By Jack Glosson
On the surface, Angela Woods may appear as just another house mother at the University of Mississippi. Having embraced the house mother position after her first year as head chef, Woods became a mom away from home for a vast majority of the members and treats them all like one of her own.
With more than 20 years of culinary experience, the self-proclaimed adopted mother of over 200 kids, Woods has been taking care of the members of Sigma Pi for four years while simultaneously owning and operating a rapidly growing business, Ya Ya’s Yummys.
After a couple of years of billing and coding for a doctor’s office throughout Oxford and catering on the weekends, Woods decided it was time to have a job that allowed her to pursue her true passion. She first came into contact with Sigma Pi through their old head chef who was also a vendor at the Midtown Farmers Market. She was then introduced to their chapter director and was hired the following year.
Although responsible for nearly 200 mouths to feed twice daily, Woods has somehow not only managed her company, Ya Ya’s Yummys, but over the past five years the company has done exceedingly well.
“US Foods just picked up my spaghetti sauce and will be selling it nationwide in the spring. I’m also working with PFG (Performance Food Group) and they are talking about doing the same and I am very excited about that,” Woods said.
Specializing in baked goods, various salsas, an assortment of different jellies, jams, preserves, and spaghetti sauce, Ya Ya’s Yummys transformed a simple passion project into a business.
“The first year I did this I was able to buy a very nice-sized little building and we sheet-rocked it and put a commercial stove in there. Since then I slowly bought little pieces,” she said.
Using the commercial size kitchen in Sigma Pi and her own kitchen setup at her other home in the Delta, Woods has been able to work around the clock to help grow her company. As if that wasn’t enough, Woods has continued with her work at the Midtown Farmer’s Market on the Board of Directors as the writer of their weekly emails regarding the types of fresh food customers can be expecting at the market that weekend.
Woods first got into the culinary arts in 1993 after graduating college and began working for a catering company in Mississippi as a side job. After a few parties and some small weddings, the demand began to skyrocket and people started to take notice. Through almost exclusively word of mouth, Woods began to make a name for herself and went from catering a handful of small events to extravagant gatherings with roughly 500-1,000 people.
After a few years in the catering business, an unnamed billionaire from Atlanta caught wind of Woods’ cooking prowess and hired her as his private, in-house chef. An obvious upgrade from preparing her catered meals in her own kitchen, this new opportunity afforded Woods the time and equipment necessary to start developing her own personal line of products.
Through years of trial and error, Woods has tinkered with and evolved her own family recipes into culinary works of art. After several years in Atlanta, Woods moved back to Mississippi to create Ya Ya’s Yummys and turn it into a well-oiled machine that receives orders from California, Texas, and Indiana while featuring only the freshest produce grown exclusively in the state. Although only sold in Mississippi (with the exception of a store in Alexandria, Virginia), Woods said Ya Ya’s Yummies is on the verge of expansion.
Woods could not be happier with the progress her company has made, but she refuses to let it stop at only 21 stores. Her products can be found in the Chickory Market and three other to be determined locations will feature her products at the beginning of the New Year. With the recent success of Ya Ya’s, Woods said she will have to make a few tough decisions as to what her future holds. No matter where her culinary career takes her, she is still adamant she is not leaving Oxford anytime soon.