Christine M. Kirzek
After she recovered from a brain aneurysm in 2008, Shawn “Ms. Shay” Jackson’s doctors prescribed a vacation. She headed to Jamaica and immediately fell in love with food. She came back again and again and each time she learned the recipe.
These dishes and Caribbean influences go hand in hand with the homely Southern cooking she learned from her mother and grandmother.
Today, flavors from her Milwaukee roots and travels make up a large part of her menu at Lily Bell’s IS Fine Dining.
She’s as much known for her Tennessee honey cake and caramel cake as she is for her lasagna and fried chicken. She also makes conch, alligator, gumbo, collard she’s greens, buffalo chicken she’s macaroni cheese, Greek salad, and her favorite coccoli.
Jackson, who also caters and private events, works from The Neighborhood Kitchen (8103 W. Tower Ave.), which offers delivery, takeout, and meal prep Wednesdays through Fridays from 11am to 7pm. Her food trucks are in various locations throughout the year. Later this year, Jackson and Lily Bells IS Fine Dining will open a space at Granville Connection, 8633 W. Brown Deer Road. We are currently preparing to open in August. For menus and food truck locations, visit lilybellsisfinedining.com. To order, call (414) 459-1376.
behind that big name
The official official name is Lily Bell’s IS Fine Dining Cuisine LLC. I didn’t know when I did this that having such a long name was the worst thing. We now call it Lily Bells Fine Dining. Lillian is my mother. Bells was my grandmother, Annie Bell Jones…
Mother was from Mississippi. Traveled there most of her childhood and spent summers with her grandmother. We travel south every year and stayed all summer. I learned a lot from Aunt Ruth, who is a very good cook and a nurse. I learned a lot of traditional Southern cooking from my mother, Ruth, and my mother. When you wake up in the morning, you need steak, ham and homemade yeast rolls, not just grits and eggs. I got the yeast rolls and rice (on the menu) from my grandmother. We also learned her oxtail and brussels sprouts. Her Brussels sprouts were very good, but I caramelised mine.
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make a plan and chase your dreams
To do this, I left my career at AT&T. Creating this business was on my bucket list. I want to create a restaurant for people with disabilities. That’s my main goal. …I retired in December. I broke my leg and knee in April. It was terrifying. I roll around in my wheelchair in this kitchen and continue to cook. The struggle was real…
Bought a food truck in 2019. I found it on Facebook, purchased it, and had it up and running by July. I bought a truck that I could drive because my husband had cancer and it was hard to carry. That’s what I’m using now.
Her Family and Food Roots
I was born and raised here. … My mother taught me how to make caramel cake and banana pudding. She told me everything I know, but I put my own twist on it so it’s a little different than her.She passed away in her 2012. In 2009 she returned to the South. While she was cooking I called her and asked her questions. She can’t talk on the phone right now, but she talks while she cooks. “Do you think this is correct?”
find her taste
I traveled That’s how I was affected. I learned my Caribbean cuisine from Jamaica. … For a while he used to travel there three or four times a year at least.
In 2008 I had a brain aneurysm. After I got better, my doctor prescribed a vacation. we went to jamaica I regained my energy. It was a healing process. It was inedible. I couldn’t wash my face. I was healed. I started going back every 3 months. I was a mess I had a stapler on my face and in Jamaica nobody cared. They helped me and showed me how to make octopus, conch fritters and salmon.
What she cooks and why
It’s that simple. Every bite of my food tastes of love. I must love it, I love it, this is really, really good before I serve it. Not just salt and pepper. It’s garlic, peppers and gives flavor. I use a lot of wine and amaretto in my cooking. My food is not bland.
the first thing she learned to make herself
fried chicken. I almost burned down my house! My mother was cooking all the time after work. I was at her house during summer vacation and wanted to surprise her.
make her own banana pudding
I make one with chive wafers, but I also make a scratch version of my banana pudding with cream and sugar. Add strawberries, caramel, chocolate, pecans, and pineapple. It’s called Banana Pudding Delight.
recipes she needs to know
Cocory. Coconut, fresh pineapple, scotch bonnet, amaretto, and coconut curry. It’s a beautiful dish, sometimes called ‘rundown’ when served with fufuya rice. It’s also vegan friendly. Most vegans love it. You can add chicken, salmon, steak or red snapper. It’s a beautiful plate. When I did Pop Restaurant, I served it in pineapple and called it the Cocolily Pineapple Chicken Bowl.
Her cooking is all about seasonings and sauces
People need to know what Lily Bell’s is and how I keep the tradition up to date. My fried chicken isn’t just fried chicken, it’s marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce to give it a deeper flavor.
Also, don’t use regular salt. Use pink Himalayan rock salt. I eat spicy food, but not everything is spicy.
Why her menu is different
First, make the crocodile fillet. Fry the alligator like you would fry fried chicken. Use a lot of Cajun seasoning, but coat it like you would a fried chicken batter. Serve with barbecue sauce.
I have alligator sausage. Marinated in red wine and Cajun seasonings, grilled, sautéed with onions and peppers and breaded with our special mayonnaise. I use Duke’s, but the rest is a secret.It comes with buffalo macaroni and cheese.
Her specialty is making exquisite cakes from scratch.
My mom used to make butter pound cakes and top them with homemade caramel from scratch. That’s how I do it.
Cakes are sold in slices and whole cakes. In my food truck it’s usually sliced. People love caramel cake, but what they really love is Tennessee honey cake. I had people travel from Illinois. They love the spiced rum grass on top. I made it with my daughter. My mother had nothing to do with him.
Planning her own permanent space
Granville Connect, 8500 W. Brown Deer, is scheduled to open in August. I have my own space where I think he has 5 different vendors. Old target building.
I want to know before I go
Between my food truck and kitchen are two different menus. The kitchen has an extensive menu. I always keep my food truck simple with Jerk Nachos, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Wings, Rice, Cocory, Tennessee Honey Cake, Caramel Cake, and my famous Mango Passion Sweet his tee.
The track is filling up pretty quickly this year and we have a lot of events going on. … I He Goes Near TruCannaBliss 85th and Brown Deer. I usually park there on weekends when there are no events. Summer concerts for jazz events at Fondi Market Saturday 9am-2pm and Washington Park Wednesday (6pm-8pm on Wednesdays July 13-August 31) until).
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