The Untold Truth Of Kardea Brown

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If you watch TV you know about the Food Network, and if you know about the Food Network you will have undoubtedly heard of Kardea Brown. Host of the immensely popular "Delicious Miss Brown," Brown has been a welcome presence on many screens thanks to her natural flair for entertainment, evident skill in the kitchen, and impassioned celebration of her culture (via Southern Living). With Brown signing a new deal with Food Network in 2021, according to The Wrap, and featuring every more frequently on multiple other cooking programs, her future is looking very bright indeed.

As with nearly all celebrity chefs, Brown's rise to prominence did not come easy and her untraditional route into the culinary industry made it all the more difficult. Yet, Brown is nothing if not resilient. Fueled by the drive to educate others about her Gullah heritage, Brown has burst onto the scene exposing people across the United States to both a new way of cooking and a community rich with history. Per Garden & Gun, alongside other prominent Gullah food celebrities, Brown aims to not only protect Gullah cuisine but to uplift it until the cuisine receives the recognition it deserves.

Kardea Brown is immensely proud of her Gullah heritage

As reported by Garden & Gun, Kardea Brown grew up in South Carolina, splitting her time between Charleston and her grandmother's house located on Wadmalaw, one of The Sea Islands. This area of the world was first inhabited by the Cusabo, a group of Indigenous peoples (per Luxury Simplified). However, due to colonization and the transatlantic slave trade, the area eventually became the home of a distinct ethnic group, the Gullah. According to Yale University, the Gullah are known for having preserved a vast amount of African cultural heritage, and cooking has long been one of the vehicles through which their traditions are preserved, per Southern Living.

As a Gullah woman, Brown has been immeasurably shaped by the culture she grew up in, and her culture has formed an integral part of her career. The pride she takes in her Gullah roots is evident to all those who tune into her Food Network show "Delicious Miss Brown" in which she celebrates a host of Gullah and Southern dishes. Sharing this aspect of her life with viewers is something Brown treasures, as she explained to Garden & Gun: "We [the Gullah] preserved as much of our culture as possible. The language, the people, the land, the landscape — where else can you find that in America? It's really near and dear to my heart to be able to film in my hometown and to show the world what I grew up seeing."

She did not go to culinary school

Despite cooking always having a special place in her heart, Kardea Brown did not initially commit herself to the kitchen. Instead, she studied psychology at college before working in social services (per Amsterdam News). However, it wasn't long until the pull of the kitchen became too strong to resist and Brown found herself pursuing jobs in the culinary field.

Of course, in this day and age, a degree from a culinary school is not a prerequisite for gastronomic jobs, be they in professional kitchens or in front of cameras. Indeed, two of the Food Network's biggest stars Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray have carved incredibly successful careers in food media without having a formal culinary education. Of course, knowledge, passion, and a proficient skill level are all required for any budding TV chef. Fortunately, Brown had developed all three during her childhood in the Lowcountry, where she learned from the matriarchs in her family. "I learned the basics of cooking from my grandmother, but my mother was always the entertainer. She loved having her friends over for dinner. She always had big lavish birthday parties where she did all of the cooking, so I think that's where I got the idea of cooking for entertainment, and cooking for friends and family" (via Garden & Gun).

She wasn't hired by Food Network after her initial audition

As reported by Southern Living, Kardea Brown's career in food media was kickstarted by her then-boyfriend, who sent a tape of Brown to the Food Network which led her to be invited to audition for a pilot. While the producers loved her enthusiasm, personality, and unique point of view, they had some reservations about her cooking and implored her to spend some time polishing up her skills.

While Brown went away to practice her cooking, the Food Network kept in touch. During the time between her initial pilot audition and the filming of "Delicious Miss Brown," Brown kept extremely busy, practicing her cooking while also cutting her reality TV teeth through appearances in a number of the Food Network's programs, including the immensely popular "Beat Bobby Flay" (via Garden & Gun). Finally, four long years after her first audition with Food Network, "Delicious Miss Brown" premiered to a national audience, cementing Brown's place as a celebrity chef and inviting the whole country to learn more about the places and people she is so passionate about, according to Real Screen.

Kardea Brown launched a supper club to hone her cookery skills

When Kardea Brown was told to sharpen her culinary skills by the powers that be at the Food Network, she was initially undecided on how to do so. But Brown knew herself well enough to focus on a few key passions she had nurtured throughout her life, allowing the rest of her plan to grow organically around them. As she explained to Garden & Gun, "I like to travel. I like to cook. What if I just do some type of traveling dinner party? But what could set me apart? Well, the food that I cook is different. You can't find it everywhere unless you come to Charleston to eat it, so why not take Charleston to other places?"

