Charming and celebrated cook and Mississippi Public Broadcasting host of Deep South Dining, Deborah Hunter, uses her joy in the kitchen to cook up delicious dishes and serve a side of laughter and joy to her loyal followers.
Jenny Cox Holman, Lifestyle & Travel Editor for Mississippi Matters, sat down with Deborah Hunter to learn about her exciting journey into a career as a professional cook and how she became a giver of true Southern hospitality to all.
Deborah, can you tell our readers about yourself? Where did you grow up and when you were a child what did you dream to be one day?
My friends and family affectionately call me " Honey!" I grew up in Mississippi, a place that I truly truly love. I am a native of west Jackson and a graduate of Lanier High School. I am also a "PK," a pastor's kid, and oldest of four children. I am a mother of a beautiful daughter and granddaughter.
I embrace being a southern girl with my whole heart; for me it's both a birthright and a privilege to be a representative of great hospitality and to be open to share a delicious meal with people, no matter where they are from. It's always a whole lot of fun to invite people to my dinner table.
As a little girl growing up, I always dreamed of being on the big stage - as a movie star. In my heart, I always knew whatever God had planned for me to do in this life would involve me being able to share my talents, time and love with a lot of people.
How did you find yourself on the journey that led you to become a charming and celebrated Mississippi cook?
I would have never thought in a million years that I would be doing what I'm doing now- COOKING. In 2010, I moved into a beautiful new home with a gorgeous chef kitchen which was truly a waste of space because I was not a cook. I remember walking into the kitchen one morning in a very playful mood, closing my eyes, and raising my hands while laughing and I asked God to please teach me how to cook.
I had no idea that that simple prayer would lead me to some of the most wonderful opportunities and the gift of meeting so many amazing people. I truly have a better understanding of Ephesians 3:20 - "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." How amazing is it to know that God's love for us will take our simple prayers and turn them into extraordinary dreams!
Can you tell us about your current role with Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB)? And also what other places can our readers find you cooking up your favorite dishes?
Talk about extraordinary experience - I've been at Mississippi Public Broadcasting for three years now as the host of Deep South Dining, a radio show that airs every Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. on 91.3FM alongside the insatiable Kevin Farrell.
The show has gone from number 12 to number 4 in local radio programming and I'm very proud of that. Deep South Dining is all about great southern living, food, entertainment and our extraordinary hospitality!
I get to share my cooking skills with listeners all over the world as well as interview and meet some of the most prestigious culinary personalities. Needless to say I'm having a blast! To find some of my yummy recipes please join me everyday on Facebook / Instagram / and YouTube at Cooking With Honey And Friends.
Have you always enjoyed cooking and baking?
I am absolutely in love with baking now, but as I stated earlier, growing up cooking was the last thing on my mind! Now I can't get enough of cooking and baking. I have the excitement of a little kid every time I walk into the kitchen discovering new techniques, products, recipes and ideas. It's quite incredible and a constant reminder for me that you're never too old to learn something new!
Who has been your greatest mentor or source of strength to inspire you to use your talents to help others?
I have an impressive list of people that actually influence me; on the top of that list is my mother! My mother always taught me to be a lady and to be kind. Her advice to me is to always reach for a standard of excellence when it comes to serving others and hospitality.
Culinary side chef sources of inspiration are: Julia Childs, Beatrice Smith- better known as B. Smith-and I would be remiss not to mention Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray. There's something about each of these women that I truly admire in the industry because they are brilliant, savvy business women who have each affected their communities in very positive ways. They have each lit the torch entrepreneurship for me to follow.
What do you like most about what you do?
I love sharing great meals with others - it's something about hearing the sounds people make and watching their facial expressions when they are eating my food. I'm always grateful when they are satisfied. It's truly an honor and testament to the gift that God intrusted me with!
How would you describe yourself as a cook? What’s your speciality or signature dishes that you enjoy preparing?
I am a down home southern cook with a knack for taking simple meals and adding a little extra glamour to each dish. My signature dish is one that I hope to be taking to the market soon, "Honey's Sweet Potato Pie." Let me simply say there are lots of sweet potato pies on the market, but this one truly is extraordinary. It is rich, moist, creamy and not too sweet. It is a perfect bite every time with a unique blend of spices. Let's just say a few people have said it was good enough to make them want to slap their grandmother, LOL!
