SUSTENANCE. Food is an incredibly significant part of Black communities. Heritage, traditions, and memories are preserved through dishes and recipes passed on through history within communities and families. Food brings people together.
To celebrate the launch of the OBSIDIAN virtual concept house, Amber Mayfield, the founder, and editor-in-chief of the Black-owned food and home magazine While Entertaining will chat with chefs and food professionals from across the country to explore the role of food in their homes. This week, Amber chats with celebrity chef Kathleen O’Brien-Price about meal prepping for the modern family and starting a family of her own.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen O’Brien-Price
Q. A large part of your career has included personal chef work in various homes. When you are thinking about food preparation and weekly meal planning for the modern family, what influences your menu decisions?
A. When cooking for others there are three things that weigh heavily on meal planning: variety, familiarity, and reheating potential. When cooking for myself I’d add in a fourth ease of prep! It’s important to me to provide a wide range of flavors so the food is interesting but still keeping a comforting familiarity. I love getting feedback from my families because it helps me hone in on exactly what their needs and tastes are because everyone is different. When cooking in batches and leaving food to be consumed over a few days it’s also really important to remember how things will last and reheat. I always include a soup or braised meat dish that only gets better with age while any seafood I leave I encourage to be eaten first.
Q. For people who want to cook for themselves more, what words of encouragement do you have for getting started and getting comfortable in the kitchen?
A. Start small and plan out time to enjoy the process. Cooking is really about two things: technique and flavors. Techniques can be learned from a book and applied but understanding flavors comes from your soul. Cooking is subjective so if you are timid in the kitchen, don’t start out trying to please anyone but yourself. Whatever you make is supposed to taste good to you and if it doesn’t you can always fix it! Don’t overthink it and literally don’t be afraid to make mistakes in the kitchen, worst-case scenario, you have to order take out.
Q. What does the dinner table represent for you and your partner?
A. This is a funny question because for the last two and half years we haven’t had a dinner table and it’s made me so sad. It’s the thing I’m most excited about in our new apartment. Growing up we always ate dinner as a family and it cemented importance around gathering to fulfill our bellies and connection. It’s important to me to have that moment despite what has happened in the day to sit down, be appreciative, eat, and unite.
Q. You’re newly married and starting your own family. What family traditions do you hope to bring to the table you’re building with your partner?
A. The kitchen will be the center of our home. Cooking will be integral to our lives and I want to show our child that men and women can and should cook, as it is a life skill. Though I am the chef Chris is the breakfast guru of the house and I hope our child loves mornings with dad. I definitely want to make eating around the table a thing, with no TV or devices. This might be a bit difficult during football season as Chris is a sports agent LOL. I love holidays and have fond memories of beautifully dressed tables with food to match so I want to gather as many people as possible around our table, and I have no shame in making everything into a holiday.
Q. Do you have any Sunday dinner traditions? And what is your go-to Sunday night dinner dish and why?
A. I know traditionally Sunday is a day of rest and relaxation but half of the year our Sundays are overtaken by football so it’s not prime dinner table gathering time. Luckily since Chris and I are both entrepreneurs Sunday is really just another day of the week for us and we can make any day a reset depending on our ever-changing schedules. I like to experiment with all kinds of food so there is not really much we make weekly as tradition. If I had to choose I would say actually our most repeated dinner night is taco Tuesday complete with margaritas. I also love a good mid-week date night which tends to be seafood-oriented - crab boils, crab fried rice scallops in beurre blanc...I’m getting hungry.