Holidays are all about connecting with the people we love, and my strongest connection is to my family. The food heritage that we share is a delicious part of my family story and one that I love to celebrate when we all come together. Nashville and my two grandmother’s cooking are my inspirations — not just during the holidays, but throughout the year and throughout my life.
After I got out of culinary school, I spent a lot of time wanting to do beautiful “high-end” French food. But it turned out that wasn’t really me. That kind of food had nothing to do with my grandmother’s Sunday suppers that I grew up eating. And that’s when I went all in, in terms of trying to get back to those culinary roots. When I published my first cookbook, I gave copies to my whole family so they wouldn’t have to rely on me to make our grandparents’ dishes anymore. Now they have a roadmap, and it’s really brought our family together.
Because I’m always cooking on The Chew, at my restaurant, or for special events, I half jokingly say “I don’t cook at home. I cook at the office.” My husband, Matthew, makes this possible, since most nights when we’re home, he does the cooking. However, one of my absolute favorite things about the holidays is that it’s a time when I get to cook for my family. I make several dishes everybody looks forward to: mac n’ cheese, collard greens, cornbread dressing and a lot of desserts. So many desserts — lemon layer cake, caramel cake, my Granny’s 5-flavor pound cake, sweet potato pie with white chocolate sweet potato mousse. The list goes on.
This time of year also gives people the opportunity to bring children into the kitchen. My stepson, who is a senior in college, has recently started asking how to make different dishes. I think kids today are really interested in cooking. They’re growing up watching shows on the Food Network and Top Chef, therefore many of them are more adventurous eaters…especially when they’re involved in the cooking process. So when you’re fixing your holiday meal, ask them if they would like to join in. It’s a lifelong gift you can share with the young ones all year round—just like my grandmother did with her Sunday suppers. Happy Holidays!