Born in Hong Kong and raised in Cleveland, Mississippi, Wally led the culinary revolution in the Mid-South starting in 1989 manning the kitchen at his family’s restaurant KC’s. But his culinary education began as a child growing up in the rural Mississippi Delta, where he was exposed to the “roots” of food.
His parents were avid gardeners. His father hatched free-range chickens, duck, squab, pheasant, guinea fowl and quail. His mother and grandmother taught him at a young age to butcher and clean these birds for the family meals. Fishing was a family activity on most weekends. As a result, he knows what pure and unadulterated food tastes like.
Wally studied banking and finance at the University of Mississippi but was ultimately drawn back to a career in the kitchen during extensive travels in the US, Puerto Rico and South America during breaks from college. He graduated in 1987 and returned to his family’s business and began to formulate his very personal culinary style.
“It’s really quite simple, there is no magic involved in my cooking,” he says. “My food is not fusion as practiced by many chefs. I insist on using the absolute best products available and do as little as possible to them, allowing each component of a dish to maintain its integrity and identity. When you start with high standards, you don’t have to rely on a lot of ‘razzle-dazzle’ to impress the guests. The food will speak for itself”.
As Chef de Cuisine at KC’s, his attention to detail and obsessive quest for quality garnered rave reviews from every major newspaper in the area. KC’s is the only AAA 4-Diamond Award winning restaurant in the state of Mississippi.
In November of 1994, Wally became the first chef from the state of Mississippi to be invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City. Wally has been featured in Food Arts, Southern Living, Bon Appétit, Esquire, Indulge, USA Today and Chef. He is one of 20 chefs featured in the Discovery Channel series, “Great Chefs of the South.” KC’s and the Joe family were featured on the CBS series Sunday Morning and Wally was featured on NBC’s Today Show. In 2003, Wally was selected after a wide search as one of the four host chefs on Turner South’s Off the Menu.
In 2002, he opened the now defunct WALLY JOE RESTAURANT in Memphis with numerous accolades, including 4 Stars from The Commercial Appeal.