Interview with Bobby Deen: From Mama’s Table to Mine

Like mother like son? Bobby Deen and his mama, Paula

If the novelty of your gym membership has worn off, you’ll be looking for new ways to keep up with your get-fit New Year’s resolution—as many of us are. Luckily for you, there’s plenty of small things you can do with your diet to make a difference without giving up the good stuff altogether. Son-of-a-superstar-chef and growing legend himself, Bobby Deen will be in Dallas tomorrow, February 8, to sign his new cookbook, From Mama’s Table to Mine, at Barnes and Noble (7700 W. Northwest Highway).

There’s definitely nothing about this book that screams diet, but if you take a look at most of the recipes, each one has been modified from one of his mother’s originals. Most of the dishes cut a couple hundred calories off each plate. I was lucky enough to talk to him about his book before he gets here.

Aimee Pass: What’s your trick to making healthy food taste good?

Bobby Deen: What I do is a lot of shuffling around. I find the major culprit in recipes—find what contains the most fat and calories—and find a way to cut it back, which is really simple, or replace it with fresh spices or with vegetables. Things that are flavorful, but not necessarily fattening.

AP: What recipe does everyone need to try from the book?

BD: The black bean soup with avocado is really good. I could eat it every day. So try that next. There’s a really good meat loaf in there. There is a really good un-fried chicken recipe in there. I do a shrimp and grits that’s really good.  There’s some fish recipes that are really good. Basically, Aimee, every recipe in the book.

AP: What do you think about the get-fit trends in America?

BD: I think that my style of cooking is very time-appropriate because we are in this funny stage in America where we have a hunger problem. We have children that don’t get regular meals, but then we’re fat. And that doesn’t make sense to me. We have a hunger problem, and we have an obesity problem at the same time, so I really would like to think that, and I hope that, my show and this book will help people find alternative ways to cook, but also to eat because, unfortunately, some of the worst foods for you out there are the cheapest. And the most easily accessible. So I would like to bring people back into the kitchen.

AP: A lot of the recipes looked pretty easy, with limited ingredients lists, did you do that on purpose?

BD: It’s very important to me that the recipes be affordable and that they be simple, because I don’t want to make things more difficult for people in the kitchen.

AP: Any of your mother’s recipes you’d never touch?

BD: You know, there is one, but I did it anyhow, and I wish that I wouldn’t have. But it’s my favorite thing. I’m sure that we all have things that our mother’s made for us that remind us of home and of our youth and this comfortable time in our lives and for me it’s my mama’s goulash. She’s always made it my whole life. It’s one of those one-pot dishes that’s a conglomeration of a bunch of different stuff. It’s this mix between a spaghetti sauce and souped up beefaroni. It’s one of those things that’s so, so good that my mom’s always made. In fact, she makes it for me every year on my birthday. So I go to her house, and I have this goulash every year on my birthday. And it’s just my favorite thing. It warms my heart. And that is the one recipe that I should not have messed with, not because it wasn’t good, but just because it was the original.

AP: Do you think you should ever compromise good food for a diet?

BD: This is all about balance and moderation. I’m strict on myself and hard on myself about 80 percent of the time, and then the other 20 percent, you’ve got to live and enjoy yourself. So when my mama calls me on Sunday, and says, “Hey I’m cooking!” I am not looking for low-fat, I’m not asking for low-fat. I’m going to go over there. I’m going to sit down, and I’m going to eat what my mama serves me, and I’m going to love it. But I’m going to be in the gym on Monday morning. But, I mean, that’s life. You’re not just talking about food. That’s everything. Balance and moderation—that’s every aspect of our lives.

Aimee Pass is a senior at the University of North Texas studying journalism, English, and political science. She has been interning with D Magazine since January. She is a long-time food-lover, first-time food-blogger.