August 08, 2019 

By Lapacazo Sandoval 

Contributing Writer 

 

The Food Network was founded on April 19, 1993, as “TV Food Network” and for a very long time, most of the food hosts were White men. There were early attempts at diversity by the network which included Down Home with the Neelys and Big Daddy’s house with host Aaron McCargo, Jr. but for the most part, The Food Network is populated by White hosts.

 

There is a toxic myth that African Americans have not contributed to the culinary landscape of this country that they built. For example, red peas are from rich African soil. It’s documented that Slave owners sent back and got seeds for what the slaves were used to eating in Africa, because they weren't used to the food in America. In short, that meant what the slaves could plant for themselves. The existence of okra in America began in West Africa and is a popular ingredient in slowly stewed meat dishes, which are also from Africa. Our food—American food—is an important symbol and a historical roadmap for our journey from the African Motherland to what is now called the United States of America.

 

Even gumbo, which is the signature dish of New Orleans is an adaption of a Senegalese soupy stew that enslaved African cooks prepared in plantation kitchens for both themselves and their owners.

 

African Americans have shaped everything in this country, despite the White slave owners doing their best to make people believe otherwise. They wanted African Americans silent, forgotten, but our food still speaks.

 

In Kardea Brown’s new show “Delicious Miss Brown,” which debuted on the Food Network, Sunday, July 29th, she celebrates contemporary Gullah cuisine. Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, her passion for cooking began in her grandmother’s kitchen, where she learned to make traditional dishes from the Gullah/Geechee people of which she is a descended.

 

Gullah/Geechee is a term used to describe a distinct group of African Americans living in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia who have managed to preserve much of their West African language, culture, and cuisine. Chef Brown never viewed her home cooking as nothing more than a hobby. Instead, she studied Psy­chology at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA, and worked in social services for many years. 

 

In 2013, Brown moved to New Jersey to continue her education in Psychology. A year later, she found herself taping a pilot and her television career took off. She has since appeared on Food Network’s “Farmhouse Rules,” “BBQ Blitz,” “Chopped Junior,” “Beach Bites,” “Beat Bobby Flay,” “Cooks vs Cons” and “Family Food Showdown.” Kardea also created The New Gullah Supper Club, where the menu pays homage to the dishes her grandmother and mother passed down to her. Now with her brand-new show “Delicious Ms. Brown,” she’s expanding her mission to spread love through food and tell a unique story one dish at a time.

 

Here is an edited phone conversation with Chef Kardea, host of “CupCake Championship” and her new show “Delicious Miss Brown”:

 

L.A. Watts Times: You are on two Food Network television shows: ‘Cupcake Championship’ as the host and now, with your very own new show ‘Delicious Miss Brown.’ How did that happen, chef? There was a time when it was hard to find a Black person with a show on the Food Network.

 

Kardea Brown: (laughing) That’s true. I fell into a pilot for the Food Network.

 

I’ve always loved cooking. I come from a family of cooks but I did it as a hobby. I went to school for psychology and I worked in social services for the majority of my career after I graduated from college. Although the pilot didn’t get picked up by the Food Network the producers and Food Network executives saw something in me and asked if I had thought about a career in food television; I had not. I never thought of cooking as a career thing. So, after being on set and cooking it felt right. It gave me that push to change my career and do what I love to do, which is cooking.

 

LAWT: That’s impressive. In the beginning, the network was filled with mostly white men—come on—I’m speaking the truth. I use to DVR all the shows because I love to cook but it bothered me that us, African, African American and Latinos were absent. If we can’t cook who can? Thoughts on the truth I just shared? 

 

KB: You know I recently had someone reach out to me. A Black woman and her daughter and they told me how much they were looking forward to seeing someone that looked like them on the Food Network that represented our culture. The comment that they left under my picture [social media] said: It’s a feeling of joy to see someone that looks like me and for my daughter to see someone that looks like her. That means so much to me growing up. I was a fan of the Food Network and what I remember ‘Down Home with the Neelys.’ I think now the Food Network is moving in a more positive direction in diversifying their talent and I feel honored that I’m a part of that change, as well. 

 

LAWT: So am I. Specifically what makes your show ‘Delicious Miss Brown’ different? 

 

KB: In my show, I’m cooking from my Gullah/Geechee background. That’s different. In my show, I not only want to show people of color, but also to show a part of the world you don’t hear about which is the Gullah/Geechee people.

 

LAWT: What makes this type of cuisine special?

 

KB: The Gullah/Geechee re­tained so much of our language and our culture in our food and our storytelling. That makes our community unique. The show does encompass the Southern culture in general, of which the Gullah people are part. You will hear our accents from my mother and my grandmother and you will hear the stories as well. We will also highlight the type of ingredients that we cook with and that will be highlighted throughout the show.

 

LAWT: I’ve never had crab mac & cheese? I’d like to, it sounds delicious.

 

KB: (laughing) It will change your life. In the show, I use freshly picked crab from my backyard. It’s so fun to see how I get the crab and shrimp used in my show are caught; fresh, it’s very much farm to table. 

 

LAWT: Are you a producer on your new show?

 

KB: I believe that I’m written in as producer on the show. I have a lot of input. All the recipes are mine.

 

LAWT: Do you also plan a cookbook after season one?

 

KB: (laughing) There is a cookbook in the mix. I’m looking forward to writing my very first [cook] book. It will be based on the recipes used on the show. It will be low cooking and Gullah cuisine.

 

LAWT: I’m proud of you Kardea Brown. Chef, did you ever think of yourself as an author?

 

KB: No, but I always said that my life story was very interesting and if I had an opportunity I would love to write a book or a cookbook. So, an autobiography and a cookbook.

 

LAWT: What are three recipes from the show that any level cook can make?

 

KB: My aunties Lemon Soda bunt cake. It’s the first cake that I learned to bake. It has a lemon-lime glaze. The second one from the show would be fried shrimp and my mother’s homemade steak fries.

 

LAWT: What makes the homemade steak fries special?

 

KB: Because the same batter that we used [to fry] for the shrimp we used for the steak fries.

 

LAWT: Yummy. Nice.

 

KB: (laughing) Yes, it’s delicious Mrs. Brown. The third one that is home cook-friendly is Blackberry Hand pie.

 

LAWT: Did you say Blackberry Hand pie?

 

KB: It’s a portable pie, just big enough to fit your hand.

 

LAWT: So tiny, that can’t possibly be packed with calories, wink-wink. Let’s talk about health and the Black community for a second, please. Do you address that in your show?

 

KB: We don’t make direct references to that but a lot of my recipes are very simple. I don’t use a lot of salt or seasoning salt. They are very fresh. I find a way to balance. Weight has always been a struggle for myself and my family. Southern people, we like our food. I found a happy medium with my recipes.

 

LAWT: Last words about your new Food Network show — ‘Delicious Miss Brown.’

 

KB: Expect the unexpected.

 

Delicious Miss Brown debuted on The Food Network, Sunday, July 28, 2019. To learn more go to https://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/delicious-miss-brown

Category: Arts & Culture


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