Local Folks: Fitz Pullins

Local Folks: Fitz Pullins
Steve Williams and Fitz Pullins, credit Jesse Brantman

When not designing the interiors of homes and commercial environments throughout Jacksonville or directing fashion spreads for magazines and national cosmetics brands, “I love entertaining and cooking,” said seven-year Avondale resident Fitz Pullins.

Pullins takes pride in the cooking skills he acquired from his mother and from his paternal grandmother while growing up in East Arlington. They were “big on tradition” and southern food was their specialty, comfort food a must. Whether Mac and cheese or pot roast or loaded baked potatoes, Pullins remembers that his family always sat down together for dinner, and the meal was always thought out ahead of time, even the dessert. He liked being in the kitchen with his grandma when she baked. “I was always looking to lick the bowl,” he said.

Ever creative, Pullins takes what he learned back then and puts his own spin on it. When he and his husband, Steve Williams, have gatherings at their home, “I go all out,” Pullins said. He, like the women before him, plans everything in advance, from the menu to the place settings. Who’s coming and for what occasion dictate what he will serve and how it will be displayed. “That’s how I express my love,” he said.

Table setting by Fitz Pullins
Table setting by Fitz Pullins

One regret of Pullins is that he has no China place settings from his grandmother. Sometimes, he’ll pick up a vintage piece at an antique store for his collection. “I’m still learning about all of that,” he said. But he actually prefers a more modern look when he’s hosting.

Pullins does more stovetop cooking than anything else. He does oven cooking as well but not as often. He loves picking out random recipes to try. Sometimes, he pulls out  his mom’s salmon recipe. His latest experiments have been with Italian dishes from Stanley Tucci’s cookbook. Pullins said he’s had a 70% success rate with those so far. “I like to follow instructions. I take pride in what I learned from my mom and my grandmother, but I also like to explore and try new things,” he said. 

Pullins was brave enough to admit that he has had a few cooking mishaps. One in particular involved twice seasoning a beef tenderloin for a party of eight. “I don’t like anyone else in the kitchen when I’m cooking. I get distracted very easily,” he said. He mistakenly thought that he could talk to guests and cook their meal at the same time. But he knows now that he can’t. “It was super salty,” Pullins said, and it became necessary to “cut off all the edges” so they could eat the interior of the meat. “We made the best of it because everyone was starving by that point,” he said. He simply apologized, and the dinner party went on. He knew it was better to announce it first rather than be called out on it. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Pullins cites his proudest cooking moment as pre-COVID Thanksgiving dinner for 25 people. “It took two days, but I did it!” he said.

Pullins enjoys taking care of the people he loves, and one extraordinary way he does that is through food, just like his mom and grandma had done for him. But his cooking is not only about others. He considers cooking therapeutic for himself, too. “It centers me, and it makes me reflect,” he said. Maybe that’s why he prefers to cook alone.

But Pullins believes that a community is stronger when people work together. That sentiment prevails in his home as well. As is the case with most couples, there’s a clear division of duties in the kitchen in order to make the communal breaking of bread a success. Pullins does all the prep work ahead of mealtime. Afterwards, his husband is left with the cleanup. “That’s the deal,” Pullins said.

By Mary Wanser
Resident Community News

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