Chef Alisa Reynolds’ definition of soul food is love — love that is found in every culture and every country around the world, dating back to before recipes were even written down. In her new Hulu series, Searching for Soul Food, the Black chef travels around the globe exploring stories, the people and traditions in the culinary worlds of Mississippi, Oklahoma, Appalachia, South Africa, Italy, Jamaica, Peru and her hometown of Los Angeles.

“I asked myself what soul food really is and what does it really mean?” the owner of My 2 Cents LA, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, tells LA Weekly. Not only for my people, but for America and the world. Do these same elements happen in other cultures — the love and sense of home and comfort? So I went out to search for it in other places and found that it’s centered in tradition. Some of these recipes were never actually written down and the things that grandmothers hold in their hands that are taught through legacy and lineage, through generations that stay the same. Some of these things started even before anyone could read, let alone write down a recipe. I wanted to know how this existed around the world.”

Searching for Soul Food

Woody’s BBQ owner Tracy Phillips, left, and chef Alisa Reynolds (Courtesy Hulu)

Classically trained chef sets out to taste the soul of the rest of the world in the eight-part series, which includes exploring the 8,000-year-old tradition of Pachamanca in Peru and the history of jerk cooking that evolved out of social circumstances.

“What really blew my mind was  how the Native Americans shared some of their techniques with the Africans and we, as Black Americans thinking these soul food dishes came from us, when in fact they are Native American like hush puppies and hot water cornbread,” says the classically trained chef.

For the L.A. episode, Reynolds taps into her own fondest Angeleno memories, like Woody’s Barbeque, her Koreatown roots and tacos.

“Choosing the L.A. vendors was hard,” she says of the production that has been five years in the making. “L.A. is its own culinary melting pot, but the first thing I thought of was smoke. Los Angeles  is famous for smoke — if it’s not marijuana, then it’s a barbecue pit somewhere. I remember when I was younger, going by Woody’s and smelling that beautiful barbecue. There are legacy vendors like Woody’s with a fascinating story. It was a personal choice for me because my parents have been going there since I was born. A lot of kids don’t go into the family business, but Woody’s kids are dedicated to keeping their dad’s legacy alive. My parents and I all grew up near Koreatown and people don’t realize just how much they actually barbecue inside their homes all the time. And of course, you can’t do an L.A. story without the tacos.”

Searching for Soul Food

Woody’s BBQ pork ribs (Courtesy Hulu)

In 2017 Reynolds, who started out as a personal chef for Common, nearly lost her business as the result of a lawsuit. Her community and celebrity fans including  Solange helped to raise funds to save her soul food restaurant. 

A descendant of Dutch and African roots, Reynolds takes a different look at what’s on the plate and how various cultures around the world are connected. 

“Because food is my love language, I wanted a show that would tie us all together,” she says.

Searching for Soul Food is now streaming on Hulu.

Searching for Soul Food

Cooking stew in South Africa (Courtesy Hulu)












































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