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Celebrity chef Alisa Reynolds travels the world in her new Hulu series, “Searching For Soul Food.”
Each half-hour episode follows Reynolds as she visits various locations and cultures including Peru, Jamaica, Native Americans in Oklahoma and pizza makers in Italy, tracing the history and surprising connections of various dishes and culinary traditions.
“My definition of soul food is love,” Reynolds told The Post.
“Togetherness, and love language when your back is against the wall.”
The show defines “soul food” as “Making something out of nothing, with sustenance and love in every bite.”
Reynolds wanted to do a show focusing on soul food, she said, because “I wanted to know what soul food meant. What it meant in America, and wanting to see if there were similarities around the world, in what other countries considered their soul food.”
She kicks off the series by tracing the roots of soul food to the legacy of African American cooking, starting in Mississippi, before she makes a surprising connection to Native Americans in Oklahoma.
“There are things that I learned,” Reynolds said, “and things that I think some experts didn’t know, or the average black American, or the average American, for that matter. I want this show to be for everybody. Say hush puppies, for example. We thought we [black Americans] invented those. Those came from Native Americans.
“That’s the beauty in ‘Searching For Soul Food.’ I want to be truthful and transparent in what I know, and what I don’t know. That’s the magic in the show, all of the discoveries.”
Reynolds said that she frequently got emotional while shooting the 8-part series.
“We’re connecting people through food. The Oklahoma episode blew my mind. I cried for half the episodes because the stories were so beautiful and the energy was so good,” she said. “And [when meeting] everyone that was committed to keeping their food legacies alive, you felt the passion in that. It was a beautiful experience.”
Even though she had been to some of the featured locations before — such as Jamaica and Italy — Reynolds said she still encountered plenty of surprises.
“In Jamaica, without giving it away, learning about how jerk came to be was mind-blowing. Appalachia was one of the places I wanted to go, because that’s a place that’s supposed to not like people like me. I wanted to go talk about their history of food. Every place that I went taught me a lot, and hopefully it teaches all the viewers something they didn’t think about when they eat a certain dish.
“I encountered guinea pig, I encountered squirrel. You have squirrels from Appalachia and guinea pig in Peru,” she said. “That was a trip, to be in a different part of the world and eat something that I would never normally eat.”
Reynolds owns the restaurant My 2 Cents in LA, which is a favorite culinary spot for Stevie Wonder.
“We’re in Los Angeles, so we get a lot of celebrity clientele, but Stevie Wonder has been a continued supporter for the last decade,” she said.
“And it’s not like some superstar sends a minion in. He sits there for hours, enjoys it, and takes it in. And my restaurant is small, with 24 seats. It’s cool, he’s engaging. We just love him.”