‘The Great Soul Food Cook-Off’ is a Kitchen Lituation

You Know the Kitchen is Lit if they Talkin’ Smack

Jamarius Banks as seen on The Great Soul Food Cook-Off, Season 1

Listen, I know some of you folks love some QUALITY cooking competition shows. Some of you love you that good baking competition that will have you buying vanilla paste in bulk. Some of you enjoy good ol’ fashioned kitchen rage (I’m not judging you, just saying you deserve better.) Then there’s some who want a little bit of everything. Well, let me introduce you to something you been waiting for: The Great Soul Food Cook-Off on Discovery+. It got your classic shit talking, instigating, immaculate plates, legendary judges, and celebration of a beautiful cuisine. When I talk about how food competitions be trying to dilute soul food into “rustic”, “simple” and “unrefined” I be wanting to cuss them out. Soul Food comes in many variations. It’s wonderful, inventive, and has a rich history. It confuses me when people downplay it. This show presents flowers to your shrimp n’ grits and gives a standing ovation to your granny’s pound cake.

The Great Soul Food Cook-Off is that energy you need to start your year off right. We have Miss Melba Wilson (Owner of the Legendary restaurant Melba’s in New York City), Eric Adjepong (a personal favorite finalist from Top Chef, and a chef whose specialty lies in West African Cuisine), as well as many guest judges and an invigorating host, Kardea Brown. This show gives you Black people living their best chef life, creating dishes based off various challenges that touch on the history and importance of Soul Food. As a Chef Dorian and Chef Chris fan when I saw that they would be entering the arena, every Saturday night I pulled up a delicious plate then proceeded to scream and snap at my television.

Give Me That Black Joy

Judges Melba Wilson, Eric Adjepong, and Tanya Holland with host Kardea Brown, as seen on The Great Soul Food Cook-Off, Season 1.

Through this show, I got to learn about soul food chefs that I wish I knew about before. Each chef had a different approach to soul food, whether it was simplicity and preservation or innovation and pushing boundaries, each person’s vision was valid and supported in the show. The Great Soul Food Cook-Off pushed forward flavor and appreciated presentation. Many cooking shows would demean food where the presentation didn’t seem “proper” in their eyes. Presentation was a story of themselves instead of a vehicle to prove they’re capable of “fine dining.”

The Great Soul Food Cook-Off touches on the colonization of the kitchen through stories of the chefs. Being Black in the culinary world is still challenging despite Black folks’ historical inspiration behind great dishes we know and love. We get to hear stories of overcoming odds that goes beyond “we grew up in a poor family, and now I’m using my skill to hopefully bring us out.” There are so many cooking-competitions that try to idolize the come-up story. The “cream of the crop” where they need to prove their worth. The Great Soul Food Cook-Off already recognizes the worth of the competitors, because they’re not competing for a white audience. The competitors know their skill, instead what they’re fighting for is specific to them. They’re not heralded as a representation of a race but as a representation of their own narrative and goals.

Take Heed, Take Example

Dorian Hunter as seen on The Great Soul Food Cook-Off, Season 1 on Discovery+

Cooking competitions need to take an example from The Great Soul Food Cook-Off, because it gives flowers to being yourself. There hasn’t been an episode where I wasn’t engaged. I want people to see this show and imagine what a respectful cooking show looks like. Something that brings critique and doesn’t question the worth of someone who doesn’t fit in a box in their head. Appreciate the specialty in others and what makes them different. The Great Soul Food Cook-Off brings infectious Black joy, delicious food, and inspirational stories reflective to your own. Shows like this are important because it doesn’t force representation, it celebrates it in all of its forms. The Great Soul Food Cook-Off in its entirety is streaming on Discovery+ now!

Cover Image via rottentomatoes.com

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  • Khadjiah Johnson is a Caribbean-American writer and humor advocate who uses poetry and comedy as a leverage to empathize and uplift. Her work has taken her to Madison Square Garden, Lincoln Center, Apollo Theater, BET, Off-Broadway and many more! She hopes to use her talents to sway her way into the writers room for a Late Night Comedy Show.

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