Photo by Samantha Bolton for Yahoo Food.
By Joanna Prisco
Fans of hip-hop and R&B artist Kelis have long associated the singer-songwriter with food-themed releases — perhaps most famously her 2003 hit single “Milkshake,” one sip of which “brings all the boys to the yard,” as the chorus goes.
But what many may not realize is that, in addition to her musical ear, the performer boasts bona fide chef credentials. Meaning, she can rock a mise en place as well as the microphone.
The dual passions have been intertwined her entire life, she told Yahoo Food.
Kelis from her book “My Life on a Plate.” (Photo: David Loftus)
“I don’t have a memory of learning to sing or a first memory of cooking,” said Kelis, the daughter of a jazz musician and a professional caterer. “They just were there in my life from the beginning. I was always making music and I was always there with my mom helping in the wings as she prepared for weddings and other big events, doing whatever she would let me.”
While her cooking foundation began in Harlem neighborhood of New York City, in her mother’s kitchen, the artist credits touring the world as a musician with expanding her palate and ultimately inspiring her to take her skills to the next level and attend Le Cordon Bleu.
“I had just finished my tour, and I think it was the first time in my life where I wasn’t required to do anything,” she said. “I was in a position where I could actually take the time off so I decided to jump right in to it — and I’m really glad that I did it. It was the best decision of my life.”
Since graduating from culinary school, Kelis now spends time in between engagements at Brooklyn’s Afropunk and Shanghai’s Echopark music festivals crafting her own line of sauces under the name Bounty & Full and regularly entertaining family and friends with weekend feasts and themed dishes. Last week, she released her very first cookbook: “My Life on a Plate: Recipes From Around the World.”
The cover of Kelis’ new cookbook, “My Life on a Plate.” (Photo: David Loftus)
Does she think that the contents will surprise readers?
“I’m not sure what will surprise people, y’know, I never know how people see me,” said Kelis. “But I feel good about it because it’s very honest. Food is extremely honest and cooking is the most honest that people can be with themselves. So, what I can say is that this is more intimate for me than anything I’ve ever done.”
From the Puerto Rican pernil that she grew up enjoying at family gatherings to a root beer-spiked BBQ sauce that she perfected after culinary training, each dish is introduced with an anecdote taken from Kelis’ life as a performer, mother, chef, wife, and daughter — as close to a memoir as she has written to date.
“The title of the book actually came while writing my thank yous, and I thanked my publisher for allowing me to put my biography on a plate. Because that’s really what it is: It’s all of the things I picked up around the world and moments from my life,” she said.
But there is one recipe that readers will definitely not find. Did she intentionally decide to leave out a milkshake?
“[Laughing] I mean, honestly, it’s funny because I wrote that song 10 years ago and people still make so many references to it but I actually forget that I even sang it sometimes,” said Kelis. “It’s so far from my life right now. So not including a milkshake recipe wasn’t conscious or unconscious [laughs]. It’s just that I’m an actual chef. So milkshakes are not something that I spend a lot of time on.”
Visit Yahoo Food throughout the week for recipes from My Life On a Plate.
Check out other cookbooks from Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week: