Hawkins wrap up 42-year career cooking for NMHS

Jul. 2—TUPELO — Across four decades, cook Beverly Hawkins has fed multitudes from North Mississippi Medical Center.

She retired from North Mississippi Health Services' Central Kitchen on June 10 after 42 years cooking for patients.

"I just love to cook," Hawkins said. "You give me a recipe, and I'm going to do my best."

Her coworkers, who nicknamed her "Rev" for her ability to preach about cooking and faith, say the kitchen won't be the same without her.

"Her cooking is the heart of Central Kitchen," said senior lead Matasha Gates.

Hawkins, who graduated from Shannon High School, came to NMMC in 1979. When she started, she worked in the kitchen at the main unit of the Tupelo hospital, preparing meals for patients.

When the hospital system switched to a centralized kitchen, they began to use a cook chill method, so they could provide food for facilities across North Mississippi Health Services. The scale has increased tremendously. Hawkins routinely worked with kilns that could hold 40, 50 and 100 gallons.

"We used to cook day-by-day," Hawkins said. "Now we cook for weeks at a time."

Over the years, Hawkins had a hand in nearly every dish that came out of the Central Kitchen. Before her retirement, her primary focus was preparing the soups and sauces, including vegetable, chicken noodle, chicken and rice, clam chowder, corn chowder and chili.

Spending all day cooking at work didn't dampen her enthusiasm for home-cooking. Feeding a large, extended family is one of Hawkins' joys. Her family's favorite meal is fried chicken with greens.

Her three children followed her lead. Her daughter, Ashley Gates, is a certified nursing assistant at NMMC-Tupelo. Her sons, Reginald Watkins and Clifton Gates, cook professionally.

As she begins her retirement, Hawkins plans to relax for about two months and enjoy her family. But she knows she will be back in the kitchen, cooking for large groups.

Hawkins has been married to Edward Hawkins for 19 years; they live in Verona. She has three children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.