The entire season of Taste the Nation hits Hulu on June 18
Emmy-nominated Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi visited Charleston to examine Gullah cuisine in the fourth episode of her new original series Taste the Nation, which will be available on Hulu Thursday. Charleston was one stop on Lakshmi’s culinary road trip from New Jersey to Hawaii, with stops in Milwaukee, Las Vegas and others along the way.
The episode, titled "The Gullah Way," took Lakshmi on an journey around the Lowcountry, spending time with James Beard Award-winning writer Michael Twitty, Gullah Geechee cuisine expert chef BJ Dennis and father-son crabbing team Keith Smiley and Jerrel Brown, among others.
“I had been to Charleston with Top Chef three years ago and I made a lot of nice friendships like with BJ,” Lakshmi said. “I thought that if I was doing a show on American food, I couldn’t not include Gullah Geechee cuisine.”
“These people were products of forced migration and I thought it was a really important story to tell,” she continued. “I really wanted to highlight the contributions of African Americans to our food culture and look at the food heritage independent of its colonial attachments.”
During the episode, Lakshmi discussed the countless Gullah Geechee contributions to modern-day cuisine with Twitty while they made red rice, a dish the culinary historian has been making his entire life. Later, Dennis taught Lakshmi how he does a crab boil using local crab seasoning and fresh Charleston cayenne sauce.
The episode taught Lakshmi a lot about Charleston cuisine.
“My biggest takeaway was that this is a culture built on living off the land and that culture can really be a benefit to modern day Charleston,” she said. “That deserves attention because that’s going to save our environment. To me, that part of Charleston’s food culture is really interesting and distinguished.”