Longtime Lufkin soul food chef celebrates 55 years on the job

Longtime Lufkin soul food chef celebrates 55 years on the job
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Meet Alice 'Faye' Russ. Inside the kitchen at CHI St. Luke's Hospital in Lufkin she's not at work, but at peace.

"I'm passionate about cooking, and I want it to be right, you know? The menus and everything, it's got to be right," Russ said.

From breakfast to dinner and every snack in between, each meal prepared for the patients at CHI by the Sodexo staff is given the "Faye" seal of approval.

"I can taste something and tell you it's not right. Around here, if anybody wants to know if it's right, all they have to do is call Ms. Faye. And sometimes there's both spoons coming from both sides," Russ said.

Russ' refined pallet has been 55 years in the making.

"The jobs were there, but I wasn't old enough, I didn't have a Social Security card. Once my Social Security card came in, I came to work the next day, and I've been working ever since," Russ said.

That was in 1961. Bright-eyed and eager to learn, the then 18-year-old Russ began on the tray line. But with hard work, determination, and not accepting the word no, she eventually worked her way to executive chef.

"They knew Ms. Faye didn't play. If Ms. Faye says it, you do it," Russ said.

She was a trailblazer in her own right, a black woman in a role likely not created with her in mind. She didn't care.

"I was young. I was in for it. It was a challenge for me to do it. If it could be done, I could do it, I just always felt that way about myself," Russ said.If you take a look around that kitchen, you might see appliances. Russ sees history.

"The day I was standing over this stove when I got the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. And that has been my thought with this stove," Russ said.

Russ, Lufkin legend, has no plans of slowing down.

"When you see me throw up my hands and go out that kitchen door, that's it, that's the way I'll leave it," Russ said.

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