Chef Deborah VanTrece is known for taking basic recipes and creating dishes using global ingredients available locally. She shares more than 100 of them in her debut cookbook, “The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food with Global Flavors.”
I find at least 50 of the recipes intriguing, such as the candied salmon belly bacon, the foie gras dirty rice, and the paella macaroni. I love that Chef VanTrece’s goal with this book is to honor the food of African American female chefs and to encourage others to use their recipes for inspiration. I think they tend to be left out of culinary conversations and kitchens.
This hardcover creation consists of seven sections appropriately titled: Castoffs & Throwaways; Beef, Lamb, & Pork; Poultry; Vegetables, Salads, and Sides; Shellfish and Fish; Desserts; and Necessities. The vivid images display mouthwatering dishes such as meatloaf Wellington with sorghum mustard; spring pea, bacon, and radish salad; and benne seed wafers.
Unfortunately, every entry does not have a corresponding picture. However, it has enough to satisfy readers and a brief note about each one. The ingredient lists consist of products found at a local store with a few exceptions. You will probably need to go to a butcher shop for the pig’s head and beef cheeks. Don’t let that intimidate you; the instructions are straightforward. The former flight attendant-turned-chef knows how to satisfy your soul.
From Air to the Kitchen
Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, VanTrece grew up eating soul food. As an adult, she traveled around the world where she sampled an array of cuisines. She loved cooking for family and friends and dreamt about becoming a caterer. She attended culinary school at The Art Institute of Atlanta, graduating first in her class.
Her defining moment as a chef came when she was asked to cook for international dignitaries, athletes and visitors at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She used her food knowledge and experience to pull off successful events. This gave her a broader definition of soul food. “I don’t look for the differences in food anymore. I look for commonalities, similarities, and how to combine flavors.”
In 2014, she and her wife opened Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in Atlanta. Her award-winning soul food has been featured in the New York Times, Thrillist, Food & Wine and several “Best of Lists.”
Overall, “The Twisted Soul Cookbook” brings me joy. It’s vibrant and fun. It gives me permission to experiment with soul food and to create my own food memories. Chef VanTrece also reminds me that, “It’s not just soul food because of its historic roots in African American culture, but because it comes from the soul and feeds the soul.” My meals do just that. Yours can too. Five stars!
Grab your copy of “Twisted Soul Cookbook” on Amazon.
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