Photography by John Antaki
For Latasha Jones, going to culinary school was an easy decision. Not only had it been a dream, it was in her blood. She grew up cooking with her grandmother.
As she sits across the table from me, telling me about her journey, I get more and more excited to try her lemonade as she’s clearly passionate about it and Tavaris, her husband, raves about how good it is.
Lemonade has been around for millennia but has truly become a Southern staple as people are constantly trying to come up with ways to beat the summer heat. Using fresh and local ingredients as much as possible, Tasha decided to make her own, but with a twist. Each lemonade features a different fruit added to her perfected recipe.
Though she started with pineapple lemonade, soon she was experimenting with other flavors like strawberry, mango, kiwi, and berries. Each one has it’s own recipe with certain flavors requiring a longer time to absorb the essence of the fruit. Tasha chooses all of the fruit by hand, depending on what’s available seasonally. Her country upbringing shows through in the perfectly Southern half-gallon mason jars she uses, bringing up memories sitting on the front porch, glass in hand.
With a large and supportive family and a standing clientele, she already had people to try her refreshing drink and soon it was her best seller. When she decided to take it to the Augusta Market, she sold out on the first day. Now she can hardly keep up with the orders. Though you can still find her weekly at the market, her goal is to have a food truck someday and she assures me that fruity lemonades will be on the menu.
Having grown up in Texas I’m always a bit nervous to try barbecue in other places. I have no doubt that nostalgia plays a huge part in why people prefer barbecue from their home state or country and I’m always worried I won’t be able to truly appreciate the culture that has influenced the meats and sauces and cooking styles from various locales. The myriad flavors and styles of sauces are one of the main things that make the barbecue of Georgia and the Carolinas stand out. I was particularly excited to sit down with the owners of Georgia Lou’s BBQ Sauce since it’s uniquely Augustan. Being able to sit down with the makers of the sauce, I hoped to be able to give it as objective a review as possible.
Katie Ashley and her dad William Irwin, who refer to themselves as “The Mastermind” and “The Kitchen Help” respectively, started making the sauce for fun as an activity to do together. They began with a basic recipe and continued tweaking it and modifying it until, over a decade later, they had the perfect combination of flavors. They knew they had a winner when friends and family started asking specifically where they could get more of it after trying it at a potluck or receiving it at Christmas.
And after trying it and doing my best to give it as non-biased-Texan-review-as-possible, I must agree, its a winner! Though it is a vinegar-based sauce, it has a complexity of flavors and a secret ingredient that should also appeal to everyone, even if you prefer ketchup/tomato-based sauces or mustard-based sauces. As one of their friends describes it, “The flavor is distinctly Augusta, a funky blend of coolness with enough spice to remind you where you come from.”
Some applications are obvious: mix it into pulled pork, slather it over a brisket, toss short ribs in it before throwing them on the grill. But it can also be used as a marinade for grilled shrimp, drizzled over a baked potato, or used as a dip. The applications are truly endless.
You can find Georgia Lou’s perfectly Southern barbecue sauce at the Augusta Market starting the last weekend in July. Creatively packaged and handmade in small batches, you’ll want to get your hands on a pint (or 10) early in the day. They can also be found on social media and ordered online at georgialousbbq.com. They’re already taking Christmas orders so get them in now! Whether you consider yourself a barbecue snob or a vegetarian, you won’t regret giving this sauce a chance, and that’s high praise coming from a Texan.
Barbecue sauce isn’t just for carnivores anymore. Try Georgia Lou’s on Tofu, fish, and vegetables! Katie, a seafood lover herself, suggests marinating shrimp in Georgia Lou’s before tossing it on the grill for a few minutes. Toss the shrimp in a little extra sauce before serving it over a salad with a cream-based sauce like ranch to tame the spice.
Chef Megan Alig has worked in the food industry since she was 16, waiting tables, bartending, managing restaurants. But in 2014, after some major life changes, she decided to go back to school and go into business for herself. Her aspirations were big but her drive was bigger. A couple of years ago she purchased an old church-turned-kitchen in the Harrisburg neighborhood with the intention of renovating for her purposes as a caterer.
The Harrisburg neighborhood has been the center of a lot of non-profit focus for several years now with organizations like Grow Harrisburg, Icebox Ministries, Augusta Locally Grown, and the Tuesday Farmers Market all working to benefit the local residents and Augusta as a whole. But Creative Cuisine, Megan’s business, has brought the first commercial kitchen to the area. She has a passion for food and serving people and it shows in her drive and work ethic.
Since purchasing the building there have been plenty of bumps in the road as she completely gutted it, turning it into the industrial kitchen she needed it to be to supplement the non-stop influx of catering requests. In addition to the catering for big events and companies like the Golf Channel and NBC Sports (among other celebrity clients) during Masters week and non- stop Christmas parties and events during the holidays, Megan and her team don’t shy away from smaller affairs or volunteering their food and time with non-profits like the National Kidney Foundation and National Heart Association. Her most recent project has been catering 135 people per day as they film Truck Night in America – a History Channel show filmed at Sunnyside ATV in Wrens, GA.
As she shows me around the kitchen, formerly the sanctuary, I’m amazed at how much effort goes into feeding so many people. She sprinkles dill on tiny, individual-sized cucumber sandwiches. The spinach dip she’s preparing is made completely from scratch and melts in the mouth. Even the pesto, dessert sauces, and whipped cream are freshly made and ready to go – none of that ready-whip or canned stuff here. She takes the most basic recipes and puts a new twist on them in such a way that it wows the foodies and comforts the picky eaters, a particularly important skill when catering to large groups. Megan chooses not to have a standard menu either so each client’s menu is made-to-order based on what he or she wants to serve, the size of the party, and what’s available seasonally.
She dreams of someday having her own restaurant and I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself sitting in it in a couple of years. With her vision and ambition combined with the ability to create unique and comforting dishes with skill and ease, Chef Megan Alig is on a path to take her Creative Cuisine to the next level.
Article appears in the August/September 2018 issue of Augusta Magazine.