Chef Alisa Reynolds believes Searching for Soul Food serves love on the plate, interview

Searching For Soul Food -- “Lima, Peru” - Episode 107 -- Chef Alisa dives into the diverse cultures who combined their culinary traditions with the natural bounty of Peru to elevate Lima into one of culinary capitals of the world. Chef Alisa Reynolds, shown. (Photo by: Hulu)
Searching For Soul Food -- “Lima, Peru” - Episode 107 -- Chef Alisa dives into the diverse cultures who combined their culinary traditions with the natural bounty of Peru to elevate Lima into one of culinary capitals of the world. Chef Alisa Reynolds, shown. (Photo by: Hulu) /

The term soul food can have a particular connotation in the food world. Although some people might think of a plate of luscious macaroni and cheese or a heaping serving of collard greens, the flavor in those dishes is not limited to just the ingredients in the recipe. In the new Hulu series, Searching for Soul Food, Chef Alisa Reynolds explores how community and culture influences the recipes served on the table.

Chef Alisa Reynolds has served her version of soul food to a plethora of diners. While the talented chef has had her ups and downs in the restaurant world, she appreciates that food can be the catalyst to learning. The path might not be a straight one, but it is a journey worth taking.

On the new Hulu show Searching for Soul Food, Reynolds travels far and wide to taste and explore how soul-full food is a reflection of community and culture. From Native American culture’s humble roots to the vibrant Peruvian food scene, the commonalities are far greater than the differences.

During a recent media day, Reynolds graciously answered some questions about her Hulu show, Searching for Soul Food, her perspective on food and culture, and what other regions she would like to explore next.

While some people might have a preconceived notion of soul food, Reynolds and her show are pushing those limited concepts aside. Reynolds said that her starting point was to think about the term soul food and what does it truly mean, the origination stories of that concept, and how it is being interpreted today. She said that it is “compassionate food, food of resilience, food that when you had nothing you put it on the plate.”

Although not necessarily a story of resourcefulness, there are elements that showcase that cooking from the heart can be served with what is available. From stretching minimal ingredients in a profound way to thinking beyond the traditional food items, that resilience in the face of adversity is served on a plate.

Alisa Reynolds and Zola Nene on Searching for Soul Food
Searching For Soul Food — “Cape Town, South Africa” – Episode 104 — In her first ever trip to The Motherland, Chef Alisa cooks and eats her way through Cape Town, South Africa, a city with a complex culture of food formed by an even more complicated history. Chef Zola Nena and Chef Alisa Reynolds, shown. (Photo by: Hulu) /

Through the eight episodes, the history is woven into the modern application. From well-known culinary figures like Zola NeNe to social media commentators, each episode highlights a specific locale, but the true story is how interconnected the food journey has become.

Reynolds commented that she was surprised with the similarities and there were more than she anticipated. It was more than expected flavor notes or even the occasional recipe interpretation. She said, “the stories of survival, ingenuity and making things from what you had” were apparent. More importantly, everything was put together with love. The ingredients and the process has now part of that food legacy.

As more people become interested in where, how, and why that food origin matters, there is a hunger to learn more. Even more importantly, there is a celebration of how that food makes people feel. It is not just being satiated; it is a fuller satisfaction.

That great appreciation for food in its totality is something that Reynolds wanted to explore. Looking at the concept of soul food, the dishes on the plate today are far different from their origination story. That plate of fried chicken is more than a crispy, golden brown unctuous flavor. It was created by circumstance, given what was available at the time. Today, those amazing flavors might feel like an all encompassing hug, but it is the compassion and resilience from its origination that creates the deliciousness.

Even though many of the concepts are rooted in tradition, Reynolds believes that the food can and should evolve. That plate of macaroni and cheese can be made a little healthier. It does not take away from the intent. Instead, it is a blending of new and old traditions.

Reynolds recalled that her journey through Searching for Soul Food found her appreciating the beauty of each story and the locale. Although each moment impacted her, the time spent in Peru was quite compelling. Feeling as if she was on sacred ground, the experience was one that lingered in her mind.

As viewers savor Searching for Soul Food on Hulu, Alisa Reynolds hopes that there will be a season two. Whether it is a trip to Nicaragua or the Seychelles, chefs around the world are serving their version of soul-full food. She has a long list of new locales to explore and more stories to share.

All eight episodes of Searching for Soul Food are available on Hulu.