Kia Damon on Creole Cuisine, Comfort & Humanizing the South

Brooklyn-based Chef Kia Damon explored Southern comfort at, Embrace, her 3-course ode to Creole cuisine for our A NIGHT IN pop-up series.

Kia Damon on Creole cuisine, comfort & humanizing the South

Photo Cred: Chef Kia Damon

We love a self-taught queen

Chef Kia Damon learned culinary on the job.

As a young chef working through kitchens, she saw the lack of Black female representation in culinary. In response, she launched The Supper Club From Nowhere, a series of curated dining experiences. 

At 24, Chef Damon became the Executive Chef of Cali-Latin restaurant, Lalito, in New York City. Today, Chef Kia works with brands and companies to tell authentic food & travel stories.

Tapping into Southern cuisine

In developing her menu for our A NIGHT IN pop-up series, Damon reflected on her Creole background within the broader Southern context.

"Creole cuisine is pivotal to Southern cuisine and Southern culture. I feel like it deserves its shine beyond just the caricature of what people think Louisiana is and what Creole cuisine and cooking is."

For our first course, Chef Damon served a pickle platter with pimento cheese crackers and honey. Selecting pickles as her first dish, she highlighted the decades-long art of preserving food which remains a profound technique within Southern cuisine. The sweet and sour brine of the pickles provided a crisp start to the dinner.

Inspired by the late Leah Chase, the second course was her version of Chicken Creole. Within Creole cuisine, building the holy trinity means bringing together: onions, bell peppers, and celery. The dish was slow-cooked in a base of simmering tomatoes reminding guests of traditional home comfort with a spicy kick.

Kia Damon on Creole cuisine, comfort & humanizing the South

"When people eat my food, particularly these dishes, I want them to feel a sense of comfort. But also, curious about where these flavors come from and where the inspiration comes from."

Chef Damon presented the final course with calas, which are fried rice fritters with caramel sauce and chicory powder sugar. Calas history dates back to the 1800s in Louisiana, where calas vendors would sell them to raise money to buy their freedom from slavery. Chef Damon created a visceral food experience while connecting with people’s humanity by sharing stories of Cala vendors and consuming calas.

Kia Damon on Creole cuisine, comfort & humanizing the South

"Calas women sold rice fritters to either buy themselves out of slavery or to help buy their family out of slavery. It was one of the first documentations of women using food to empower themselves out of situations."

The rich history of the South

Chef Damon’s menu sheds light on Louisiana, often overlooked as a touristy economy. Bringing attention to the real people who live there, she hopes to tell the rich history of the community to disrupt the commercialization of the culture.

"When I think about Louisiana, I think about these places are often viewed as just tourist destinations. But there are real people who live there! They're not just experiences or caricatures for their fun."

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