A chef who takes his craft seriously? Most do, but some go above and beyond. Like Troy Woodson. “I am the soup Nazi,” he says, referring to his penchant for perfect preparation – and referencing a popular Seinfeld character. As High Noon Cafe’s head chef for the last four months, Woodson is bringing discipline to the kitchen and an awareness for Rainbow Co-Op’s restaurant.
Growing up in Charlottesville, Virginia, Woodson was inspired by his grandmother’s cooking and his family’s “menu for the week” style of planning. As a young man, his first job was in a Jamaican restaurant and then to Southern Culture and Oxo, where he learned in the classical French tradition under Chef John Haywood. But he’s not riding anyone’s apron strings to get by. No, Woodson says his passion for a healthy life is what directs his style at High Noon. “I wanted to make a change in myself,” he said after declaring a disdain against corporate eating and fast food. “And I like what Rainbow represents. I’ve practiced that but couldn’t find it all in one place.” That is until he came to Jackson.
Moving here three years ago to work for Sodexo as a food and beverage manager, Woodson calls his style “more traditional” with an emphasis on comfort foods. He brought basics back into the High Noon kitchen and his award-winning chili. “Yes, it’s a secret recipe,” he says with a mischievous chuckle. And when it comes to his recipes, he says he is a perfectionist. “I take pride in what I do. It’s all about everything, not a little.”
Woodson believes the food scene in Jackson is still growing and he’s excited about what’s happening downtown. “I’m intrigued by Parlor Market,” he says. “They buy bread from us and that triggers me to check them out.” He also tells us he’s looking for someone to really wow him. “I want something flared up for our generation’s palettes.”
As for his own efforts to impress, Woodson is ready for cooler weather to really break out his favorites: soups. “I don’t think I’ve done a bad one since I’ve been here,” he declares. And for anyone afraid of a vegetarian meal, he says to give it a try. “You’d be shocked. We’ve done a lot here as far as dishes that traditionally contain meat. We make vegetarian taste good.” Woodson says having the state’s medical hub just across the road doesn’t hurt either in pushing a cleaner way of living. “We get a lot of hospital people in here, staff and patients, who are looking to do better.” And, he says, he sees all walks of life come through High Noon and Rainbow. “It’s a big change from where I’m from. There’s more diversity in our customers. They’re health conscious.”
For the only co-op restaurant still remaining in the nation, Woodson says there’s not enough recognition. “I like what we do and I support what we do,” he says. “No one is dedicated like us. That’s why he’s excited to be a part of the Greening Fondren Workshop at Fondren Hall. “It’ll be a great experience for people who may not come in to High Noon to try our food there. Even if you are against vegetarian food, you wouldn’t know it (by taste) that this food is. I’m excited about the opportunity.”