Artist Spotlight: Gayla Hooten

If you like Caskey's Facebook page, you've probably seen the mouthwatering off-menu Wednesday specials. If you don't like Caskey's, you need to get on that stat. Like, stop reading this, go like the page, and then come back to finish reading. You'll probably be wishing it was Wednesday when you're done. 

 Gayla and husband Mitchell, photo from Facebook

Gayla and husband Mitchell, photo from Facebook

Gayla Hooten is owner and the brilliant chef at Caskey's off Fry Street, and she is serving up plates of home-cooked handmade goodness that you can't find anywhere else in town. You better believe it sells out by early afternoon too. Last week she thought 56 pounds of beef and 30 pounds of potatoes, which would make plenty of pot roast — plus the side options of carrots, onions, and potatoes or mashed potatoes — would make it through to the dinner crowd, but by 3:00 p.m. there wasn't anything left. If that doesn't get your mouth watering, she also does a brisket, served with a homemade potato salad, baked beans, and from-scratch banana pudding. If you're really lucky, you might catch them on a Wednesday when they have her famous chicken and dumplings, chicken spaghetti, or the meatloaf that comes with green beans, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and a roll. 

The only daughter in a family with three sons, who has now raised four kids, Hooten's grandma inspired her to cook, and it's always been a joy in her life to share food with others. “My cooking reminds me of Grandma: nothing ever changed, Grandma was always the same,” says Hooten — no recipe needed; she has everything committed to her memory and her heart. “For me, it's a way of expressing love, and every year the kids picked their own birthday dinner, and it was whatever they wanted.” The tradition continues with her now grown-up kids and their friends making request for their Mama Gayla's favorites.

Hooten was born and raised in Denton, as were all four of her kids. At their previous house in south Denton, she always had an extra plate ready at the table for one of her kids' friends, and all those kiddos have now grown up and become staples in the Denton community. In her heart, those are all still her kids, and to them, she will always be Mama Gayla.

"I've been eating Mama Gayla's cooking since I was a kid. That chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes though, omg!! It is and has always been food for my soul! " - Corey Bobbitt

"Gayla has been feeding me for about 17 years! While all her food is great. When I hear her say she is making soup or stew I get food porn excited!" - Chris Beasley

"She is an amazing woman with a heart of gold and the best mother in law around. My favorite is her delicious pan fried chicken." - John Williams

A jack of all trades, Hooten is also part owner of Rip Rocks, Antebellum Ale House in Weatherford, and the soon-to-open North Side Remedy off the square in Weatherford as well. 

She sits on the board for Michael's Memories, a charity that send firefighters with cancer on all-expenses-paid trips with a loved one once chemo is complete; a consultant to the Board for Cumberland's Children Hospital; and President of the Mud Bug Boil. The Mud Bug Boil will happen on Saturday, May 6, with 4,000 tons of mud bugs ready to be eaten. The event has raised $250,000 for Denton charities and, like Gayla, shows no signs of stopping.

Follow Caskey's on Facebook and come hungry, 'cause these servings are no joke. These off-menu specials are available only on Wednesdays until they sell out. Not only is their food amazing (you can read about it here), but they have cheap drinks, a knowledgeable bar staff, and the nicest bathrooms on Fry Street.

Header image design by Christopher Rodgers
Photo courtesy of Gayla Hooten