The passion for a dream compelled a New Jersey social worker to sell her belongings, hop on a train with two suitcases and head South for an unchartered journey into the culinary world. Kardea Brown made that leap of faith shortly after appearing in the pilot of a cooking show being pitched to the Food Network.
“Out of hundreds of submissions, they chose me to be featured on the pilot the show,” says Brown. The pilot called “Deen of Lean” with Bobby Deen gave Food Network executives their first look at Brown on camera. Her natural talent and personality impressed them. A former boyfriend’s idea of getting Brown on a cooking show became a life-altering career shift. “The next day, I went back to my job at Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and I quit. I said, ‘You know what. Nothing else in life ever felt this right.’” That was in March of 2015.
Brown’s first series on the Food Network premieres on Sunday, July 28 at 11:30 a.m. ET/PT. She sent out an emotional announcement on Instagram after receiving the news that “Delicious Miss Brown” had gotten a green light from the cable network distributed to nearly 100 million homes. She posted, “I left my career in social work back in 2015 with big dreams of having my own cooking show. I had no guarantees only faith. I worked tirelessly and didn’t take no for an answer…I knew it was only a matter of time.”
A Dream Comes to Life
Brown got the call about her own show as she was preparing to fly to Los Angeles to film another Food Network show. The South Carolina native had already been selected to host “Cupcake Championship,” a baker’s competition that premiered July 1. Brown recalls big tears falling from her eyes over achieving a goal that took four years to bring to life. “I was told that there would be a 1% chance that the Food Network would actually say yes to me having my own series,” Brown says. “It’s been four years of really, really not giving up and knowing in my heart that there was a bigger story and bigger purpose for my life.”
As a child, Brown spent her days on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and in the city of Charleston. Her family’s connections to the land and water around Wadmalaw Island grounded the girl and the woman in the Gullah/Geechee culture and traditions. Growing up cooking with her mother and grandmothers gave Brown a unique story she loves to share. “Our household in Charleston, we took very meager ingredients and made them into flavorful big pots of love. I’m very excited about showing people that it doesn’t take much to make a lot.”
Brown learned the value of cooking what you plucked from your garden or caught from the sea. On “Delicious Miss Brown,” she will share the art of southern and low country cooking while giving viewers glimpses of the Sea Islands and Charleston. “On one of the episodes I go out on a shrimp boat and catch the shrimp I’m actually cooking that day,” says Brown.
The new six-part series is filmed on Edisto Island. It is one of the coastal islands where African-Americans of Gullah/Geechee descent were able to hold onto their West African culture, including their cooking traditions. They were the first recipes Brown learned, and it gave her a different perspective on southern cooking. Viewers of her show will get a taste of how the Gullah culture influenced regional cuisine. “I like to say that Gullah/Geechee is the fabric of southern cooking. It is the very foundation of it,” Brown says.
Moving away from home and back again reinforced and expanded Brown’s own appreciation of her heritage. She started The Gullah Supper Club as a way to broaden her cooking skills and experiences. “I remember going to the first meeting at the Food Network, and they said, “We love you. You’re great.” But the word they used a lot was ‘you’re too green,’” Brown says.
Planning and presenting two to three supper clubs a month has introduced Brown and her cuisine to hundreds of diners in Charleston and other East Coast cities since 2015. At the same time, she started her catering company Kardea Kuisine and made occasional appearances on the Food Network as a guest or judge. “I would say I took my life back. With cooking and having these opportunities with the Food Network, it gave me a new sense of life.”
Brown has appeared on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay,” “Chopped Junior,” “Cooks vs. Cons,” “Family Food Showdown” and “Farmhouse Rules.” She seized every opportunity to polish her culinary and storytelling skills as well as research Gullah culture. “I saw how special it was to have this upbringing. Not just being a southern woman, but being of Gullah/Geechee descent.
Diversity on a National Platform
Food Network’s addition of “Delicious Miss Brown” represents a trend toward more diversity than was visible when it launched in 2009. She recalls looking up to celebrity host Sunny Anderson, one of the first women of color to host a show on the network. Now her show will bring national exposure to Gullah culture and cooking, including one-pot recipes and other dishes Brown learned to make from the “mean cooks” in her family.
“I’m a part of a new type of wave with the network and it just means a lot to be a part of that, and also knowing I actually worked hard to get to this spot,” Brown says. “A lot of my family has helped in the supper club as well, so they have seen how hard I’ve worked to establish a name for myself. Everyone is just really, really happy for me.”
Brown gets an indescribable feeling from all the support she has received along her journey. Food Network’s Nancy Fuller of “Farmhouse Rules” offered Brown a bit of advice about getting a show. “She told me to continue to be yourself and just remember from the beginning why you wanted this so much.”
Go For It!
In the fall, the host of “Delicious Miss Brown” plans to resume the pop-up dinners she started with The Gullah Supper Club. “I already have a waiting list. That’s near and dear to my heart,” Brown says.
While she has no plans to give up the supper club anytime soon, Brown is optimistic about the Food Network airing her new show for more seasons. “I’m looking forward to longevity and being around for the long haul,” says Brown. “I already kind of have a sense of family with the Food Network, but I’m really looking forward to many more years to come.”
The 31-year-old television host certainly made sacrifices to fulfill her dream of starring in her own cooking show, including taking a job driving for a catering company for seven dollars an hour. So, when she tells people to “go for it,” the advice comes with personal proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way. “I’m very big on spirituality and religion. If there is something in your heart that’s eating at you, it’s there for a reason,” says Brown. “I think if you step out on faith or if you pursue that passion, the universe or God will take care of the rest. What do you have to lose?”
Head over to our recipe section to try Brown’s Aunt TC’s Lemon Lime Soda Cake which is one of the dishes featured on “Delicious Miss Brown.”