Caterer’s cookin’ inspired by love for Selma

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

On Thursday, Joyce Rylee spent midday over a pair of 100-pound wedding cakes she had baked, tooling with the buttercream icing until the pattern looked like she intended it to.

The butter pound cake with buttercream icing and stringwork flowers sells for $350 and was on its way to a 150-person wedding reception at Sturdivant Hall.

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Joyce’s Catering is located at 811 Mabry St., next door to Sturdivant Hall. Rylee has been in business for herself for nine years and, by her own accord,

“does everything and specializes in weddings.”

Dinners, cocktail parties, baby showers, christenings and engagement parties make up some of the everything she does with her staff of seven.

Betty and Levi Vaner, Laura Ingram, Howard Smith, William Pullham, Jennifer Mills, and Lee Ingram, along with Rylee’s soon-to-be right hand, Angie, set up and service events that Rylee has cooked for.

The building where she does the cooking is also rented out for events.

The front of the house has heart pine floors and antiques in the dining rooms and central hall.

The closed kitchen is home to Rylee’s toolkit: An industrial sink, an Imperial convection oven, two large Kitchen Aid mixers, a Continental refrigerator and stainless steel counters.

Spices and foodstuffs fill shelves in the work area and in the storage area beyond the kitchen. Tables of cakes await decoration in the next room in front of rows of laundered tablecloths.

Rylee sells cakes, cookies and cheese straws out of her snug industrial kitchen, in addition to catering.

Her cheese straws, made with cheddar and cayenne, are sold at $12 for 70.

Her cookies in varieties including honey-raisin walnut, chocolate chip, butter pecan, and white chocolate & macadamia nut (“MMmm-hmmmm,” Angie nods) are sold for $4.95 a dozen.

The cakes vary in price and Rylee makes red velvet, Italian cream, hummingbird, German chocolate and lemon and butter pound cakes.

“People just call,” Rylee said. “And we sell what we’ve got.”

Rylee credits her cooking education to Miriam Bearden, who she worked with for 13 and 1/2 years.

“When she sold her business I went on my own,” Rylee said. “I had to be on my own. My mother helped me start this business. She passed away in August. Hazel Ingram. Good, good woman.”

Rylee and her husband, Harry, have three sons, Tony, Timmy and Noah.

Neighbors have said Rylee comes to work at 4:30 in the morning.

“I come to work now. That’s true. I don’t go home before 6 to 6:30 at night, either,” she said.

“I love the people here in Selma and I love big weddings and I love the people I work with – they’re good, hometown people.”