October Foodie: Twinkle VanWinkle

Star Power: Drummer, journalist, roller-skating cook—Twinkle VanWinkle’s résumé is as unexpected as her moniker.
Twinkle VanWinkle has a lot of great stories. But the Mississippi native tells them in such a humble Southern manner that she can be three sentences into a riveting tale before you realize she’s moved on from the last doozy. Like her time on the road as a drummer, sharing fine bourbon with the likes of Southern rock legend Jim “Dandy” Mangrum. Or her professional debut, as the dishwasher in a Mexican restaurant. When the guy manning the quesadilla station didn’t show up for work, she got the gig permanently, doing her job in a pair of roller skates. Or when she was a pastry chef, made a free-form apple pie on a whim since a new cook had sliced too many apples, and landed on The Food Network, then The Oprah Winfrey Show. So VanWinkle and her sister drove 13 hours to Chicago in February, heat off and coats on, to keep the pies cold.

After stepping away long enough to get a master’s degree in journalism and do some food writing, she’s back in the restaurant biz, running the kitchen at Wildwood Market. That means coming up with a new sandwich every day of the week—Wildwood’s never done one twice. VanWinkle’s favorite so far? Fried mortadella, asparagus, truffle mayo, cheese, and a fried egg on Texas toast. “We post the sandwiches on Instagram around 10:45 a.m.,” she says, adding that she can predict how well the day’s pick will sell based on likes, comments, and “phone calls asking us to save one.”

One of VanWinkle’s favorite things? Scratch-made biscuits from an old family recipe, which you can find here.