Carolyn Shelton - Caterer, Cooking Teacher and Etiquette Consultant
Carolyn Shelton is an author, noted chef, and etiquette consultant. She appears weekly on Passe Patout, a local TV show in Lafayette, Louisiana and often travels the country appearing on various TV shows preparing her famous recipes. She has owned restaurants and was food editor for an array of newspapers as well as authoring five books.
When Carolyn moved with her mother to French Town in Houston, TX, she discovered the black Creole culture alive and thriving. Neighbors in the community often stirred roux into gumbo and etouffee, just as they had back in Louisiana. Her motivation is the dearth of information about the black Creole cooks whose work went unrecorded because so many of them could not read or write and often remembered recipes as they went along.
Carolyn’s earliest food memories originate in her grandmother’s garden and kitchen where the family’s matriarch grew the freshest ingredients. Carolyn’s says that these were made into old-fashioned country-style family meals. To Carolyn’s surprise, years later she found her grandmother’s calf’s liver and onions with grits recipe on the menu at the world family Brennan’s Restaurant.
I had the honor of interviewing Carolyn a few days ago.
Interview with Chef and Cookbook Author,
Cassandra: Hello Ms. Shelton, may I call you Carolyn?
Cassandra: Carolyn, What is your first memory of making soul food and what dish did you make?
Carolyn: It’s really interesting because I did not start out making Creole. Working for the airline, I always loved to entertain and have parties. So when people found out I was from Louisiana, they associated me with gumbo.
Growing up I always watched my mom make gumbo. People would ask her for the recipe so I asked mom how to make gumbo. First she told me to make a roux. The base was always the same, the roux, stock water, and seasonings.
Later when I lived in Chicago my nickname was gumbo because I used to have champagne and gumbo parties.
A staple for a Creole soul food menu is not your traditional soul food meal like fried chicken, a Creole soul food menu consisted of stuffed pork roast, dirty rice, potato salad, green peas, and sweet dough pie for dessert, made with either fig, lemon or coconut.
Cassandra: And what did you learn from her, this experience?
Carolyn: I found that food is a healer, food brings so many cultures, spirits together. Gumbo is also a healer, it’s a conversation, a worldly dish. Gumbo is considered a African dish that is created with a palate. Every recipe your make is in your palate not in a cookbook.
Cassandra: What are your favorite seasoning to use in your dishes?
Carolyn: Creole, red pepper, black pepper, fresh herbs, parsley, and green onions. I use these seasoning on everything.
Cassandra: What advice do you offer others who just started cooking?
Carolyn: If you’re just starting out, you must identify if you are cooking because it is a labor of love or a necessity. Always start with fresh or frozen ingredients. Not canned. Support your local farmers market and try to eat greens. Cook healthy and make your food tasty. Use a recipe as a guide and your palate will dictate what the recipe needs.
Cassandra: And what dish do you suggest they try to make first?
Carolyn: Start off with fresh cuts of meats such as a chicken. Stay away from processed foods as much as possible. Watch cooking shows and videos to help guide you.
Cassandra: Many of my newsletter subscribers ask this question often: How can others learn to season their dishes?
Carolyn: Use your palate as your guide. Try to remember your mother or grandmother’s cooking and the combination of flavors that you tasted, then take that and use what you like. You can’t go wrong that way.
Cassandra: I believe I read that you are working on a children’s cookbook. Please tell me a little about it.
Carolyn: The book is motivational and it focuses on etiquette. It’s not only a cookbook, it teaches children to never forget where they came from. It shows children how to have good manners at the table along with how to learn to make recipes with mom and grandma. It offers hands on and fun recipes they can make like cake balls. The cookbook offers valuable life lessons that they can take with them throughout their lives.
Cassandra: Have you worked with any celebrities or chefs during your career?
Carolyn: When I had a cooking show in Chicago I worked with former NBA star Michael Jordan, Jerry Butler, and several local celebrities. On my radio show at WGCI , I worked with Oprah Winfrey, Willard Pugh, David Winfield, and Dick Gregory was a regular guest.
Cassandra: Have you ever received any honors, awards, etc.?
Carolyn: Yes, the Kizzy Award honoring strong black women in the community. I also used to work in a housing project, Cabrini Green in Chicago, a program for at-risk students. Oprah Winfrey came to talk to the students. As a result from her coming out, we started a big sister program, Kidada. A program designed to help boost self esteem.
