Georgia cooks on ‘Great Soul Meals Prepare dinner-Off’

Versie Dortch

“Soul foodstuff, for me, is anything.”

So begins the initially episode of “The Wonderful Soul Foods Prepare dinner-Off,” a new cooking competitiveness on discovery+. In this 6-episode collection, 8 Black cooks from all around the state deal with off in difficulties designed to emphasize the previous and current of soul foodstuff. The winner usually takes household $50,000 — and, of system, bragging legal rights.

The display is generated by Great Egg Entertainment, the organization powering Foodstuff Network’s “Chopped,” and is overseen by the Oprah Winfrey Network.

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“The Excellent Soul Food Prepare dinner-Off,” a cooking competitiveness series celebrating Black cooks and culinary traditions, debuts Nov. 20 on discovery+. Courtesy of discovery+

Credit rating: Handout

Credit score: Handout

The host is Southern chef and Food stuff Network star Kardea Brown, who is joined just about every week by “Top Chef” alum Eric Adjepong and celebrated Harlem restaurateur Melba Wilson as judges. Other nicely-acknowledged Black culinarians who make appearances on the judging panel involve Alexander Smalls and Kwame Onwuachi, each James Beard Award-successful cooks and authors. Michael W. Twitty, writer of “The Cooking Gene,” serves as culinary historian and expert for the collection.

With half of the contestants residing in bigger metro Atlanta, there is lots of explanation for neighborhood citizens to tune in to the hourlong premiere Nov. 20 new episodes will debut every single Saturday by way of Dec. 18.

Though none of these nearby cooks could spill the beans about the remaining result, they had been pleased to chat by using Zoom about the journeys that introduced them to this higher-profile phase, and their pleasure over a series that celebrates Black cooks and the roots of a single of America’s oldest cuisines.

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Razia Sabour got her start catering for Tyler Perry Studios, and now is competing on the first season of "The Great Soul Food Cook-Off." Courtesy of Jeffrey Bliss

Razia Sabour acquired her start out catering for Tyler Perry Studios, and now is competing on the very first time of “The Fantastic Soul Food stuff Cook-Off.” Courtesy of Jeffrey Bliss

Credit history: Jeffrey Bliss

Credit rating: Jeffrey Bliss

Razia Sabour

Sixteen years ago, Razia Sabour was working in Washington as a social employee. Marriage brought her to Atlanta, and motherhood prompted her to research for a profession a lot more conducive to family members life. She observed a future in foodstuff vans, but, as before long as her truck was completely ready to roll, things out of the blue took a detour. Her partner secured a catering gig for her: feed 75 persons on a established at Tyler Perry Studios — the future working day.

“I explained to him, ‘I never know the initial thing about catering!’” Sabour recounted.

“You have to. I now informed them you can do it,” he replied.

Before the meal experienced ended, the expertise manager experienced knowledgeable Sabour that they would be needing lunch and dinner for 75 folks for the future 5 months. “I did it,” she said. “I fell into catering.”

In the 10 many years given that then, Sabour, 40, and her Fuller Foods have created a title as go-to caterer for Atlanta’s film and Tv industry.

She is not new to Television cooking competitions, but sights this 1 as special. “I have been on (Food Network’s) ‘Cutthroat Kitchen,’ geared all over generating a idiot of you,” Sabour said. “This exhibit was offered to me as some thing deeper. It was about showcasing soul food items. In the food world, soul foodstuff is seemed at as the unappealing girl. She’s not unappealing at all. I preferred to showcase her, pretty on the plate, since soul food stuff deserves that, as significantly as any other cuisine.”

Although Sabour shares delight with fellow cast users in “showcasing our roots as Black persons,” she also expert a particular victory as a result of her participation on the clearly show. “I’m not a velocity person,” she stated. “It taught me speedily to find out to operate underneath stress. I could not give up. You have to put a thing on a plate.”

Jamarius Banks, who lives in East Atlanta Village, is one of the competitors on "The Great Soul Food Cook-Off." Courtesy of Jeffrey Bliss

Jamarius Banks, who lives in East Atlanta Village, is 1 of the competition on “The Fantastic Soul Food items Prepare dinner-Off.” Courtesy of Jeffrey Bliss

Credit history: Jeffrey Bliss

Credit rating: Jeffrey Bliss

Jamarius Financial institutions

“Atlanta to the core” is how Jamarius Financial institutions describes himself. His grandmother grew up in Summerhill, his mom in Decatur.

Financial institutions, who resides in East Atlanta Village, has childhood recollections of feeding on at Fast paced Bee Cafe, Paschal’s and Rib Shack on Auburn Avenue when his spouse and children wanted to sup on Southern fare.

