Anna Spears loves to spend time in the kitchen cooking for family and friends.
Anna Spears loves to spend time in the kitchen cooking for family and friends.
Cook of the week Anna Spears says spending time in the kitchen cooking has similarities to life in the pageant world. 

The 20-year-old is a 2017 graduate of Neshoba Central High School. She finished 4th overall in her class of 212. While she was in high school, she was the Senior Class President, Bible Club President, soccer player, tennis player and captain, 2017 MHSAA Scholar Athlete of the Year, among many other things. She is currently a rising senior at Ole Miss, being able to skip a classification because of 26 college credit hours she earned in high school. She is part of the Sally McDonald Barksdale Honors College, and the Alpha Delta Psi sorority. She volunteers for spiritual organizations, as a health ambassador, and enjoys interacting with kids in the local community. She has a major in Biology as well as a minor in Chemistry and Spanish. After undergrad, she plans to attend medical school.

“I’ve always wanted to be a neurosurgeon, so hopefully that works out.” Spears said.

She is the daughter of Melanie and Carry Spears and is the youngest of four siblings. Her brother Dylan Spears is 23, her sister Alexis Wilcox is 29 and her oldest sister Megan Sanderson is 32. In total, Anna has six nieces and nephews. She also has two dogs, a Chow Chow named Layla and an Australian Cattle Dog named Kash. In her free time, she likes riding horses.

And if you didn’t think she was busy enough, she is also involved with pageantry. She initially started when she was three years old in children competitions, but her first official one was the Neshoba County Fair Pageant in 2018. She won the interview award and received second place overall for the competition. 

She is currently running for Miss Hospitality, a pageantry competition being held at the Saenger Theater in Hattiesburg, next week. It is the 70th overall competition and it is the 22nd year it has been hosted in Hattiesburg. 

This year’s contest consists of 43 contestants, including Spears. The competition starts off with several interviews with all of the judges and the pageantry panel on Wednesday and Thursday. It measures how much the participant knows about Mississippi, her hometown and ways to develop the state economically in part through tourism.

“I love to talk about things that I care about, and people that I care about,” she said. “I also think getting to represent Neshoba County is really just icing on the cake.”

The Winner of Miss Hospitality will serve as the state’s official ambassador for economic development and tourism for a full year. But no matter where she places, being able to be a part of this competition is an award in and of itself for Spears. 

“I hope to inspire others through promoting our state that what really matters here is you and me. It’s the people that makes Mississippi the hospitality state.” Spears explained. “I know that Jesus’s perfect plan will prevail and that is why I’ll be happy regardless of the outcome.”

Aside from all her humanitarian efforts, something else Anna is really passionate about is cooking. She learned her skills from her mother and grandmother. She loves to cook their recipes, like her grandmother’s fried apple pie, and her mom’s Mexican Chicken and Mexican Corn Dip. 

“I absolutely love cooking,” she said. “I think it is so fun.”

Growing up, she also had a lot of gardening experience. Her grandparents and father had a garden they tended to around the fall and even during the Neshoba County Fair. Her family has grown strawberries, watermelon, sunflowers, corn and countless other things, so she knows her way around a garden. 

But as Anna has learned, pageantry has a lot in common with like gardening and cooking, like the work ethic and practice needed to do it. 

“Pageantry does not develop overnight. It takes practice, it takes effort,” she said. “It’s the same way as cooking. It takes preparation, it takes time, you don’t just develop that skill overnight. You really have to work at it, put in hours and hours of effort to make that perfect corn dip or whatever it is that you’re cooking.”

Along with thanking her family for their support, Anna Spears would also like to give a shout out to her pageantry director Laura Bailey. She has not only been a great mentor and guide when it comes to pageantry, but also when it comes to what she wants to pursue into adulthood; medicine.
“My director is incredible, and she has really pushed me to do my very best,” she said. 

For her choices in recipes, there’s no surprises here. She stuck to family favorites, including fried apple pie, butter mints, and Mexican chicken casserole.

Fried Apple Pies


- 1 pack dried apples

- Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits

- 2 cups sugar


- Put apples in boiler and cover with water. Let set for 2 hours. (do not turn on stove)

- Cook apples till all water is cooked out or for 1 1/2 hours.

- Add 2 cups of sugar and cook on low for 15 more minutes.

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

- Roll out 1 biscuit at a time and place 1 tablespoon of apples inside.

- Fold in half, pressing down the ends.

- Take a 1 1/2 inch pan and fill it up 1/2 inch full of cooking oil.

- Place plan in oven for 5 minutes or until oil is hot.

- Put pies in pan and place in oven.

- Flip pies when one side is brown to brown the other side.

- When both sides are brown, remove pies and place them on paper towels.

Butter Mints


- 1 box of Confectioners Sugar

- 1/2 stick of Margarine
- 2 tablespoons of Pet Milk

- 2 drops of mint coloring


- Sift sugar in a bowl

- melt margarine in microwave for 10 seconds in a separate bowl

- Mix margarine, sugar, pet milk, and coloring into one bowl.

- mix until creamy and it is the color you desire.

- press into your desired mint mold to form a variety of mints such as Christmas trees,

flowers, angels, pineapples, etc.

Mexican Chicken Casserole

- 4 boneless chicken breasts

- 1 can of Rotel tomatoes

- 1lb of Velveeta cheese

- 1 can of cream of chicken soup

- 1 bag of nacho cheese Doritos



- Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- Boil chicken breast till done

- In an 8 by 9 casserole dish, place half a bag of Doritos in the bottom (set aside)

- drain and shred the chicken (save chicken broth)

- Cut Velveeta in cubes and put into double boiler

- melt cheese till creamy then stir in can of cream of chicken soup, drained can of Rotel

tomatoes, and 5 ounces of chicken broth (5/8 cups)

- When it is mixed well, stir in your shredded chicken

- Pour your mixture over the Doritos in the casserole dish; spread out evenly

- Spread the remaining Doritos on top of casserole mixture.

- Place in preheated oven for 10 mins or until Doritos become lightly browned.

- Serve with refried beans and Spanish rice.