Kia Damon on Creole Cuisine, Comfort & Humanizing the South

Brooklyn-based Chef Kia Damon explored Southern comfort at, Embrace, a 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 Damon was a self-taught chef who paved her way into kitchens through learning by fire. At 24, Chef Damon became an Executive Chef of Cali-Latin Lalito restaurant in Manhattan.  Known in the industry for her business, Kia Cooks, she presents pop-up dinners, private cooking, and cooking demos. 

Launching, The Supper Club From Nowhere, a collective of Black chefs and farmers dedicated to combating food injustice, as a response to the lack of visible Black women in her culinary community.

Tapping into Southern cuisine

In developing her menu, Damon connected her Creole dishes to her upbringing in Southern cuisine to highlight its importance within the subculture.

"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. I want them to feel comforted 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. They would raise this money themselves, and it was one of the first documentations of entrepreneurship, as well as 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 and that region of the south, I often think about how many people see these places as tourist destinations. But there are real people who live there, and they are often overlooked by their own government or regular people who see them as experiences or caricatures for their fun."

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