“Good for the Soul, Food for Thought”: Summary of SAB’s Soul Food Dinner with Chef BerNadette West-Fugate

Image Credit: Transylvania University

On Thursday, February 22, the Student Activities Board hosted a Soul Food Cooking demonstration and dinner with Chef BerNadette West-Fugate to celebrate Black History Month. BerNadette is a talented chef and the owner of Aunt B’s Catering, which celebrates the flavors and traditions of African American history. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, her passion for cooking led her to formal training at Sullivan University, graduating in 2006. Her culinary background was a tour of diverse foods, including touring with Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria tour. This diverse culinary background allows her to bring a unique flair to her creations and the events showcasing her food. She shares her expertise and love for food in the “How-To” series at the Louisville Public Library with her communities. Chef BerNadette draws inspiration from her family and loved ones in her in-person classes, cooking shows, and signature “cooking with love” mantra. Her culinary journey is a testament to her belief that food is a heartfelt expression of love and connection, not just nourishment. 

The event began with a short speech by Chef BerNadette’s son who discussed the roots of soul food in African American culture. This culture shaped the food world through vibrant flavors and spices used by enslaved people in the southern United States. This use of spices was due to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the people, as they were given the meat that white people didn’t want. These meats were often tough, lacked flavor, and were, in the simplest of terms, bad cuts. The heavy use of spices in their rations made them edible and even good to eat. Many of these specific foods are considered part of African, Creole, and French cuisine, among others. 

After this speech, Chef BerNadette began her demonstration by sharing a hot water cornbread recipe. Directions for making the simple, two-ingredient cornbread are listed below. After the demonstration, she shared some of the other events she does, including demonstrations at libraries in both Lexington and Louisville. She included kid-friendly demonstrations so people of all ages can get involved. Through these demos, she has found that one of the best ways to take more interest in food and have a more diverse diet is to be more involved in the cooking process. Chef BerNadette also shared that her catering business, Aunt B’s Catering, works across Kentucky, wherever you want them to be. 

A list of Black-owned businesses was also included in a pamphlet passed out at the event so that the Transylvania community could do more to support them.

Hot Water Cornbread

  • Hot water (recently boiled, does not have to be actively boiling)
  • Cornmeal

*No measurements were provided during the demonstration, but references were given for how the mixture should look when ready.

  • If you are deep frying, preheat your fryer to 375ºF. 
  • Combine your cornmeal and hot water slowly, your finished batter should be about the same consistency as mashed potatoes. Different herbs, spices, and flavoring additives can be added to add more flavor to your cornbread. 
  • Scoop into your fryer, or shape into patties and shallow fry in a pan. Allow to fry for 1-3 minutes based on the heat of your oil. The cornbread should be an even gold color when done.