What are the top three kitchen tools or appliances that every good cook needs to have?
If you are like me, I love gadgets! Your kitchen doesn't always have to have all of the latest utensils to produce great meals. You do need a set of moderately priced set of pots and pans, some great knives, a few mixing bowls and spoons. The most important thing that every kitchen MUST HAVE always is a whole lot of LOVE because at the end of the day, no matter how many appliance or how expensive they may be if there's no LOVE the food is not good!
What is your advice for someone who would like to become a better cook or who would like to branch out in the kitchen?
My advice for someone who wants to become a cook or better cook is " keep it simple!" Use simple recipes, as the ultimate goal is to create dishes that your guests can truly enjoy. "Be openminded!" By being openminded to trying new spices and new food items, you can take a simple meal and make it extraordinary. "Don't give up!" You're not going to always get it right; not even the professionals do that. Last, but not least have fun. Joy makes everything taste better!
How do you hope to inspire others to have joy in the kitchen and to offer smiles and laughter through the medium of great food?
I hope to inspire other people to be just a little bit more loving, to bring their friends and family to the table, to simply enjoy one another as well as great conversations - that's what southern hospitality and Mississippi is all about!
Along with my cookbooks that will feature quick and easy recipes, I am presently working on the re-introduction of the "Cooking with Honey and Friends" television show where I hope to give the world a sweeter view of this beautiful place I call home and create delicious foods for magnificent people!
Can you share with our readers a favorite recipe for a delicious dessert? And for a savory dish?
MY BUTTER RUM CUSTARD PIE!
It's my grandmothers egg custard pie all grown up! This amazing custard pie is creamy, light, smooth and fluffy baked in a perfectly golden flaky crust and drizzled in a buttered rum sauce.
Preheat oven to 350°
•2 pie crust
Lightly brush on melted butter and pre-bake in oven for 8 minutes, remove and set to the side
• 5 eggs
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1/2 cup sweet condensed milk
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 stick melted butter
• 2-1/2 tablespoons flour
• 1 teaspoon vanilla flavor
• 1 tablespoon RUM
• 2 teaspoons nutmeg
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth, add your milk, flour, flavors and spices. Now add in your eggs whipped until there is no streaking. Pour batter into each pie shell, sprinkle on a small amount of nutmeg, place in the oven and bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Turn off your oven, open the oven door and allow the pie to rest until the oven is completely cool. This will give your pie a chance to set.
• 4 pats of butter
• 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
• 1/4 cup rum
• 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Melt the butter in a small boiler, add sweetened condensed milk, rum and nutmeg on medium high heat. Bring to a light boil, constantly stirring, until mixture lightly caramelizes and remove from heat. Slice your pie, plate it and drizzle it with this amazing glaze and enjoy!
GARLIC AND GREEN ONION BISCUITS
• 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon of baking soda
• 6 tablespoons of cold butter cut into pieces
• 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
• 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
• 2 tablespoon of freshly chopped green onions
• 5-6 tablespoons cold Sprite
In a large bowl add flour, salt, baking soda and garlic powder. Give it a good stir now. Add in your pieces of cold butter using your hands - mash the butter into the flour until it forms crumb-like pieces . Add green onions. Make a well in the center of your flour mixture and add in your oil and sprite using your hands folded together until it forms a soft ball. Pour the soft ball onto a well floured surface. Using your hands fold the dough into the flour, pushing it forward and folding 3 to 4 times ( the folding helps to create layers in your biscuits). Now take a knife and cut your dough into squares. Place your biscuit dough into a lightly oiled and floured pan. Place in a oven that's been preheated to 375° and bake for 40 to 45 minutes ( about 30 minutes into the baking time remove your biscuits from the oven, brush on a small amount of butter and place them back in and continue to bake until they're nice and golden brown.) I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as we do!
Would you like to learn more amazing recipes from Deborah Hunter - connect with her on Facebook. For more great stories of community leaders, visit our Community Section on Mississippi Matters.