The result was the New Gullah Supper Club, a traveling dining experience that showcased both Gullah and Geechee — a term which refers to the Islanders of Georgia — dishes alongside other aspects of the two cultures. Unsurprisingly, the club was a hit with customers applauding her bold use of flavors and delicious recreations of Southern classic dishes, spreads, and condiments such as pimento cheese (per Q City Metro).

Her program Delicious Miss Brown has been a huge success

After clearly demonstrating both her own culinary skills, and the mass appeal of Gullah cuisine, Kardea Brown was rewarded with her very own Food Network show built around the premise of exploring both Brown's and the Lowcountry's culinary culture, according to Cuisine Noir Magazine. Since its premiere in 2019, "Delicious Miss Brown" has been another impressive Food Network success, drawing in — on average — over one million viewers per episode (via Charleston Magazine). While TV programs live and die by viewership numbers, "Delicious Miss Brown" is also deemed a success for other reasons, most notably its celebration of Gullah society and the spotlight it shines on the United States' history of colonization and slavery, as reported by Southern Living's Priya Krishna.

"Delicious Miss Brown" is going from strength to strength with Brown signing a new two-year deal with Food Network in 2021, according to The Wrap. Courtney White — who was then president of the Food Network — highlighted the impact Brown and her show had on Food Network's viewership: "Kardea quickly became a rising star when she joined Food Network in 2019. Her food and storytelling really resonate with our audience, and we look forward to delivering more of her unique culinary voice in the future" (via Niagara Frontier Publications).

Kardea Brown and other American chefs are ensuring Gullah food traditions survive

A key aspect of both Kardea Brown and her show "Delicious Miss Brown," is that they focus on protecting and uplifting Gullah culture through its food traditions. In committing herself to this endeavor, Brown is in good company, following in the footsteps of Gullah food icons such as Martha Lou Gadsden (via The New York Times). Her contemporaries include BJ Dennis, a Gullah chef who is behind the menu at the International African American Museum in Charleston, according to The Post and Courier.

Brown does not take her prominence lightly, a fact she made abundantly clear to Charleston City Paper: "Food Network gave me this platform. You hear a lot about Charleston but you never see the deeper insight of the cuisine ... to have the opportunity to showcase the Gullah influence, it's an amazing feeling." Highlighting Gullah culture and the tendrils of slavery in which its history is intertwined has not always been easy, a fact she made apparent in an interview with Priya Krishna for Southern Living. However, Brown is determined to create change from within the Food Network and recent seasons have seen her exploring this aspect of Gullah and American culture with increasing frequency.

Her family frequently features on Delicious Miss Brown

While the title "Delicious Miss Brown" refers to host Kardea Brown, the program itself relies on many other members of the Brown family. The program frequently features her Aunt TC and her mother on episodes such as "Miss Brown's Birthday!" (via Instagram). The inclusion of her family throughout is a key facet of the program, a fact that should come as little surprise when Brown credits them for many of the recipes she cooks. Brown's family are the people who taught her to cook and the inspiration behind many of her current culinary endeavors. This extremely close link between food and family is something Brown treasures greatly. "My food is a representation of me and my heritage. We don't have written recipes in my family. Much of these recipes are passed down by word of mouth/storytelling. Recipes are my family heirlooms. It's the fabric of my family" (via FoodSided).

Sharing the fabric of her family with the world is what makes creating "Delicious Miss Brown" such a privilege for Brown. As reported by Southern Living, Brown hopes that through creating this informative and engaging TV she can not only teach others about the wonderful part of the world that shaped her family but inspire them to visit it as well "I hope to bridge the gap between what people know of Charleston and what is actually represented here. I want people to come here and go to the Sea Islands."

She loves the lowcountry

Although she now spends a lot of her time in Atlanta, South Carolina's Lowcountry still holds a special place in Kardea Brown's heart. Charleston is the largest city in those parts and has carved out a name for itself as one of the best food cities in the country. Of course, Brown is aware of this fact, stating to Southern Living, "Being away from Charleston for periods of time made me appreciate where I'm from and the richness of the city — you know, the food, the culture. Just the serenity of being here is what I love most."

