Springfield native Damar Wilson doesn’t always get to use his skills as a professional chef to share more than flavor profiles – but on Saturday he’s sharing culture for a good cause, right from his kitchen table.
The opportunity also is a chance for Wilson − known as Chef D − to work with his daughter Haley Wilson on an episode of Soul Food Saturdays, a three-part pre-recorded cooking series during Black History Month. The series features comfort food recipes that celebrate Black and other cultures of people of color.
The idea for Soul Food Saturdays originated with The Culture Experience, founded by Haley Wilson and focuses on connecting cultures through unique events.
The series will air on The Culture Experience’s social media platforms − Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and thecultureexperience.com at noon on the first three Saturdays of February.
According to Wilson, who also is communications director for Springfield Mayor Misty Buscher’s office, The Culture Experience was born out of the city’s history of segregation traditionally divided east and west of Ninth Street.
“The original reason that The Culture Experience was started was because of a study that came out that Springfield is one of the most segregated cities in the United States,” Wilson said. “So we started to break that redline between the east side and west side of town to really create unity…Hopefully (the series) is going to help that divide in the long run.”
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According to the Census.gov, the racial makeup of Springfield sits at 70.9% white (non-Hispanic), 20.3% Black or African American, 3.1% Asian, and 6.7% other.
“Everybody knows where the redline is at in Springfield, so we need representation on the west side of town at restaurants, at businesses, politically we need more Black representation,” Wilson said. “I know there is Black representation, but we could use more.”
Throughout the cooking series, chefs from across the state will greet viewers and share beloved soul food recipes from Puerto Rican, creole, West African, and African-American cultures. It aims to highlight the significance of soul food.
In the first installment, Chef D, who is a personal chef with the Friends that Cook chef service in St. Louis and has been in the culinary industry since 2010, prepares pollo guisado, a Puerto Rican chicken stew made of braised chicken, potatoes, carrots, olive, and tomatoes stewed in a savory sauce. The dish is one of the chef’s favorite go-tos in winter.
“As far as soul food with being a personal chef for four years now, when Black History Month comes around all of my clients ask for a soul food series,” said the graduate of L’Ecole Culinaire in St. Louis. “Soul food to me is more than just Black food, you know what I mean? Black and Brown people of color all have their own type of soul food from different countries.”
Haley Wilson hopes for the series to reach more than her followers on Facebook, but a broader audience from other communities in Springfield.
“I really want to show what a lot of people of color know about soul food and non-people of color to take a look at this and go ‘whoa’,” Wilson said. “There are a lot of flavors and a lot of interesting techniques we don’t usually use on a regular basis and really show non-people of color what our traditions are.”
The second show in the series which will air on Feb. 10 covers a modern fusion of a West African and African American dish called gumbo greens. Episode three airing on Feb. 17 will feature a creole favorite of red beans and rice.
Claire Grant reports business with the State Journal-Register: [email protected], X (formerly known as Twitter): @Claire_Granted