Immediately after graduating from Ronald McNair Superior School in 2011, he attended the Artwork Institute of Atlanta. Now a non-public chef, he has flexed his culinary muscle groups on Tv multiple periods. In 2015, he served as sous chef to Ed Harris Jr. on “International Iron Chef,” where by the latter was declared champion. Banking companies also was showcased on “Beat Bobby Flay” in 2019 (his recipe for Creole shrimp and grits is printed in Flay’s new cookbook bearing the show’s identify). But, taking part in “The Great Soul Food stuff Cook-Off” held specific this means for him.

“It showcased my heritage,” stated Banking companies, who turns 29 on Nov. 17. “As a younger African American coming up in the industry, I would observe the Cooking Channel. There was not significantly African American presence on these exhibits. It is just these days you are getting more African American cooks having to showcase their talent.”

While he applies his French education to Southern cooking, these kinds of as when building bechamel sauce for mac and cheese, Banking institutions mentioned that, when it will come to soul foodstuff dishes, he does not want to “get away from what I grew up taking in.”

Yet, he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. “I can be an African American chef and make definitely superior French food,” he mentioned.

Dorian Hunter's victory on “MasterChef” Season 10 catapulted her into the national spotlight in 2019. She's competing on "The Great Soul Food Cook-Off." Courtesy of Jeffrey Bliss

Dorian Hunter’s victory on “MasterChef” Season 10 catapulted her into the countrywide highlight in 2019. She’s competing on “The Terrific Soul Foods Prepare dinner-Off.” Courtesy of Jeffrey Bliss

Credit: Jeffrey Bliss

Credit rating: Jeffrey Bliss

Dorian Hunter

Dorian Hunter, 47, has been on the culinary scene skillfully for just five many years, yet her victory on “MasterChef” Year 10 catapulted her into the national highlight in 2019. Her acquire marked a few of firsts in the show’s historical past: its 1st Black woman winner and its oldest winner.

“It opened doorways,” claimed Hunter, who life in Cartersville. “It’s been everyday living-modifying, not only for me, but my total family members. I have a whole lot of body weight, currently being an more mature African American feminine seeking to get into this African American house.”

Hunter explained that participating in “The Excellent Soul Foods Prepare dinner-Off” was so overwhelming that she went into treatment. “I struggle with self confidence,” she admitted.

Her want to take part in the collection outweighed her fears. “People who cook dinner like me, seem like me, have gotten accolades … it exhibits off this stunning matter we appreciate to do, which is cook soul foodstuff, and distinctive views on what soul foodstuff is. I required to be in a room to see what those people variances are.”

Hunter described her approach to the cuisine as “elevated soul.”

“I test to make soul foodstuff beautiful, use the greatest elements I can, and exhibit respect,” she stated, “but I even now want you to truly feel like you’re at your grandma’s residence.”

Though the winner will generate cred for tasty ways with soul food stuff, Hunter eschews that label. “I prepare dinner nearly anything. I’m not a one-trick pony,” she stated.

Fred Fluellen, seen on "The Great Soul Food Cook-Off," began his culinary career at the now defunct Spice Market at the W Atlanta Midtown hotel. Courtesy of Jeffrey Bliss

Fred Fluellen, found on “The Terrific Soul Foodstuff Cook-Off,” commenced his culinary career at the now defunct Spice Current market at the W Atlanta Midtown hotel. Courtesy of Jeffrey Bliss

Credit score: Jeffrey Bliss

Credit history: Jeffrey Bliss

Fred Fluellen

When he enrolled in Ga State University in 2007, Fred Fluellen prepared to pursue a diploma in authentic estate or finance. But, soon after he understood he was not “a money dude,” Fluellen switched to a hospitality keep track of and has not appeared back.

The 32-year-old Texas native started his culinary occupation at the now defunct Spice Market place at the W Atlanta Midtown hotel. He has opened Steak ‘n Shake units around the place, managed Pappasito’s Cantina in Marietta and labored in food stuff and beverage functions at numerous stadiums in Atlanta. At present, he’s the chef-operator of catering firm Fluversity.

Fluellen strategies cooking with an eye towards innovation. “Take it out of its classic aspect,” he claimed, citing collard environmentally friendly egg rolls as an case in point of how he likes to “flip” a dish whose ingredients hail from a soul food items pantry.

Far better recognised as Chef Flu, he appeared on Foodstuff Network’s “Cooks vs. Cons” Season 2, Episode 3, in 2016 (and won the competitiveness with his shrimp and grits), but he calls it an honor to be chosen for a soul food-focused throwdown. “To be acknowledged out of the 8 men and women — hey, I am section of this soul foods motion. My food items is now staying showcased to the planet,” he explained.

And, he normally takes delight that Atlanta is properly-represented, with 50 percent the cast of the exhibit. “Atlanta — we’re the coronary heart of soul food stuff. One particular of us has to provide it house.”

“The Great Soul Meals Cook dinner-Off” premieres Nov. 20 on discovery+, with new episodes every Saturday through Dec. 18.

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