Winston-Salem resident Bambi Daniels is one of 10 contestants from across the country on the new PBS cooking competition show, “The Great American Recipe.”
The eight-part series, which premieres on June 24 at 9 p.m., brings together chefs from different backgrounds to share not only their recipes, but also their stories.
It is a veritable melting pot of participants from all over the country, from Rhode Island to California and from Oregon to North Carolina. They also come from diverse ethnicities, including Syrian, Puerto Rican, Hungarian, Filipino, Mexican, Italian, Korean, and Vietnamese. This translates into a great diversity of dishes and flavors that can be seen during the series.
Daniels, 54, is the only chef to bring to the table an exclusively American cooking repertoire, which represents her Southern roots.
She said she came across “The Great American Recipe” after one of the producers contacted her via Instagram, apparently impressed by her food photos. But she had yet to audition, which included cooking a dish in less than 30 minutes during a live Zoom.
People also read…
Daniels grew up in South Carolina, came to North Carolina to attend NC A&T University in Greensboro, and then moved to Winston-Salem after meeting her husband, local photographer Owens Daniels.
Her first food memories come from her grandparents’ farms in Chester and Blair, SC, where she spent a lot of time as a child.
“My family never went out to restaurants, and we still don’t,” Daniels said in a phone interview this month. “My grandmother said, ‘You don’t have to eat out at the store.’ We ate what we grew and what we raised — we had chicken, we had beef, we had pork, turkey, squirrel — anything you could think of on the farm and in the woods.”
Food is all about food in her family, she said. “There is no time I can remember not being in the kitchen.”
Even before she could get to the stove, she said, she was put to work breaking beans, pulling peas from their pods, washing kale and helping kill pigs.
One of the first things she learned to cook was chicken backs. “My grandmother loved chicken backs. My cousin Jimmy taught me how to make it for my grandmother. We marinated overnight, slow fried and it would fall off the bone,” Daniels said.
Daniels is not allowed to say how far she has progressed in the competition or even in how many episodes she appears. But she did say she chose macaroni and cheese as her signature dish for the first episode. “In every Black Southern house, you have to know how to cook mac and cheese,” she says on the show.
She calls her recipe a ‘generation recipe’.
“It’s been passed down through the family, but every generation adds something to it,” she said.
Her twist is to make it into a smoked mac with the addition of smoked gouda and smoked paprika. She sometimes makes it with bacon.
Daniels has been keeping the show’s results a secret for about a year, so she’s ready to see the show. She still has fond memories of recording it.
“It was absolutely amazing,” she said. “It’s about family and heritage and generational recipes. We became friends; we helped each other. What you see on TV – that was us. We were ourselves.
“We talked about our family, we shared so much, it brought us together. To meet other people from other cultures, from other parts of the United States — it was so much fun.”