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Chef Alisa Reynolds Is ‘Searching for Soul Food’ in New Hulu Series



Say the words “soul food” to many people and they’ll likely think of dishes traditionally associated with Black southern culture, such as collard greens and cornbread. But for celebrity chef Alisa Reynolds, who stars in the new Hulu and Onyx Collective series Searching for Soul Food, soul food is less about what’s on the plate and more about the emotions and circumstances that led to its creation.  

“I define [soul food] as love that can’t be contained, and I define it as a story that starts with pain and ends with love,” she told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “A celebration of triumph and resilience. And it’s compassionate. That’s how I describe soul food.” 

Reynolds, who is the chef-owner of the celebrated health-conscious soul food restaurant My 2 Cents LA, didn’t start out with such a clear definition of what soul food is. In Searching for Soul Food, she crisscrosses the globe in an attempt to get a handle on the slippery concept. 

I didn’t know what it was,” she said of her mindset when she started working on the show. “I had more of a linear question, like, why and how is it soul food and what does soul mean?” 

As she visited and connected with chefs and communities around the world, she realized the true depth and diversity of soul food.

In Oklahoma, Reynolds meets and eats with Native Americans who are reclaiming old foodways and reconnecting to their heritage in the process. In Peru, she explores how Japanese immigrants adapted their traditional ways of cooking and eating to create a new cuisine known as Nikkei. And in Naples, Italy, she learns how pizza – a food created to feed hungry laborers – became a meal beloved by millions.  


‘Searching for Soul Food’ is a global journey

Unsurprisingly, narrowing down the list of places highlight in Searching for Soul Food was a challenge. “There were so many places that were on my list that they knocked off,” Reynolds said. But she did manage to hit several of her must-visit locations, including Peru and South Africa. 

I definitely wanted to go to South Africa,” she explained. “I wanted to go to South Africa and not West Africa first, because that’s just so stereotypical. So I wanted to go to a place where the slavery and the enslaved were different than what we would normally think and explore how this became soul food.” 

Everywhere she went, Reynolds discovered something new. 

“There’s so many stories that we don’t know,” she said. “There’s so many times that we eat and we don’t know what we’re eating. We can name the ingredients, but we don’t know what we’re eating and how it came to be.”

Wherever Reynolds visits, people speak to her about how food is a link to their past and their culture. So, what’s her advice for people who want to go on their own search for soul food? 

“You start with your immediate family to find those histories, to find the stories,” she said. “Just dive into your culture and have joy in finding out where a dish came from.”


Food is a powerful way to connect and bring people together, she added.

“If I can inspire anybody to do anything, it’s just to do history on food,” Reynolds said. “You can find these great recipes from people that didn’t have a choice of what they ate, you know what I mean? And that’s great, because they’re rolling in their graves, smiling, going, ‘Wow, they’re still eating this stuff.’ And the world is getting a little bit better.” 

Searching for Soul Food is streaming on Hulu on June 2. 

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Source: Cheat Sheet


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