Feeding The Soul
Besheka Harris Shares her Passion for Food and Faith
Besheka Harris is on a mission. Her goal is to feed the needy, body and soul.
She comes from a restaurant family. Her family owned a restaurant in which she worked, then she went into the catering business, worked for a country club, and finally, Harris returned home, where she started a non-profit.
Right now, the self-employed creator of gastronomic delights is working out of MS Kick, the Southern University of Shreveport’s Milam Street Kitchen Incubator and Community Kitchen. MS Kick was profiled in 318 Forum in September 2019 (bit.ly/ MSKick).
There are four commercial stations in the incubator that are fully equipped with ovens, refrigerators and everything you would expect in a commercial kitchen. The entrepreneurs who use the facility pay a nominal fee each month and book slots to reserve the facility’s use.
“It’s a passion. I love doing what I do,” Harris said. “I love seeing people getting pleasure and joy out of eating or enjoying something that I have produced. Or God has given me the talent to produce. Everyone gets hungry. Everyone wants to eat. I feed everyone like I want to be fed, whether it be spiritually or physically.” She said another of her passions is feeding the homeless and less fortunate.
“One of our family’s mantras is: If you want to reach a person’s soul, you must first reach their belly. How can a person focus on the words or the message that you have to bring if their mind is focusing on the need that they have? And a lot of times, it’s hunger. So, you feed the body so you can feed the soul,” according to Harris.
Harris describes herself as a lover of seafood. Raised between Shreveport and New Orleans, her “auntie” taught her the mysteries of Cajun cuisine. “She taught me how to prepare gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, hen and dressing. My uncle, who used to cook for the Navy, his thing was smothered meatballs. Oh, that fills me with happiness. Just the fact that I get to share that.”
Before the pandemic struck, Harris’ business was flourishing; she was booked six months in advance. Once the virus hit, many of her clients were forced to cancel. Harris refunded their non-refundable deposits.
“Nobody can help that it was a pandemic that landed. That’s the big house that landed on the Wicked Witch,” she said. “I put myself in people’s shoes, so we refunded the ones who wanted to cancel. The pandemic was our opportunity to go on vacation.”
But her rest was short-lived. She got a call that faced her with a decision. “I had to think, stay on vacay or go back to work. So many people are not working and want to be working. I’m going to go to work. I love to feed people, so let me go to work.”
Cooking brings Harris a special, shareable joy. She particularly enjoys producing the incubator’s community Grab and Go bags. They prepare meals for three or four days and hand them out to the passing cars, which line up for them and the homeless or indigent who come to the incubator. Harris said the lines are often long, but the recipients are grateful.
“I love hearing them say, ‘Whatcha cooking today, big girl? Oh, you’re cooking gumbo today. Ah, we’re gonna eat good today.’ So, I love that. That drives me. Some say, ‘God bless you.’ Some want to say a quick prayer for you. I love that.”
Folks in the neighborhood have come to recognize when Harris is at work at MS Kick. “Even some mornings now, they will come and knock on the door. They say I know the truck out there, and I know it was you, and I know you’ll feed me. And I’ll say, you don’t want a couple of dollars? And they’ll say, no, you keep the money, give me the food.”
Harris said the grant money that previously funded the Grab and Go effort has run out, but she still sees a need to be filled. “I said, ‘Look, y’all, we can’t wait on grant money. We’re going to have to bug-tussle and make a move.’” If you’d like to bug-tussle, too, you can contact Harris at www.facebook. com/SHEBIGGWORLD. Make sure you use two Gs.