Q & A w/ CHEF JENNIFER HILL BOOKER

A Q&A WITH CHEF JENNIFER HILL BOOKER

Old Ways Cultural Food Traditions July 17, 2022


Chef Jennifer Hill Booker has taken her Southern culinary heritage, her belief in healthy, seasonal foods and her classic French training to create a unique cuisine — Modern Southern Healthy Cuisine with a French Accent. We are thrilled that Chef Jennifer is one of the expert chefs on our Low Country culinary tour in November 2022. She’ll share her insight and expertise (as well as recipes!) with our group during this special tour of South Carolina and Georgia. With Chef Jennifer and our other chefs and experts, we’ll celebrate the food traditions of the region—oyster roasts, farm cooking, Gullah cooking—and visit historical sites that tell the story of the real South. Plus, we will enjoy two of the coolest cities in America, Charleston and Savannah, and the food scene in both. There’s a lot to love—register today to save your place on the tour! We caught up with the chef recently to ask her about all things cooking, food, and the Low Country. Read below to learn more, and don’t forget to register for the Low Country tour to meet Chef Jennifer Hill Booker in person! [Oldways] What was your most vivid food memory growing up? When did you know you wanted to become a chef?

{Jennifer Hill Booker} Watching my Grandmother cook the turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. She was standing at the stove with this huge spoon; mixing onion, celery, bell pepper, and sage in sizzling cast iron skillet. The smells were incredible! And while she cooked, she told me stories of growing up in the Mississippi Delta. In that moment I knew that I wanted to be around those sights, sounds and smells forever. Your style of cooking, described as Southern Cuisine with a French Accent, often emphasizes seasonal ingredients. Why are seasonal ingredients important to you? Do you have tips to help people eat seasonally? Seasonal ingredients inherently have more taste and nutrients, than using off season produce, which sets up recipes for major flavor. Eating seasonally also reduces the carbon foot print created by shipping off-season ingredients across the world. The best advice I have for eating seasonally is to contact your state’s Agriculture Department and ask for a list of what produce grows in each month. Using that list, you can plan to your menu around what’s available. This also helps your budget since seasonal ingredients tend to be less expensive.


What are some of your favorite ingredients and regional dishes from the Low Country? Seafood is a big winner for me. So fresh oyster and dishes like shrimp & grits are favorites. I also love stewed tomato & okra, Gullah red rice and of course a Low County boil; which is a delightful mixture of shrimp, crab, sausage, corn, onion and potatoes. That, a fresh baguette and a chilled bottle of white wine is a Low Country feast!

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about the Low Country region? Low Country cuisine is bright, flavorful and made up of fresh local produce and coastal ingredients. The cooking techniques, many of the ingredients and the knowledge of farming those ingredients were brought over by the African slaves who were used to work the coastal plantations of the Low Country; South Carolina in particular.


What is a cooking tip or technique that changed the way you cook? Would you share it with us? Listen to your food when it’s cooking and remember recipes are a guide. By that I mean if a recipe says bake your cookies at 375F for 12 minutes and it starts to smell ‘loud’ in 9 minutes, chances are you need to take them out of the oven and take a look. That tip has prevented a lot of overcooked dishes in my career.

Throughout your career, you’ve done a lot of culinary teaching and instruction. What is your favorite part about teaching cooking to others? Do you have a favorite memory from a class you’ve taught? What I find most satisfying about teaching is that the knowledge that I am giving a person a life skill that no one can take away from them. What that means is that they will always be able to cook a wholesome meal for their self and their families. That is empowering.

Who is your dream dinner guest, and what would you cook for that person? Anthony Bourdain. Steak frites, salad with a tart vinaigrette, a bottle of red and my friend Virginia Wansley’s chocolate ganache cake….and lots of riveting conversation.


Check out the November 2022 Low Country Tour

Purchase your copy of Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, HERE



Chef Jennifer's

Cooking Tips:

#1

Plan your menu around your grocer's weekly sales ad. Your ingredients will be in stock, in season, and on sale!

 
#2

Shop, Cook & Eat Seasonally. In-season produce is fresh, inexpensive, and tasty!

#3

Cook Once & Eat Twice. Cook a double batch of dishes like soups, beans and chili-for those days you don't feel like cooking!