If there is one thing that the South has going for it that can’t be contested, it is we have some of the best food there is to offer! In a majority of the interviews I have done for DSC one thing everyone has mentioned as being their favorite thing about the Dirty South besides the hospitality and people has been the food. There’s nothing that can bring family and friends together in every community across the world like a good meal!
Recently, I had the opportunity to take my wife on a date to Cooking With a Twist in Houston, Texas. The experience was like none other for us.
It was extremely fun to meet new people and take on the task of cooking as a couple in a fun environment. But it wasn’t just a cooking session; it was truly a seafood party! I was so excited to share the experience with my wife and it was icing on the cake when we were able to have other great people join us, including Chef Dee Dee.
One thing you have to do if you live in Houston or are just visiting is you have to sign up and participate in a Cooking With a Twist cooking session. You get to cook and eat everything on the menu for your session and don’t forget to BYOB (pour up)! We had so much fun cooking, laughing, talking and eating. It was like having an unofficial family & friends gathering centered around an incredible meal that included hush puppies & coleslaw (the coleslaw was amaze-blaze and I am not a huge fan of slaw, but this one was on point), Parmesan crusted fish, shrimp and cheese grits as well as chocolate mousse with cherries for dessert. It was a celebration of Southern Seafood Cuisine for sure!
In today’s Dirty South Club spotlight we talk with owner/founder of Cooking With A Twist Chef Dee Dee and dive into her inspiration for starting Cooking With a Twist and more. Read on as she shares her story, advice for others who wish to follow in her footsteps and what she loves most about the Dirty South!
Generally the first question I ask is your name and where you’re from. I don’t think I ever caught where you’re from. Are you from here:
(Chef Dee Dee) I am not from here. I was born in Germany, I then moved to Southern Maryland, but I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama which is in the heart of the Southern atmosphere. So that’s why I call my company Southern Cooking Girl Creations. A lot of people get that mixed up with oh well she just does soul food. No, there’s a total difference between soul food and Southern cooking.
What inspired you to go ahead with your companies; I would ask where you got the idea also, but more so what inspired you to go ahead and do it:
It’s so funny because when I moved here from Montgomery back in 2001 I catered, of course in Montgomery I did a lot of church events and things like that, but I never had that itch. I moved here and I worked in the hotel industry then I started to do a little bit of catering for people that I worked with and I started to work more in the kitchen at the hotel and at the front desk because I was in my element there.
After I did a few catering jobs I really didn’t have the kitchen or the transportation or the support that I needed to start a catering company because I was a single mother of two small kids and I didn’t have any family here. So I definitely could not pursue that.
When I got married in 2006 I told my husband that I wanted to start catering and I said I want to cater a breakfast for the choir. So I set it up with my pastor; he gave me permission to do it. I used my first income tax check and I bought all of my catering stuff. Everything that I needed I bought.
I did that (catering for the choir breakfast) and of course everybody was amazed and that was really the jump-start of my catering here in Houston. Then I came up with the Red Velvet Waffle batter which won the award for HEB (Top Chef Competition).
What’s been the best business or personal advice you’ve ever received:
I think the best advice I’ve ever received was not to look at the next person and their success; and compare my success with their success. I used to do that. I would go onto other pages like Painting With a Twist or the other cooking class that is basically my competition here and they would have all of these likes and comments and stuff and I’m thinking why isn’t my page like that? I have far exceeded their likes. We’re almost at 5,000 likes. I’ve passed them tremendously, but then I’m thinking this really doesn’t equate to anything because if all of these people that liked my business page and liked my advertisements; all of my classes should be sold out. God had to tell me don’t worry about that. So I try not to compare my business and success to others.
With that said, are there any words of advice or encouragement you would give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps:
I would just tell them to not let fear and lack prevent them from following their dreams. My advice is to continue to maintain their livelihood because you’ve got to pay bills. Then build their business on the side and it doesn’t take a lot. I built my business from nothing. We weren’t rich, we didn’t have money to do what we did. I just used what I had to build. It took a lot of sacrifices. When I quit my job back in 2012 in corporate America after working for ten years, I had to give up my nice 2010 Tahoe. I was mad! How much are you willing to sacrifice? Don’t look at the now, look at what you’re building.
On a lighter note, what do you like to do for fun? That’s something I like to ask to add a different spin:
I love to of course shop, my husband loves to shop. He shops more than I do. I love to travel. I will get on a plane in a minute and go somewhere. I love the water so we’ll be going on a cruise in a couple of months for our ten-year anniversary. I love to go and see new places. One of my biggest dreams is to visit my birthplace!
In my downtime to be honest I like to chill. I like to go home, pull my hair up, put on my big t-shirt and my big pair of socks, get in the bed and watch Young and the Restless or the Bold and Beautiful.
The last question, what do you love most about the Dirty South:
Whatever I’m craving I can go and sit down and get it. I’ve learned that I can eat better at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant than I can at a five-star restaurant. I can go to any of the mom and pop restaurants and the food is so much better. Don’t get me wrong, I like luxury. I will go to a five-star restaurant in a minute. Just the food and definitely not the heat! And the fact that I can maintain in this industry. Houston is so big!
Get on over to Southern Cooking Girl Creations now and sign up for your Cooking With a Twist cooking session and eat enough for me too!
Photo Credits: Southern Cooking Girl Creations/ Chef Dee Dee
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.
© 2016 C. Huey for Dirty South Club