Country singer turned cookbook writer and Food Network television host Trisha Yearwood will be participating in the South Beach Wine & Food Festival for the first time this year. The singer (who SouthFlorida.com singled out for "bringing the South to South Beach") is hosting a Southern Kitchen Brunch scheduled to include among others chefs Art Smith and Hugh Acheson, and doing a demo of her baked spaghetti at the Grand Tasting tents.
There's another cookbook and another season of Trisha's Southern Kitchen, but the singer admits that this book has been "a little slower going." The warm weather in Miami during the festival may prove a distraction. In this, a preview interview of this year's 12th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the singer and cooking TV host talks about her participation, her first aha food moment, the family recipe that got away, and the ones she's most happy to have saved. Read on for details, check out the other festival preview interviews, and look out for live coverage from South Beach.
This is your first time at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. What are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to the warm weather. And I am most looking forward to seeing the chefs and meeting some of them for the first time.
You'll be doing a demo at the Grand Tasting and hosting the Southern Kitchen Brunch during this year's South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Can you tell us a little about what you're going to be doing at your demo?
I'm planning to make my baked spaghetti (a really easy casserole), and my Grandma Lizzie's old-fashioned strawberry shortcake.
And what about the Southern Kitchen Brunch? Who will be participating, what's the event all about, and what can attendees expect?
The chefs participating in the Southern Kitchen Brunch are: Art Smith, Hugh Acheson, Chris Barbato, G Garvin, Jeni Britton Bauer, Howie Kleinberg, Kris Wessel, and executive chef of the Loews Hotel Frederic Delaire. Each of these chefs has a connection to the South, and Southern cuisine, so I can't wait to see what they cook up! As for my part of the brunch, I'm serving all recipes from my family archives, with a little nod to Miami. My hint is that it involves Key limes! Our goal with this brunch is to give the attendees a real look at all the wonderful ways Southern food can be served, from the simple (me!) to the gourmet (everybody else!).
What's your first food memory?
I grew up with generations of cooks, so even though this isn't technically my first food memory, I would say it was my first food aha moment. I took for granted while growing up, all of the many amazing foods I ate — fresh vegetables from our own garden, grain-fed beef from our own farm, and fresh eggs from our own chickens. When I moved away to college and came home with my first can of vegetables, I was so disappointed in their taste and texture. I didn't realize how good I had it! I also realized that if I wanted to continue to eat the fresh, organic, tasty foods I'd grown up on, I'd have to learn the techniques and tricks of my parents and my grandparents.
Southerners love great food and great country — what are your favorite intersections between the two, food and song?
Well, I could certainly list about 100 songs off the top of my head that talk about food! For me, being a singer is something that I feel I was born to do. It's something that is a natural thing for me, and it's something that I love to do. Cooking is much the same. I have always loved to cook. People ask me all the time if I really cook at home. I laugh and say, "Of course." The books and the TV show were born out of that love of cooking. I think that's why it all works. And we combine music with food on the show when it makes sense — both things I couldn't live without.
Your show Trisha's Southern Kitchen on Food Network has been a big success, your cookbooks have done well (your last one was in 2010), can we expect a new season and a new cookbook soon?
We are gearing up for season three of Trisha's Southern Kitchen at this time. I'm working on a new book, which is a little slower going for me, as I do it all myself and they get harder each time! I'm also working on new music, so I'm juggling quite a lot at the moment.
When you talk with lots of Southerners who love food and the memories of their parents' and grandparents' cooking, you often hear them talk about the challenge of collecting recipes to preserve those memories. More often than not the older generation says, "Oh, I don't know, I just do it by feel," or, "I just do it like I know how to do it." It seems like you encountered this when collecting your own family recipes. Was there one recipe that got away?
There was a cake that my Grandmother Yearwood used to make a lot. I was still in high school when she passed away, and the recipe remained elusive for years. We discovered it while writing the second cookbook, and were delighted that it wasn't lost forever. It's Grandma Yearwood's coconut cake with coconut lemon glaze and it uses crushed vanilla wafers instead of flour. It's so good!
And what's the family recipe you're most proud of preserving?
Honestly, I couldn't pick one. I can say that now that both of my parents have passed, I treasure these two books like family heirlooms. Their presence is felt every time I make one of their recipes, and there are so many recipes in these books that were their "signature" dishes. It's a special legacy, complete with family stories and photographs. I treasure them all.
What's been your favorite part of doing food on TV?
The fact that Food Network allowed me to keep the show as true to life as possible. The recipes are real, the mistakes are real, the friends and family are real! I'm just having fun with people I love, and making food that I really make in life. It's all good.
Would you ever consider going into the restaurant business?
Never say never, but never! [Winks] I think it's one of the hardest jobs on the planet. I respect anyone who owns and operates a restaurant. I really do love to cook, and I'm afraid all of the things that come with running that business, culinary and otherwise, might make me not love to cook anymore.
You've met, known, sung with quite a few country stars? Of all the country singers you know, who is the most talented cook?
Ha! Well, the only other country artist I've ever cooked with is my husband, so I'd have to say him! He really is a good cook, in that he has no fear in the kitchen. He's not afraid to try new things, and experiment with recipes. He's helped me break away from the rut you can get in of cooking the same things all the time.
What's your husband Garth Brooks' best go-to recipe?
He is always good for a really tasty pasta salad that he makes with tortellini, tri-color pasta, grape tomatoes, cheese, and lots of olive oil. Lately, his go-to has been this amazing taco pizza that he made up. He uses refried beans and salsa for the "red sauce," puts shredded cheese on top, and bakes the crust. Then he tops all of that with the cold mixture of shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and sour cream. It's really yummy.
What's your favorite recipe from each of your first two cookbooks?
These are impossible questions! I'll have to say what just popped into my head! From book one, my first thought was cheese straws. My mom used to make them for wedding receptions and small parties. It was her side job she did in addition to teaching school. I love cheese straws! From book two, I would probably have to say Crock Pot mac and cheese. (Cheese is the central theme here, hmmm.) It's easy, and it's the ultimate comfort food.
What's your favorite Southern city for food?
I have had amazing grits and fried chicken at Jezebel's in New York City, and some of the most unbelievable cuisine I ever tasted in my life I ate at Emeril's in New Orleans. I am a Georgia girl, though. I used to play a fair in Cumming, Ga., every year. The crowd was great, but everybody knows you play this gig for the food! The catering before the show is provided by the local women and me who live there, and the food is the best I've ever tasted this side of my Mama's kitchen table.