Joey Thompson’s first food service experience was in a community convenience store near his childhood home in Ingomar, Miss. He was only 13, so it was mostly cutting meat and making sandwiches, but on the occasional busy Saturday, he would man the fryer. Thompson worked there for seven years before stumbling into an opportunity to work in the kitchen at Pizza Grocery in Corinth, the city that is now home base for him and his business, Moondog Makers and Bakers.
“I walked in and asked if they were hiring. They asked if I had cooking experience and I said yes, which wasn’t entirely true,” he said. “That was how it all began.”
Thompson worked his way through the ranks at Pizza Grocery after training under Chef Andy Lipford.
“I remember being amazed at how he could come up with a special off the top of his head,” he said. “I wanted to be able to do that.”
The Pizza Grocery is still his full-time gig, but he needed a break from the pizza and pastas, so he started canning and jarring fruits and vegetables with unique flavor combinations that he sold at the Green Market alongside his nephew, Payton Harvell, and a few friends—Ryan Winter, Zack Grier and Andrew Groves. A year later, Thompson and company started selling pies and vending food, straight from Coleman stoves and cast iron skillets.
These days, MoonDog is still vending at the Green Market, setting up pop-up shops at local spaces like the Franklin Courtyard and the Flying Pig Craft Beer Market and even catering weddings. Their mission: flavor—in their food and in the community. They are serving dishes like bacon wrapped filets with sweet soy quinoa, fried cabbage and sweet pepper salad in disposable containers and drinks like hibiscus sweet tea.
Thompson admits that the kind of spirited cuisine Moondog is known for takes a lot of hard work, but is just as fun. For him, the best part is creating the menu. He is partial to tex-mex, southern and italian flavors. In Moondog’s ever-changing offerings, you will find them all, as well as a strong presence of locally grown ingredients. His pièce de résistance is Moondust, a spice blend that, according to the Moondog himself, “tastes good on literally everything.”
Thompson is constantly drawing inspiration from other chefs in the farm-to-table business, Instagram and the old-school cookbook. His wife, Kaylin, will tell you that even on their beach vacations, he’s browsing cookbooks instead of magazines or murder mysteries. His all-time favorite is A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen by Hugh Acheson.
So, what is a Moondog? In this context, it is a nickname given to a little cotton-top tike who liked to imitate a couple WWF wrestlers with shaggy blond hair and frayed denim cut-offs who carried animal bones into the ring. The boy has grown up, but the nickname remains in-tact.
Thompson toyed with many names, like Joey’s Pies, before settling on Moondog Makers and Bakers. Inspiration struck in the middle of the night, as it often does for him. By the time Kaylin woke the next morning, he had already set up an email address.
“Moondog” is equally familiar and mysterious, much like Thompson’s elevated Southern fare. It brings to mind a lone wolf doing his own thing. He has had opportunities to take his concept elsewhere, where its popularity has been proven, but Thompson is in Corinth for the long-haul.
“My heart is definitely in Corinth,” he said.
His affection appears to be reciprocated by the small town residents, who are eager for something new, exciting and distinctly local. Thompson hopes to have a storefront in the future, but for now, he’s content creating community and good food wherever he can.