Jennifer Hill Booker is an African American woman of strength and character who can creatively meet life and culinary challenges with grace. Her passion for the culinary world knows no boundaries from creating new recipes, to teaching culinary arts, presenting live cooking demonstrations, keynote-speaking engagements and in the digital world where she engages with her online community. Her focused attention to detail came through loud and clear when she was a contestant on the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen competition food show. Life experiences have given her a special sensitivity to sharing her joy of cooking with others including single, working moms and military families. She takes pleasure in teaching people to cook healthy and delicious food. With her extensive culinary endeavors as a professional chef, culinary arts instructor and cookbook author, Chef Jennifer Hill Booker is like having your favorite chef in the kitchen with you! She is an inspiration and role model for girls and modern women who are balancing life’s many challenges.
Chef Jennifer’s culinary path has not always been a linear one. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tulsa before graduating first in her class; eighteen months later, with an Associate of Occupational Science from Oklahoma State Institute of Technology. Extensive travel while married to a United States Army Officer pushed Jennifer to blaze a trail that fit her unique situation-a female African American chef, living abroad. As a result, her culinary company Your Resident Gourmet was born. During her time living in Germany, Jennifer honed her culinary talents by providing cooking classes for both military and German families. She was also able to fulfill a lifelong dream of attending Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Paris, where she once again graduated top of her class. Twenty years later Jennifer finds herself once again blazing culinary trails as she wears many culinary hats as chef, cookbook author of Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent and Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow, reality TV personality, culinary educator and business owner.
She is an Impact Fellow with the James Beard Foundation, a Georgia Grown Executive Chef for the GA Department of Agriculture, the Culinary Explorer for the Georgia Department of Tourism and Travel, and is the founder of Southern Divas of the New South TM Dinner Series. Chef Jennifer is an active member of the prestigious Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a member of SlowFood-Atlanta and of Atlanta’s No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. Chef Jennifer currently sits on the James Beard Foundation Food Waste Advisory Council.
Weaving her love of traditional Southern cuisine with her belief in incorporating healthy, seasonal foods and her classic French training, Chef Jennifer created a unique style of cooking that she terms Modern Southern Healthy Cuisine with a French Accent. Chef Jennifer shares this brand of cooking through her cooking segment ‘Chef Jenn to the Rescue,’ on CBS46’s Atlanta Plugged In, many television appearances, with original recipes in such publications as Waste Not Cookbook, Southern Living Magazine, Garden & Gun and Essence Magazine as well as her Food Network debut as a finalist on Cutthroat Kitchen. Her website, ChefJenniferHillBooker.com provides information about healthy eating, culinary trends, travel, and recipes that reflect her culinary point of view of Modern Southern Healthy Cuisine with a French Accent.
Chef Jennifer spends her free time in her kitchen, garden, or the farmer’s market. She currently resides in Lilburn, Georgia with her two daughters Jenelle and Regine and their KorgieJack, Pudge.
Shrimp & Grits with Tomato Okra Gravy
1 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits 3⁄4 cup grated cheddar
1⁄4 cup parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 pound medium wild Georgia shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined 1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1⁄2 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 medium garden fresh tomatoes, cored and diced
1⁄2 pound tender young okra, cut into 1⁄2 inch pieces
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pinch cayenne pepper
4 scallions, thinly sliced
In a 2-qt. saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cover and cook until grits are tender and creamy, about 30–40 minutes, whisking frequently. Add additional water if grits are too thick.
Whisk in cheddar, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon butter and season with salt; cover and set aside on low heat
In a medium sized skillet heat vegetable oil over low heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet with reserved bacon fat and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Lower heat and add onion to skillet and cook until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute more.
Add flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated, while scraping the bottom of skillet, about 5 minutes.
Raise heat to high, add chicken stock. Whisk until smooth, simmering until thick and smooth. Add tomatoes and okra to onion flour mixture, decrease heat to medium, and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.
Cook until okra softens and tomatoes begin to break down, making a thick gravy. Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, and continue to simmer until okra has cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add more stock if gravy gets too thick.
Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce eats through, about 1 minute.
Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and tomato okra gravy.
Garnish each bowl with bacon and scallions.