John 3:16 Mission chef retiring
BY MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
7/27/11 at 3:30 AM
Growing up in rural Mississippi with a bootlegger father, it wasn't hard for Floyd "Pops" Parker to get his hands on some whiskey at an early age.
By the time he was 18 he was a full-blown alcoholic.
After 20 years of working and family life he traded that all in to become a full-time drunk.
"I was tired of my nagging wife, screaming kids and paying taxes. So I went home, packed some clothes and told my old lady I was leaving," he said. "I decided to stay drunk and sleep where I fell."
For the next 20 years he roamed, relying on his cooking skills so he could save up money to "go on a real good drunk."
It was about 10 years ago while he was in El Paso, Texas, that he learned about the John 3:16 Mission and its sobriety program.
"It got to the point that I had to get off alcohol. It was killing me. I'd been drinking for 40 years," he said. "When I decided to do something about it I said 'Lord, I'm turning it over to you because I can't quit and I can't keep going on.'"
And he's been sober since.
"I promised my mom before she died that if I ever quit drinking I wouldn't go back," he said. "It's hard to break a promise like that."
He's been sober 10 years and on Wednesday is retiring as the chef at the John 3:16 Mission.
When he came to the mission he started off as a dish washer and worked his way up.
"I told them I'd do anything as long as it's in the kitchen. I don't like cleaning commodes," he said.
Parker started cooking as a kid, learning from his mother and grandmother.
"I liked cooking because I didn't have to be in the cotton fields. It's much cooler in the kitchen than it is in the cotton patch," he said.
He went on to cook in the Army and then to riverboats on the Mississippi River.
"I've cooked for some of the wealthiest people. I cooked for Jimmy Carter on a riverboat. I've also cooked for the homeless. I enjoy cooking for the homeless more because I know I'm cooking for people who really need it," he said.
Parker said it's important to not just serve food to the homeless, but to serve them good food.
"If you just feed them soup and beans every day then that is the only thing they have to look forward to," he said. "They don't know what they're going to get when they get here but they know it's going to be good."
Steve Dickerson, who will be taking over for Parker as the chef, said he has some big shoes to fill.
"He's got a lot of old-school cook in him. It's good, old recipes that a lot of people like," he said.
Parker cooked his last meal on Tuesday: hot wings, barbecued wings, macaroni and cheese and Normandy-style vegetables. On Wednesday the mission is throwing a celebration in his honor.
"For some reason they believe I deserve this big send- off," he said. "I know they'll miss me and I'll miss them."
GARDEN-STYLE PORK CHOPS
6 to 8 pork chops
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 jar chunky pasta sauce
1. Tenderize pork with meat tenderizer or hammer. Grill until halfway done.
2. To make sauce, cut all vegetables, then saute in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add basil and pasta sauce, and let simmer.
3. Place pork chops in baking pan, and cover with sauce. Cook at 325 degrees until fork tender. Serve with garlic-butter red potatoes and steamed vegetables.
Source: Floyd "Pops" Parker
Mike Averill 918-581-8489
Floyd "Pops" Parker prepares his final lunch for guests of the John 3:16 Mission in Tulsa on Tuesday. Parker, a former alcoholic who became sober about 10 years ago, is retiring from his job at the mission. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World