode 20
Joe Elmore goes to Pulaski to see what’s cooking at a local favorite, the Hickory House. Laura Faber is off to Smithville to meet a natural born woodworking whiz. Danielle Allen makes a sweet stop in Memphis for critically-acclaimed donuts. And Tammi Arender visits Fayetteville during the Host of Christmas Past celebration.