John Hall's Birmingham pizzeria, Post Office Pies, is a favorite name to drop when describing the city's cultural renaissance. Mentioned in national travel magazines and "best-of" lists for its wood-fired pies, house-made meatballs, and seasonal salads. But Hall will tell you the real credit goes to his mother and grandmother.
As he was growing up, his mother, Marion, a single mom with a full-time job and a shoestring budget, made sure there was always a homecooked weeknight meal on the table for Hall and his two brothers. But he always looked forward to the weekends when he would help flip pancakes on Saturdays and set out soul food spreads on Sundays. "Our family meals were geared around comfort in good times and bad," he says. "That was the thing that made me interested in cooking: Food brought people together and made them happy."