Kevin Mobley grew up in South Boston, Virginia, eating macaroni and cheese made by his great-grandmother. Anna Bell lived and gardened on a couple acres of land and got milk from her own cow. He cooked with her but never wrote the recipe down. “Over the past 20-plus years, as an adult, I spent time re-creating that recipe exactly the way that it was,” says Mobley, who runs a tech company by day. Like Anna Bell, he uses English cheddar. Mobley sources milk from Working Cows Dairy in Alabama and organic wheat pasta from Italy. (“The way wheat is processed there is much closer to her time,” he says.) In 2018, when he finally nailed it, he founded Anna Bell’s Mac and Cheese. He began selling his product—rich, with just the right amount of tanginess—at Peachtree Road Farmers Market and now offers it online as well as at local retailers like Floral Park Market.
In 2020, Hyatt hotels launched a program to support local businesses struggling during the pandemic, and Mobley got the opportunity to work out of the Hyatt Regency’s kitchen downtown—which felt like a full-circle moment. Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved chef, James Hemings, created a version of mac and cheese that helped popularize the dish; now, Mobley, a Black entrepreneur, is making his great-grandmother’s recipe in the building known as the “Hotel of Hope” because it allowed leaders of the civil rights movements to gather there. “I give a lot of credit to my great-grandmother,” says Mobley. “I just think that she’s actively working in our business and that my job is just to be the hands, to be there, to do what she’s asking me to do.”
This article appears in our January 2023 issue.