Annually, the Saint Simons African American Heritage Coalition hosts its Taste of Gullah event to give visitors and locals an opportunity to experience authentic and modern Gullah cuisine. Held at the Historic Harrington School Cultural Center, this year’s event included live entertainment, a tour of the celebrated school, and storytellers.
Meet Internationally Renowned Chef Kevin Mitchell
Few are better suited to narrate the extraordinary backstory of southern, Gullah, and lowcountry cuisine than renowned Chef Kevin Mitchell. Chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College, South Carolina Chef Ambassador, Chef Scholar, and co-author of Taste of the State: South Carolina’s Signature Foods, Recipes, and Their Stories, he is a much sought-after speaker and historian. He had a discussion and book signing.
“It is important for me to take part in the Taste of Gullah because it allows me to honor the beautiful heritage that is Gullah culture,” says Chef Kevin. “I am a chef trained in classical French cuisine. However, my focus is on the food of the American South. I chose this food because of the significance it has played on American cuisine. It also allows me to honor the enslaved cooks on which shoulders I stand upon.”
Grandmother Doris was an Inspiration
He was inspired to cook by his beloved grandmother Doris who began teaching him at the tender age of six. Raised in a single parent home, he and his three brothers spent a considerable amount of time with their grandmother while his mother worked.
“She would always allow my brothers to go out and play and keep me in the kitchen with her. One day I asked why she would not let me go out and play and she would always tell me that she or my mother would not be around to cook and clean for us, so I needed to learn how,” reminisces Chef Kevin. “I believe that she saw something in me, and I have been in the kitchen ever since.” To purchase tickets to Taste of Gullah, visit www.ssiHeritageCoalition.org.
Peas and Greens
A Recipe from Taste of the State by Kevin Mitchell and David S. Shields
1-pound dried black-eyed peas or sea island red peas, soaked overnight (black-eyed peas from Marsh Hen Mill or Sea Island Reds from Anson Mills)
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 sprigs thyme
1 small onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, divided (2 whole and 2 finely chopped)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can coconut milk
2 bunches of collard greens of your choice, bottom stems removed, chopped (any local or from Nat Bradford)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup vegetable stock
First, drain soaked peas, place in a large pot, and cover with plenty of cold water. Second, add thyme, 2 garlic cloves and a generous amount of salt. Third, bring to a boil over high heat. Next, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, about an hour. Once peas are tender, remove pot from heat, let stand 5 minutes, then drain. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside.
Thereafter, in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-low; add the onion and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, then add ginger, garlic, red pepper flake, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Soon, add the curry powder and turmeric and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Thereafter, add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Likewise, add the stock, coconut milk, and reserved cooking liquid to pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens a bit, about 20 minutes. Add the peas to the sauce and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until the peas are lightly coated, about 10 minutes. Stack kale leaves on top of one another, roll tightly, and slice into thin ribbons. Fold greens into peas and remove pot from stove (greens will cook from the residual heat). Adjust seasonings and serve as is or over rice.
To get more delicious recipes from Taste of the State, visit www.USCpress.com/Taste-the-State.
This article previously appeared in the June-July 2022 print edition of Upscale Magazine.