When the coronavirus pandemic first hit Houston last year, one chef sprung into action to help those on the front lines by making sure no one went hungry.
"We served over 3,000 meals to first responders and health care workers," Chris Williams, chef and owner of Lucille’s Fine Southern Foods, told "Good Morning America." "The World Central Kitchen reached out to us and so I came up with a menu for 30 days and we went from doing 100 people a day to 450 a day, which is a little under 2,500 meals a week."
The restaurant, which pays homage to Williams’ great grandmother, Lucille B. Smith, focuses on mixing southern cuisine with bits of global influence.
Williams also said Smith was a pioneer who created the first hot roll mix in the country and set up the first commercial culinary education program in the country at Prairie View University.
“Her products were featured on American Airlines for their first-class passengers,” Williams said. “She had an amazing roster of clients from Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, to Joe Louis.”
Inspired by his great grandmother, Williams wanted to help those battling the coronavirus pandemic head-on, in her honor.
So this year, Williams launched a community collective called “Lucille’s 1913” -- a nod to the year his great grandmother launched her catering business -- which involves a network of farms, markets and kitchens that hopes to combat food insecurity and create employment opportunities.
To date, the non-profit has provided more than 150,000 meals for Houstonians in need. It has also set up three satellite kitchens in Houston’s Southwest and Fifth Ward neighborhoods as well as Richmond, Texas, in addition to planting four community gardens.
“If my great grandmother could see what we’re doing today, I think she’d be nothing but happy for us,” said Williams.
Read on for one of Williams’ best selling dishes on their menu:
Berbere Spiced Cornish Hen with Rice Grits
2 tablespoons berbere spice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 garlic head, peeled
1 cup oil
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup chicken stock
Zest from 2 limes
Juice from 2 limes
1/2 cornish hen
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine berbere spice, brown sugar and salt.
Toss garlic cloves with oil and place in a baking dish. Bake garlic for 15 minutes until roasted. Strain the garlic and keep the garlic oil.
Using a blender, puree garlic with a half cup of chicken stock until smooth.
Add garlic puree to berbere spice blend and mix. Mix in lime juice and the zest. Add 1/4 cup of chicken stock and the garlic oil and mix well.
Marinate the cornish hen with the berbere spice marinade for at least 1 hour.
Carolina Gold Rice Grits with Cheese
1 cup long grain rice
4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup cheddar cheese
Put rice in a blender and pulse a few times to break it up.
Put the rice grits in a medium-sized pot and add chicken stock and bring the stock to a boil then turn down to a simmer.
Stir the rice occasionally until the rice is cooked. The consistency should be creamy. (Around 15-20 minutes. Add more chicken stock if necessary to get the right consistency).
Add the lemon juice and cheddar cheese and mix.