Pantry Portrait: Harlem Wright
The personal chef and culinary producer dishes on her pantry TOP FIVE, kitchen alchemy, and what Brandy's "Put That on Everything" has to do with Drizzle.
Coming from a family of professional farmers, cooks, hosts, and overall hospitalitarians, I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of shared experiences and kinship through food and service. Although I’m a product of my family’s traditions and prayers, I have found my own culinary perspective. There’s one word that encapsulates my cooking philosophy – process. I have deep reverence for the process of turning a small seed into a beautifully-presented plate of food. I call it kitchen alchemy because I feel like I’m performing magic.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of shared experiences and kinship through food and service.
When I’m gardening, cooking, or plating a dish, I’m having fun and enjoying myself. I’m serving these dishes with an attitude of play and exploration. I believe that energy can be shared with those who eat the food I prepare, because I always feel a little closer to them. It’s like we’ve bonded in a way. After working in fine dining for over a decade, I wanted to leave some of the seriousness behind and embrace a whimsical, more nostalgic attitude towards dining. Through my food, I’m sharing my ancestral knowledge about growing crops, intentional ingredient sourcing, telling stories through dishes, and hosting with grace. My personal chef and culinary production business, Just Playted, is an offering of love in which that love is reciprocated through undying support in my endeavors from my family, friends, and community.
I’m so grateful, always!
Harlem's Top Five
Oats have been there for me for richer or for poorer. They can be dressed up or dressed down and can be prepared sweet or savory. They are nutritious, have sustenance, an amazing texture, and are extremely versatile. I love making homemade granola and eating it with milk like cereal for a midnight snack.
Polenta / Grits
According to my mom, Grits was the first solid food I’ve ever eaten as a baby. I am a grits purist and am extremely particular about how I prepare mine. Lately, I’ve been using Polenta as grits. I love the texture and color. My favorite way to eat grits is with salmon cakes for a super hearty breakfast.
The singer Brandy has a song called “Put That On Everything” and that’s exactly how I feel about good quality olive oil. I put it on EVERYTHING. Olive oil is either the foundation or the embellisher of any great dish. In most cases, it’s both.
One of my favorite culinary scents is sesame oil. I find any excuse to make a dish that involves sesame oil because the flavor and aroma is simply beautiful!
Tea is so integral to my overall wellbeing. I have a tea blend for everything. I’m really into holistic medicine so I use tea for both enjoyment and medicine. I truly believe we are all one cup of tea away from health and happiness.