SEMA WILKES was born in 1907 to Georgia farmers who grew tobacco, cured hams, smoked sausages, and otherwise worked hard to get by. As the oldest of four children, all orphaned, she learned to cook out of necessity. Married at 16, a mother at 21, relocated to Savannah in the name of the war effort at 35, Sema went to work at Mrs. Dixon's Boardinghouse. Three years later, in 1943, she took over the boardinghouse and began building what would become her legacy. She lived in Savannah, Georgia, until her death in 2002.
"Captures the essence of Southern fare." --Restaurant Hospitality "[Mrs. Wilkes' biscuits are] one of the greatest things, ever, to happen in my life." --Craig Claiborne"[At Mrs. Wilkes'] the guests look in amazement as big platters of crisp, fried chicken and plenty of it, are set down on the white oilcloth. Then come feathery biscuits, generous squares of cornbread, tender okra simmered with tomatoes, pickled beets, candied yams, pitchers of sweetened ice tea." --Boston Globe"Certainly down-home food is not news to regulars at such enduring American establishments as Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse in Savannah, where guests sit at community lunch tables and help themselves from ten to twelve bowls and platters of meats, salads, and vegetables." --Time"A meal at Mrs. Wilkes' is reminiscent of dinner at Grandma's." --Esquire