By Susan Marquez
There is no doubt that when the napkins are dirty, the food is good. At least, that’s how Kayland Partee thinks. “If the food is good at a restaurant, the napkins should be dirty!” That is how the Jackson native came up with the name of his online show that highlights Jackson and Mississippi in a positive way through his love of food.
“I began going to different restaurants when I lived in New Orleans, and that gave me a greater appreciation of good food,” says Partee. “I started taking pictures of the food I ate.” The pandemic lockdown gave Partee time to think about things he would like to do. A professional photographer and videographer by trade, Kayland thought about how he could combine his talents and skills with his love for food. “I also wanted to spotlight the positive places and people in this area. There is so much bad news every day, but at the same time, there are people who are doing great things and I wanted to recognize them.”
The result is a YouTube show called Dirty Napkins. The format is simple. The setting for each show is a different restaurant. The show opens with scenes from the restaurant, and viewers get a good idea of what the specialties are. Food may be served while the guest is introduced. The guest may be a local politician, a musician, a businessperson, or someone else who is doing something interesting. “We don’t shut down the restaurant or find a quiet place away from everything to do the interviews,” Partee says. “We are in the middle of the restaurant, and you hear all the ambient noise. A waiter may pass by from time to time, even refill the water glasses. We want our viewers to feel the real ambiance of the place.”
Dirty Napkins recently wrapped its third season. “We had five episodes the first season, in 2020, followed by 10 episodes in season two and 10 episodes last year in season three,” he says. All episodes were hosted by Jeremy Taylor, with Partee handling the bookings for each show. The show’s production is handled in-house, with Partee in charge of multiple cameras for each shoot, as well as audio and lights.
“I have been fortunate to have talented people around me,” he says. “They make it easy to see the possibilities of where this show can go.” While it’s been shot mostly around the Jackson area, Partee says he’d like to take it statewide. “There are so many good restaurants across the state, and so many people statewide who are doing such positive things. I don’t think we’ll ever run short of good material.”
With a fourth season about to start production, Partee has exciting things in store for viewers. “We have a really big season coming up, and we are looking to diversify," he says. "We have a new host for the Jackson episodes, Chief Anu-Seti Amen-Ra, an entrepreneur with an emphasis on fine cigars.” Partee met Amen-Ra through Oxfam America, and he learned about his cigar rolling skills. “He has a big personality and a curiosity about people that will make him a great host for Dirty Napkins. I am excited to announce that we will have our own Dirty Napkins cigar.” Partee also says that as they look to branch out across the state, Jeremy Taylor will host those shows.
“The response to the first three seasons has been strong,” finishes Partee. “We really hope to grow this into something big, like our own mini food and travel network.” Learn more on the Facebook page or Instagram feed.