Columbus woman is first ever winner of Gloria Pepin Memorial Grant

Community News

Columbus Ga. (WRBL) – Shannon Jefferson is the first person to win a grant named for Gloria Pepin, the late wife of world-renowned Chef Jacques Pepin.

The grant award goes towards the start up of her own restaurant business she hopes to launch as soon possible.

“When I opened the envelope, and it had said that I had received the grant,” said Jefferson of winning the award. “And I was just like, wow. And the only thing I could do was just cry because I was so excited, and I was so so so thankful that they chose me; out of I don’t know how many people that applied for the grant. It was an amazing feeling.”

Shannon told WRBL that winning this means “a lot” to her.

“It means everything to actually start my business. I’ve been trying to start my business for so very long, and to actually receive this grant. It’s a start, and I can’t wait to actually get everything rolling, the business up and going. The love and the passion that I have for cooking. I get to share that with each and every person that comes to my restaurant. And I just… I can’t wait.”

Jefferson credits her parents for inspiring her to cook.

“My dad and my mom actually were the most inspiring in my life when it comes to stuff that I wanted to do. My dad was a chef so he did a lot of cooking, and he would actually bring me in the kitchen with him. And say, ‘hey ley me teach you how to cook this.’ I was there every moment. Every time he was in the kitchen.”

She continued on about her mother influence as well

“My mom is a southern type cook. She’d cook three times a day. Every time they were in the kitchen I was always there because I was so excited on what are we going to eat today. So, I was excited to be in the kitchen with them to help them.”

Eventually she became the head chef in the home herself. “At some point I took over. So they didn’t actually have to cook. I was like, ‘I got it today. Let me cook.’”

Jefferson told WRBL that her upbringing grew a love of cooking within Shannon.

“Cooking is something that I grew to love. It’s everything. I would put my own spin on different meals that I was cooking. It’s just cooking that stuck with me. Ever since then I’ve just been cooking. It’s nonstop. I cook everyday. And it’s just like I said before it’s just an indescribable feeling it’s just… it’s everything.”

Shannon says that the Open Door Community House has helped her get to this point.

“When I went through the culinary art program at Open Door. The program taught me life skills. It taught me different cuts of food and it taught me so much.”

Jefferson went on to say that she has learned transferrable skills at Open Door that she will carry in the future.

“Not only teaching you the basics, but it also gives you encouragement and the strength to keep doing what you love to do.

“And that’s what I loved about that class. Everybody that was in that class we all came together as a family and created dishes that we could take back home or take to whatever we decide to do in life. As far as running a restaurant, and just create, and put our own spin on different dishes just create everything.”

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