Baker Chris Tucker is living his passion in the kitchen

Chris Tucker, photo provided by Anderson Public Relations
Chris Tucker, photo provided by Anderson Public Relations /

Chris Tucker turned childhood memories at his grandmother’s side into a passion and a business.

To say that Chris Tucker’s culinary journey has been a bit unorthodox would be an understatement, yet it’s exactly that path that makes him and his story so fascinating.

Growing up in Florida, Chris’ family would make regular trips to Arkansas to visit his grandma, It was there that he became her de facto sous chef, actively contributing to the extensive cooking she did for everyone. And when his grandmother passed away, the family expected him to pick up the slack and put out spreads worthy of her talents and effort.

As an adult, Tucker spent 10 years as a successful hairdresser, but a loss of love for his career and both an affinity and knack for baking led him to walk away from the salon and into the kitchen full-time. With his husband’s encouragement and support, he was able to leave the sTRESSES of one profession behind while jumping into a new one and seeing it FLOURish.

With an eye toward making a name for himself and building a brand, Chris developed Betta With Butta. Why butta?

“When you think about butter and you think about the building blocks of a recipe, it’s fat and sugar, so when you think about formulating a recipe, it starts with that fat and it’s very formulaic and it’s very scientific, but it always goes back to that fat. I always choose to use butter because it has the most flavor. Speaking to different bakers, depending upon what part of the world they’re in, they might choose to use shortening, they might choose to use lard. I always choose butter because I think it has the best flavor. And we do a lot of things that are vegan, but even our vegan baked goods, they’re baked with vegan butter. So they’re still getting that buttery flavor that we’re after. And we just think that everything’s better with butter, so we couldn’t have thought of a better name to roll with. It honestly started as an Instagram handle. Then we realized that we should roll with it because it’s just good.”

Anecdotally, I can confirm that Chris Tucker’s conviction about butter is borne out in his work, as the coffee cake I enjoyed was among the best ones I’ve had. And I’ve yet to meet a coffee cake I didn’t like either, but Chris’ nailed it, from the buttery foundation to the perfect density to the spot-on ratio of crumb topping.

As if being a talented baker wasn’t enough, Chris has parlayed his engaging, warm enthusiasm for the craft into a variety of television roles, including ABC’s The Great American Baking Show. One such appearance on Inside Edition featured Tucker sharing his recipe for banana bread, one of the most popular items home cooks have turned to during the pandemic.

What is it about banana bread that makes it so appealing to Chris?

“When you think about banana bread, it dates back to the great depression. So we’re basically in the great depression again and it requires minimal ingredients, ingredients that you probably have on-hand already. It’s flour and sugar, some spices, it’s eggs, it’s bananas that you may have bought to be healthy that week and throw in a smoothie, but they’ve gone bad, so you might as well use them for banana bread. The reason I think my recipe is so good is because I use that tried and true butter, but I also use a little bit of oil. My aunt used to make what she calls a banana brick, because it was so dense, but she used all oil in hers. So when I was creating my recipe for banana bread, I wanted to infuse my style of baking, but also adhere to what I grew up eating. And that was her banana brick, which was super, super moist and never looked pretty. It was just always this kind of brick. But every year around Christmas, you were excited to get it because she would always package them for everyone. And so my recipe fuses oil and butter. And what the butter does is coats the flour and it makes things super moist. And they you’re getting this other moisture level from the oil. So you’re getting a slice of banana bread that’s kind of cakey, kind of quick-bready, and just really delicious.”

I asked Chris what his vision is for Betta With Butta.

“We’re just continuing to garner exposure for the brand. And we’re continuing to get our name out there as much as possible. We have a few different concepts right now for shows that we’re looking into and there’s some talk about a cookbook. So we have a lot of exciting things that are happening. You just have to go for it and see what sticks. And I really believe that our path has already kind of been laid out for us, but it’s not going to come to fruition unless we work for it. So we’re working hard at building the brand up and creating new recipes. We’re always going to be a brand that does well for others too. It’s about being charitible and giving back to the community. And I think when you do that and you pair it with hard work, there’s always going to be good that comes out of it.”

One of Chris’ charitible efforts that I was drawn to is The Cake Initiative, which is a by-product of the coronavirus pandemic. Through The Cake Initiative, Chris and Betta With Butta are building a national network of bakers who have committed to giving cakes away to families that have been economically impacted by COVID-19. If you have a favorite bakery or baker in your area, directing them to Betta With Butta could bring a smile to members of your community who have suffered pandemic-related hardships.

While this Chris Tucker hasn’t made any films with Jackie Chan, I’d suggest that he brings a different type of joy to people–the joy of baked goods. Better yet, those creations, including seasonal ones, are just a few clicks of your keyboard away on the Betta With Butta website.

Speaking of films, if one is ever made about baker Chris Tucker, they could name it “A River of Butter Runs Through It”. I’ll expect royalties Chris.

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What’s your favorite baked good? Do you agree with Chris Tucker that everything’s betta with butta?