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Chef Carlos Brown Introduces Gullah Geechee Cuisine To The Masses, Including Oprah Winfrey, Barack ObamA

Chef Carlos Brown

After first experiencing the flavors of the Gullah Geechee culture while growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, Chef Carlos Brown was inspired. These flavors would later lead him on the path to sharing them at the Smithsonian African-American Museum in Washington, D.C., and with notable figures such as President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and NFL stars.

Since his Gullah Geechee-inspired Shrimp & Grits recipe was celebrated at the Smithsonian African-American Museum, Chef Carlos Brown, who trained at Johnson & Wales University, has expanded his culinary ventures. He now brings Gullah Geechee cuisine into people’s home kitchens through his product line, Gullah Gourmet by Chef Carlos Brown. This line features southern-flavor-inspired sauces and vinaigrettes, such as the Gourmet Basil Citrus.

Gullah culture originated in West Africa before spreading to the West Indies and the southern United States, bringing with it both cuisine and dialect.

“People not only brought a culture of dialect, but they brought an ethnic group that's not really talked about. Even when you fill out an application, you see Black, white, Hispanic, and others, but you don't see Gullah, and so that's one important history that has been missing,” Chef Brown stated.

With Gullah culture came grown items like okra, grits, rice and cotton. “The Gullah culture is very unique. It plays a vital part in who we are and what we wear. Its very unique gifts are not really noticeable everywhere, but we're now trying to teach and educate on our culture. So that's where the food part plays a big role because I remember times when we didn't have any food or we thought we didn't. And mom would just come up with stuff. Now, you see it everywhere,” he added.

In developing Gullah Gourmet, Chef Carlos Brown and his team wanted to make sauces and salad dressings to encourage people to eat healthier. Chef Brown noted that the products are all-natural.

Chef Carlos Brown

“We didn't add any color to it. We made sure [when] we sat down, we wanted to make all the sauces and salad dressings become a unique spice, one for the health reasons because we want people to start eating healthy, and it's not hard.”

“People say, 'Hey, how do you become a chef and how do you make this? How do you make that?' It's not hard, just go back to your herbs. We try to shortcut stuff and I decided that I want to start doing dishes that are going to be healthy, that's going to [help] us to be able to fight through all these other battles. We got these diseases and things are hitting our country like I don't know what [so] why not make food because that's a vital part of what we need a necessity. Why not make food number one.” Some of Chef Brown’s preferred spices he mentioned are earthy ones such as rosemary, tarragon and saffron.

With a 2021 Jefferson Award and the 2020 National Black Chef Awards Culinary Excellence Award under his list of accolades he's achieved in the culinary industry, Chef Carlos Brown's impact goes beyond the culinary world. “Most of my experience with the celebrities that I work with has just been me in the room, and other people's trust in what I do, and say [leading to conversations]."

When he was cooking for Oprah Winfrey he said, "She began to question what I do and the [Gullah] culture. So now, I had the opportunity to even talk more about our culture, and even educate them.  I think that's why these opportunities continue to come because they [celebrities] trust the fact that he knows what he's doing in his kitchen, He's gonna make it taste good but he also wants to keep us healthy. I think that's important."

Chef Carlos Brown also expressed it was a good experience cooking for Oprah. Even at a higher level while cooking for President Barack Obama, Chef Carlos Brown faced questions from the US Secret Service, but he pushed through the pressure.

Chef Carlos Brown is currently touring the United States promoting his Gourmet Gullah brand at Black expos and private dinners in cities ranging from Atlanta to Dallas with private launch dinners in Miami and Los Angeles scheduled in the coming months.

Chef Carlos Brown also has “Chef Carlos Brown Day” coming up on August 25 which is celebrated in his hometown of Charleston every year.


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