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dishing it up down-home style
by Shaila Creekmore; photography by Amy Long

Friends Sonia McMiller and Tashawanda Whitfield are bringing “down-home cooking” back to a Jonesboro location established in the 1960s with the opening of Gourmet Diva Deliveries.

Opened as Mrs. G’s Deli, the restaurant space on South Culberhouse has changed hands many times over the years with a Mexican restaurant occupying the location last before it sat empty for several months. The space was perfect for the pair who needed a location that required little start-up costs.

“We were looking for something that was already restaurant equipped,” said Whitfield. “Something we could afford.”

McMiller and Whitfield, along with their families, spent two
months cleaning, painting and doing maintenance on the building to
get it ready to open. Since opening on May 6, they have been pleased
with the location and feel apart of the surrounding neighborhood.

“It’s away from everything and everyone. We don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle of the city. Now sometimes we have to give directions . . .,” said Whitfield. “We have neighbors come in a lot or call for deliveries. They say to us all the time that they hope we stay and they like having us here. I would kind of like to just buy this little piece of property and just stay here forever.” McMiller and Whitfield first began talking about opening a business while working on the lines at Nestle.

“I just always stayed to myself out there, I didn’t pay much
attention to anyone, but she just kept talking to me and I decided
that I guess she wasn’t going to leave me alone and I might as well
get to know her,” said Whitfield.

The two became fast friends and discovered they both enjoyed throwing parties. Although Whitfield doesn’t consider herself much of a cook, McMiller has been cooking most of her life.“I’ve always wanted a restaurant. I’ve been cooking since I was six-years-old,” said McMiller.

“She’s kind of made me appreciate the art of cooking more,” said Whitfield. “The joys of watching someone eat something for the first time, knowing it’s going to taste good. I like watching people enjoy their food.”

Initially, the pair decided to begin a business making deliveries to the factories. McMiller and Whitfield prepared burgers and home cooked meals in Whitfield’s home kitchen to take to the factories. “I wanted to start cooking and delivering to the factories.

When you’ve worked in a factory, you know how hard it is to get a good home cooked meal,” said McMiller.

After five months, they knew they had something to offer to the rest of Jonesboro.

“We already had established customers before opening,” said Whitfield. “They were showing us support by sharing our Facebook page and telling others about us.”

Whitfield handles all of the social media advertising and publicity for Gourmet Diva Deliveries and posts their specials each day. Currently they have more than 1,700 likes on their Facebook page.“We use it for our specials, to show our food – the appearance of it – to see what our customers like and don’t like. It’s a real innovative way to communicate with our customers,” said McMiller.

Whitfield also sets up all of the special events catering, deliveries and pick-up orders and works the front each day while McMiller spends her days in the kitchen preparing each meal.“I’m excited to be partnered with her because it’s such a good collaboration,” said McMiller.

Gourmet Diva Deliveries caters for all types of events including weddings, parties, office meetings and private dinners.

“We can plan it down to the T for you,” said Whitfield. “You give us your ideas and your budget and we’ll make it happen for you.” For families, Gourmet Diva Deliveries offers family meals prepared each day for pickup or delivery.

“If you call the day before and tell us what you want for dinner, the next night we’ll have it ready for you,” said Whitfield.

For the holidays, they are offering a full-meal service with whole hams and turkeys, sides and desserts for pick up the week of Christmas. Orders must be placed by Dec. 19.

“We didn’t put a meal together, we want you to be able to pick the items you want,” said Whitfield. “Call and tell us what you would like and we will set the price for you based on what you are ordering. The more you buy, we will adjust the price accordingly.”

Delivering continues to be a big part of Gourmet Diva Deliveries business since the opening of their restaurant location. They will deliver to anywhere in Jonesboro with the order of one complete meal. Deliveries can include items from their everyday menu or their daily special.

“We’ve been to parts of Jonesboro delivering I didn’t even know existed,” said Whitfield. “Some days we might have two deliveries all day and some days we’ll have 10 plates to one place and 10 more somewhere else that same day. Rainy days are higher and I think now that it’s getting colder, the deliveries will be higher.”

Burgers are a specialty of Gourmet Diva Deliveries with a single and double burger as well as specialty burgers including stuffed spinach, stuffed cheddar bacon, Swiss mushroom, and a barbecue burger. The menu also includes a hand-breaded or grilled chicken sandwich, wings, chicken salad and turkey club served with homemade fries or chips. The daily menu also includes a chicken
breast stuffed with a medley of cheese and spinach wrapped in smoked bacon served with a fully loaded baked potato.

Each day, McMiller creates a different plate lunch for customers with items like a Philly cheese steak sandwich, chicken parmesan, nachos and fajitas, spaghetti, chicken fried steak, chicken and waffles, fried catfish plates, fried chicken and a variety of other items.

“People expect us to do soul food, but to me home cooking is a lot of things; there is Italian home cooking, there is Chinese home cooking,” said McMiller. “I want a variety. It gets old when you have the same things each week. I like to keep it open and to keep the creativity in it – the fun in it.”

“It’s our version of it,” said Whitfield. “It’s not what you would get somewhere else – it’s diva-fied.”

McMiller and Whitfield have been pleased with the response from patrons since their opening and have enjoyed getting to know their customers.

“I’m not surprised (that business has been good), but I am appreciative, I’m humbled by it,” said McMiller.

“I love the customers,” said Whitfield. “We came in with the expectation that this was going to work because she offers good food and I offer good service. I treat them how I want to be treated in a restaurant. I realize they don’t have to eat here with all of the places we have in Jonesboro, so I think appreciation is the best word for it.”

Gourmet Diva Deliveries, 2301 S. Culberhouse, is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. with catering available on the weekends. For more information, call 934-1744 or view their Facebook page at facebook.com/Gourmetdivadeliveries.