Cassandra: Who or what is your greatest inspiration and why?
Carolyn: My mother. I can’t say enough about my mother. My mother raised nine kids and she was a positive influence in my life. You know, she never met a stranger. She would always turn a negative situation into a positive one. She always said “One day the sun is going to shine at our back door.” I am working on a book with that title. My mother gave me a sense of not being a victim.
Cassandra: What are your hopes and aspiration for the future?
Carolyn: I am happy that we have a president with a vision, a voice for our young people and he is reaching out to our young people. I am happy to have a man of color in office who is African American descent to get the message out on how important education is.
Cassandra:Carolyn what are you planning to do next?
Carolyn: To get my children’s book published before Christmas.
Cassandra: Carolyn, is there anything you would like to add?
Carolyn: I tell many young ladies that it doesn’t cost a dime to be a lady. I would also like to see more people pull back and reach out to care for people. People in the hood need more than just a check. They need physical bodies to care for them. They need RSVP in the hood, now.
Cassandra: Carolyn, thank you so much for your time!
End of Interview
Carolyn has just released a new video series, Angelina’s Zydeco, featuring Cajun and Creole cooking. Currently the 2nd video in the series is being promoted and Jambalaya, Shrimp Etouffee, and Crab cakes are the fabulous recipes on this video.
Cookbooks to compliment her videos are available as well as Carolyn's own Creole seasoning blend. For more information or to order this video call 225-288-9577 OR 337-292-6829.
Carolyn is also available for speaking engagements and cooking demonstrations. Please visit Carolyn Shelton's Website or contact her by emailing public relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carolyn Shelton, a true Black History Maker.
Today, Carolyn share some of her most famous recipes:
Po‘s Man‘s Gumbo
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 dozen Louisiana oysters with their liquid
1 large chicken cut into pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Creole seasonings, to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cooking oil or butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell or green pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 quarts stock or water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons thyme
1 bay leaf
3 pounds smoked sausage, sliced
2 teaspoons file’ powder
Drain oysters and reserve liquid. Season chicken well with salt, pepper, and a little Creole seasoning (add a little cayenne to spice things up). Fry chicken slowly in cooking oil until the chicken is a deep brown color. Remove chicken from oil and add flour to the remaining oil in pan and stir together until a brown roux is made. Add the onions to the roux, cooking for about 2 minutes, then add the bell pepper and celery.
Cook together for about 5 minutes, then add stock or water along with oyster liquor. Add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Brown the sausage and add with the chicken pieces to the gumbo, simmering all together for 1 hour.
When ready to serve, add oysters and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in file’ powder. Serve over cooked rice.
Liver and Onions a’ la’ Creole
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon butter
2 pounds sliced calf’s liver
½ cup flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell or green pepper, chopped
Hot water as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Creole seasoning to taste
Grits to serve
Heat oil in butter in a skillet. When hot, fry liver until slightly browned. Remove from the skillet and add the flour, stirring constantly to make a roux. Add onions, bell pepper and cook together for 3 minutes. Return the liver to the skillet and add 2 cups hot water.
Bring to a simmer and cook together for 20 to 30 minutes until liver is tender. Adjust seasonings and serve with grits.
2010 Soul Food Resources -
Soul Food History - Read about the true history of soul food cooking.
African American Inventors - A list of African American Food Inventors.
Black History Recipes - A collection of recipes especially designed for Black History.
Healthy Soul Food - low fat and delicious soul food recipes.
Tribute to Soul Food Chefs Soul Food Chefs
Soul Food Lover’s Cookbook - Soul Food Cookbook. Three generations of easy to follow family recipes by African American cooks. Own a piece of history. This cookbook is a treasure to own and to use for a lifetime.
Marlon Green, the first black pilot for Continental Airlines. He fought the airlines and won decades later. Read about his amazing flight of courage in the face of discrimination and the battles and struggles he encountered along the way. Marlon Green, a true Black History Maker. Marlon Green’s Story
Food for the Soul Get a Dose of Soul Food History
Judy W. Reed was the first African American woman to receive a patent in 1884 for a hand-operated machine used to knead and roll dough.
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