My nana, Agnes, was the best chef I’ve ever known. She was raised in the south, so naturally, southern cuisine was her first love. But she could cook anything. We used to spend hours watching cooking shows; Julia Child was her favorite. I was always in the kitchen with her watching and learning. We had huge Sunday dinners at our house every week. When my nana got sick, I stepped up and continued our dinners as a teenager. She was very proud of me. 

Growing up, we didn’t eat a lot of sweets. But for the holidays, we would always anticipate Nana’s sweet potato pie. My grandma never wrote down a recipe or measured a thing—so when recipes were passed down to me from her and my mother, I was only given the ingredients. The memories of her baking, the aromas and the tastes were all I needed to make my own version of her pie, because soul food is about cooking from the heart. Enjoy! 

Chef Chuck’s Family-Style Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo


  • 1 bunch celery (diced leaves and all)
  • 1 bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 bunch green onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley leaves(finely chopped)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp Cajun seasoning,your choice
  • 6-8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Meat from 1 whole chicken
  • 2 cups shrimp (precooked if needbe; I like fresh, and I add mine at the very end)
  • 1 package cooked white rice (my family likesbrown rice) for serving


  • Make your roux, and sautéyour veggies until translucent in a hot skillet. Then add chicken
  • Add your chicken and shrimp.
  • At this point, taste it and add moreseasoning to your liking—salt, pepper, more chicken broth—if needed until youreach the perfect flavor.
  • Serve warm over rice and ENJOY!
  • Note: Roux can be made 3–5 days inadvance. Keep in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.


by Dina Biondo in Recipes