Kelsey Barnard Clark stole the hearts of America when she was crowned the victor of season 16 of Top Chef and named Fan Favorite. Now, the Alabama Southern food extraordinaire has a brand-new cookbook featuring more than 100 recipes reflecting the creative spins on classic Southern fare that diners have grown to love at her Dothan restaurant KBC. We sat down with Kelsey to chat about her inspiration in the kitchen and why you should pick up a copy of Southern Grit ASAP. Plus get a sneak peak at the recipes inside with the oh-so-delicous Beeb’s Blackberry Cobbler below.
Where does your passion for cooking and baking come from?
What I love about cooking the most is that it brings people together so well. No matter what you believe in or where you’re from in this world, you can find common ground in food. My passion comes from using food to connect people and bring them together.
Summer is in full swing. What ingredients are you reaching for most often?
I mean—everything! Summer in the garden is so much fun. Everything is in full fruition and bursting at the seams. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite but you really can’t beat that first, still warm from the sun, tomato sandwich.
Tell us about your cookbook. What can readers expect to find?
It’s effortless, it’s not complicated, and it’s definitely not fussy. It’s relatable and bursting at the seams with Southern hospitality. This book is about making wholesome, comfortable, simple dishes and gathering the ones you love around the table to enjoy it. It’s about honoring traditions, but making them yours, and sharing food and drink with your people. It’s about creating your own entertainment and making life beautiful—no matter where you are in the world.
You dedicated the book to your Grandmother June, Great-Grandmother Lil, and Great-Grandmother Mildred. What sort of influence did they have on your life?
The matriarchs of my family were complete power houses that respectfully and peacefully fought for things they believed in. They broke all the glass ceilings and shattered any mold of what a Southern woman “should be,” yet they did it with a nurturing heart and still somehow managed to keep that Southern hospitality alive. They were the hard-working, creative, driven leaders of their families who loved hard and were loved hard in return. Each of them left a mark that serves as a daily reminder of what’s most important and what kind of legacy I want to leave behind.
What are some of the recipes that you’re most excited for people to try?
It’s the simple recipes that I tested 500 times and really feel confident in the writing that do it for me. Recipes like the biscuits that I know will become your favorite, the gumbo recipe my grandmothers collectively wrote together, the cookie dough that will always have a spot in your freezer, the roasted chicken and veggies you make for your people every Wednesday. The thought of any of these pages becoming someone’s new family traditions is sort of this overwhelmingly amazing thing to me.
As a wife, mother, restaurant owner, Top Chef winner, and now cookbook author, how do you find time for everything?
I don’t! I just fake it pretty well and try to focus on one day at a time. There’s also an excessive amount of coffee in my life.
- 1 cup [125 g] all-purpose flour
- 1 cup [200 g] plus 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- ¾ cup [180 ml] whole milk
- ½ cup [115 g] unsalted butter, melted
- 4 cups [500 g] fresh blackberries (or blueberries, strawberries, cherries, or raspberries)
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Vanilla ice cream, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°F [175°C]. In a medium mixing bowl, sift the fl our, 1 cup [200 g] of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt, then whisk in the milk.
- In an 8 by 8 in [20 by 20 cm] baking pan, 9 by 9 in [23 by 23 cm] baking pan, or 9 in [23 cm] pie plate, pour the melted butter, then pour the batter. Evenly disperse the berries over the batter and sprinkle with the remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar and the lemon juice.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Reprinted from Southern Grit by Kelsey Barnard Clark with permission by Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs Copyright © 2021 by Antonis Achilleos. *This recipe has not been tested by Taste of the South.