Brown has a few familiar haunts around Charleston which she is always quick to recommend, but there is one spot that she seems to rate above all others. Ella and Ollie's on Edisto Island — one of the aforementioned Sea Islands — is an eatery that celebrates classic Southern and Gullah cuisine and is best known for its incredibly fresh seafood (per The Post and Courier). However, South Carolina's coast and especially the Sea Islands are facing a multitude of risks, most notably in the form of climate change, decreased fish stocks, and increased tourism, according to NPR. These are issues that Brown and other Gullah chefs such as Sallie Ann Robinson are trying to raise awareness of, and ultimately resolve, reports the BBC.

Kardea Brown has featured on a number of other programs

As with just about every other Food Network star, Kardea Brown has featured across a wide range of programs, both as a host and a judge. Recently this has included a position as a judge on one of the Food Network's most popular programs, "Spring Baking Championship" (per FoodSided). Despite the popularity of this progam, the most exciting new gig Brown has landed is undoubtedly being announced as the host for a new show, "The Great Soul Food Cook Off".

Released via the Oprah Winfrey Network and Discovery, "The Great Soul Food Cook Off" celebrates Black chefs, culture, and cuisine like never before as stated by the president of the network, Tina Perry "This series is a celebration of long-standing traditions we hope to introduce and spotlight for new and existing viewers as we shine a light on a few of today's most talented Black chefs and culinary curators." (per FoodSided). Regular judges on the show include ex-"Top Chef" finalist Eric Adjepong and Harlem's own Melba Wilson.

She is releasing her first cookbook

With multiple programs on the go, plans to restart her New Gullah Supper Club, and her own private life to maintain, it is a wonder that Kardea Brown finds the time to do anything other than sleep. Somehow, from somewhere Brown has managed to carve out the time to write her very first cookbook, which is titled "The Way Home: A Celebration of Sea Islands Food and Family." The book, which will be released in October of 2022 (per Essence), will — as the name suggests — focus on Gullah cuisine through 125 recipes (via Amazon).

In a press release, Brown highlighted the important message behind the book "Gullah people laid the foundation for Southern cooking. Before farm-to-table was a fad, it was what Gullah people did. I want to show the world that soul food is not monolithic. It's so much more than fried chicken and vegetables cooked in pork. It's seasonal, fresh, and delicious!" (via Essence). If "Delicious Miss Brown" is anything to go by, Brown's family history will also saturate the book's pages, transforming it from a simple cookbook into an accessible, fun, and informative cornerstone of Gullah culture.

She has used her cooking to raise money for charity

In her previous role as a social worker, Kardea Brown went to work with the intention of making the world a better place. Now, as a prominent celebrity, Brown is doing the same, using her fame and platform for good. Not only has she achieved this by raising awareness of overlooked communities and creating the space for discussions on the intersection between food and slavery, but also by raising money for worthy causes. The most prominent example of this comes via a collaboration with Rao's, a sauce manufacturer known for hearty pasta sauces. As part of Rao's #Sauce4Cause campaign, Brown created a Lowcountry-inspired take on arancini, using a Gullah favorite, red rice, in place of the usual plain rice or leftover risotto (per Essence).

Brown has even managed to incorporate fundraising into her show "Delicious Miss Brown". As stated by Apple TV, Season 4, Episode 11 "Hutchinson House Dinner" featured Brown cooking a traditional Southern dinner with money raised going towards the restoration of Hutchison House. This building was constructed in 1885, making it the oldest African American residency in Edisto (per SC Picture Project), and a relic definitely worth protecting.

Kardea Brown is a celebrity spokesperson for The Mushroom Council

Aside from raising awareness of social causes, Kardea Brown is also on a mission to help the public eat better and healthier. One such way she achieves this is through the Food Network's partnership with The Mushroom Council, an organization that seeks to promote the sale and consumption of mushrooms grown in the United States (per The Mushroom Council). Together Brown, Food Network, and The Mushroom Council are advocating for The Blend, a technique in which finely chopped mushrooms are mixed in with ground beef to cut down meat consumption, according to Blue Book Services.

As a celebrity spokesperson for The Mushroom Council, Brown has released a number of recipes based on The Blend, including Southern-style burgers (via Facebook). The involvement of Brown and the Food Network has provided a huge boost for The Mushroom Council, as stated by the company's director of operations, Sonya Beltran. "All told, the Food Network campaign is estimated to reach more than 90 million impressions this year, keeping mushrooms top of mind and bringing us closer to making The Blend the default choice for burger lovers" (per The Mushroom Council).