Chef Mamie Gailes Spotlight: Love & Family Through Old Fashioned Southern Cookin’
To anyone who knows anything about American cuisine, southern food is one of the real, original foods of the states. As a country that came late to the culinary party, the U.S. has greatly made its mark by way of fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread and barbecue pulled pork, amongst others. Just like how people visit France and Italy to witness their food firsthand, people all over the world are following suit to get a taste of the south. Chef Mamie very much knows and lives this food culture. As her mother and grandmother taught her, cooking and food means love and community and family. By recreating the women of her family’s recipes, she is sharing the love that has been passed down for generations with her personal chef business “Mama’s With A Spoon” clients, future café customers and her own kin. But taking it a step further, she’s putting an emphasis on how southern food is not necessarily synonymous with unhealthy all while maintaining the classic tastes she grew to love. With a cookbook, café and Youtube channel in the works, Chef Mamie Gailes is bringing her deep south fare to kitchens all over the world.
We got a chance to sit down with Chef Mamie for a moment and talk about how food = family, what Escoffier Online taught her and some recipe secrets she’s been doing to keep southern food healthy.
Escoffier: You attribute your inspiration for pursuing the culinary arts to your mom.
Chef Mamie: Yes, my mom was an awesome cook. She took the simplest ingredients and made a gourmet meal. As a child, I watched her in the kitchen. She made a lot of people happy through food. Therefore at an early age I realized that the culinary arts was an awesome way to share my happiness with others.
Escoffier: What was it about her cooking that enamored you so much?
Chef Mamie: She taught me that through cooking, you can share your gifts with the world. On any given day someone could walk into the kitchen feeling down and my mom would start cooking. Before you knew it, laughter would fill the kitchen and worries melted away. One of the things that a lot of people don’t realize is that food is one of the most intimate ways that you can touch someone’s life. Food is a great way to a person’s heart.
Escoffier: What were some of your favorite dishes by your mom and grandmother?
Chef Mamie: My mom was known for her Mac n’ Cheese, Potato Salad, Mince Meat Pie, Fried Chicken, & Sweet Potato Pie. My grandmother was best known for her Sweet Bread, a cross between pound cake and corn bread. It took me years to master the recipe.
Escoffier: How have you taken what they taught you and put your own twist on it?
Chef Mamie: Southern Cuisine is generally known to be unhealthy. What I have tried to do is substitute some of the ingredients to give it a healthier twist as well as enhance the flavor. For example, when I prepare Fried Chicken, as an alternative to using white flour I substitute whole wheat or coconut flour. I also substitute Olive Oil instead of lard/Crisco. It’s the little things that make a difference. By changing some of the unhealthy options and using the same techniques, I am able to keep the flavor and the history of the cuisine.
Escoffier: Tell me about your personal chef business. Why did you decide to go that route?
Chef Mamie: I chose the personal chef business for two reasons. First, I wanted to make sure I was able to work around my family’s schedule and I also wanted to make things easier for other families. That’s why I take pride in my personal chef services. In today’s society, there are so many families that work extended hours. By offering my services, families are able to enjoy a healthy meal together without losing quality time. I like to incorporate new and exciting dishes in my client’s menus, foods that they may not normally partake in. So, when it comes to preparing meals for them I try to think outside the box and give them something I know they will enjoy.
Escoffier: You’re currently working on placing your food product line in Whole Foods Market. Tell me about that.
Chef Mamie: Yes, right now I am researching my options: Whole Foods, Walmart and a few others. What I have done is taken one of my mom’s favorite recipes and created a patent for two products around it, Mama’s Gourmet Sauce & Mama’s Southern Rolls. The sauce was originally created to accompany Mama’s Southern Rolls but, once I started cooking with the sauce, I found that it complimented pork, beef, fish and other foods. It enhances the flavors of an array of dishes. Now, I am currently working on establishing a third patent using the same concept but this time in a dessert.
Escoffier: What does southern food mean to you?
Chef Mamie: Southern cuisine means love. For many years families have come together to break bread, share laughter, welcome new beginnings and celebrate life all around Southern Cuisine. Many of the Southern recipes used today have been handed down from generation to generation. Many times the recipes are not even written down. They take a smidgen of this, a dash of that but the most important ingredient was LOVE. This is one of the ways that grandparents, parents and other families members showed how much they cared. It brought families together, instilled faith and showed how to truly appreciate each other. Southern Cuisine has built memories as well as touched lives and shared a purpose.
Escoffier: What are some of your favorite dishes to make?
Chef Mamie: Some of my favorite dishes were passed down from my mom & grandmother. I really enjoy making collard greens, sweet bread, short ribs, roasted vegetables, chicken, venison, grilled lamb, buttermilk biscuits, peach cobbler and homemade ice cream. I especially enjoy making my own vanilla extract.
Escoffier: How did Escoffier and its online culinary courses help you with your career?
Chef Mamie: Escoffier Online has shown me that there are no limitations to what can be done. It has enhanced my style of cooking. I have always enjoyed being creative and taking chances in the kitchen but now it’s a normal everyday occurrence. I no longer second guess myself. Escoffier has taught me to explore and be more adventurous when it comes to spices, herbs and different foods. I have learned to let my creative side shine.
Escoffier: What’s your favorite new recipe?
Chef Mamie: My favorite new recipe is the vegetable cookie that I am working on. I am actually running a contest to help name it. The main ingredients are oatmeal, chocolate and a vegetable. I am so excited. Along with this I am excited about venturing into new territory. Combining cultures and crossing borders, there are a limitless amount of flavors to paint a beautiful plate.
Escoffier: What is your one, absolutely have to have it item in your kitchen?
Chef Mamie: This might sound unusual to some. I have two things that must be in my kitchen. First, Pure Vanilla… like my mom always said “ a dash of vanilla makes everything taste better” and the second thing that is very important to me is a great stove. I believe that the stove is the heart of a kitchen. It’s where everything comes to life.
Escoffier: What are you looking to do next?
Chef Mamie: Mama’s With a Spoon is looking to expand our brand. We are in the process of opening a cafe with a menu inspired by my mother’s recipes as well as some new ones. The cafe will be comfortable, stylish and make costumers feel as if they are sitting at their mama’s kitchen table. We are also in the process of launching the Mama’s with a Spoon Youtube cooking channel where I will share some of my favorite recipes and highlight special guests. I have also recently had the pleasure of hosting a Tea & Tasting event featuring a few of Mama’s favorite dishes as well as launching our product line. The fun filled event focused on bringing extraordinary women together to share food, fun and laughter. I am also currently working on a cookbook.
Escoffier: What has cooking done for you?
Chef Mamie: Cooking has given me a sense of purpose and it has been one of my saving graces. I want to be able to pass down all that I have learned from my Mom “Bessie” and my Grandmother “Mamie” to my children, grandchildren and their children.
That’s why I always say, “ A Taste of Love in Every Bite”
Dedicated in memory of my mom, Bessie L. Thomas: 3/7/1928-7/16/2012