Celestia Mobley, Talk of the Town & Other Experts
As general manager of The Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro, Executive Chef Celestia Mobley has turned what began as the church’s food services ministry into the most successful soul food restaurant in Jacksonville. Now Celeste (as she is affectionately known) shares the secrets her grandmother’s favorite dishes and her passion for food and family at The Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro on Jacksonville’s west side.
Celeste began cooking at the tender age of 8, learning from her maternal grandmother who she watched prepare family dinners with love every Sunday and on every holiday. In 1998, upon leaving a 10 year career in banking that began immediately after high school, Celeste opened Lojope’s Seafood Restaurant, specializing in the Southern favorite garlic crabs & shrimp. When then Pastor Vaughn McLaughlin expressed a desire to expand the church’s food ministry, he spoke to Celeste about cooking at the new Potter’s House Café. In 1999, Celeste sold the seafood restaurant and became head cook at the Potter’s House Café. While working as the head cook, she enrolled in FCCJ’s Culinary School, where she studied under Chef Grigsby and Chef Harold. In addition to her studies, Celeste took advantage of an opportunity to travel to Europe on a culinary tour. Upon her graduation with a degree in Culinary Management in 2002, Celeste left the café for a brief stint to complete an internship at The River Club in the Modis Building in downtown Jacksonville. She later returned to the café as restaurant manager.
The expansion of the café to The Soul Food Bistro in 2007 afforded Celeste the opportunity to expand her menu, as well as demonstrate the skill involved in maintaining the much acclaimed quality of soul food, even when it is prepared in large quantities. The Bistro soon acquired its reputation as the west side’s best kept secret, and soon the who’s who of Jacksonville helped to make Celeste’s restaurant a household name. In addition to being General Manager of The Bistro, Celeste also serves on the board of The American Culinary Federation, through which she also participates in the Chef and Child Program. In July, 2009, Celeste earned the classification of Certified Executive Chef through ACF.