Dynamic Duos: P.J. and Brandi Lee

photo by Imani Khayyam/ originally published December 2016

For P.J. and Brandi Lee, managing Hal & Mal’s is a family business. After the loss of Brandi’s father, Hal White, she knew she had to continue the legacy that he and his brother Malcolm started. So she and P.J. dived headfirst into running the restaurant.

Hal & Mal’s is like one big family, P.J. and Brandi say. Their 6-year-old daughter, Rivers, is growing up sitting in the booths and talking to guests, just as Brandi did when she was younger. “This place means so much to both of us,” P.J. says.

Brandi, a Jackson native, and P.J., originally from Vicksburg, met through mutual friends and married in 2007. After almost 10 years of marriage and more than three years of working together, they say they have become a strong team.

P.J. received a bachelor’s degree in English from Mississippi College in 1999, as well as a law degree from MC’s School of Law in 2006. He put his law career on hold to craft his father-in-law’s signature dishes as a chef. Brandi earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Mississippi State University in 2001 and a master’s in physical therapy from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2004. When she is not working a full-time job at a physical therapy-clinic, she organizes events at Hal & Mal’s.

Brandi and P.J. help each other do a little bit of everything. “In this business, it never stops,” Brandi says. They wouldn’t trade what they do for anything, though.

“It isn’t work,” she says. “We have a heart for it.”

“We’re slowly figuring it out,” P.J. says “Every day is a work in progress.”

Though the restaurant isn’t the same without Hal, Brandi and P.J. offer the same hospitality. “Not only does P.J. keep Hal’s recipes alive; we keep the essence of family and being a place where anybody can come,” Brandi says.

P.J. adds that they try to continue Hal’s “spirit of giving.”

The Lees credit the strong support from their staff and the community for their success and why they love what they do.

“It’s made us stronger for sure,” Brandi says.

—Abigail Walker

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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