John Stokes, Lauren Stokes, Jake Sessums

John Stokes, Lauren Stokes, Jake Sessums

About Us

Chef John Stokes

John Stokes has a cooking style that fits no mold. A native Oxonian by birth, he is classically trained in both French and Italian styles. Stokes is influenced by Old World cooking, Southern classics, and the idea that the best way to get to know someone is to break bread with them. He hopes to show everyone who he is and what he loves most in the world by communicating through the food.

It was in college where this fly-fisherman, chef, gentleman of the South, and lover of all things bucolic, found his true calling. Since, John has experience cooking all over the country - from Dallas, Nashville, Alaska, back to Mississippi. Highlighting the varied produce of the South through simple, straightforward preparation is the backbone behind Tarasque. Currently Stokes enjoys re-building his 1986 Land Cruiser, hanging out with his wife and their dogs, and renovating their 1840's home in Water Valley.

Lauren Stokes

Since childhood, Lauren has wanted to be a restaurant owner. At 10, she started a grilled cheese business at the local fair with family-made bread and a lot of heart. Lauren and John are the awesome husband-wife team behind Tarasque, with John serving up the dishes and Lauren with the social media outreach and front of house management. Come visit and you will be greeted by Lauren and made to feel right at home!

Jake Sessums

You will recognize Jake if you've caught the YoknapaTaco Truck serving Mexican dishes all around Oxford. Jake has been in the hospitality business for 15 years, from LA to NY and now back to MS. At Tarasque, he is the publicity manager. Mobilizing Oxford's food scene, Jake is a town icon. Catch him at Ole Miss sporting events and follow him around the city on Twitter at @Yoknapataco and Instagram at Yoknapataco_Ox.

About the Name

French folklore tells of Saint Martha, the Patron Saint of Cooks, and her taming of the wild beast known as the Tarasque. The dragon had caused great destruction to the small villages he terrorized and the people fought back, but to no avail. Saint Martha had a different tactic, though. Using grace and charm alone, she overcame the dragon.

"It's the parable that I love so much, showing that through honest grace you can make anything happen - even take the beast. Plus, Saint Martha has watched over me for 21 years now, and that means a lot to me."    -- John