The Story Behind Salt & Pepper Chefs By Show Creator & Executive Producer Drakeel Burns
I think Salt & Pepper Chefs has nine lives because its survival rate rivals that of most cats, but I never gave up on the show because I knew it was special from the start. My commitment to the program’s success grew even more after the historic presidential election of Barack Obama. In the sea of salt and peppers rejoicing throughout the world, I saw the essence of this show that celebrates diversity and unity in the kitchen.
In October, 2005, raisins inspired me. While watching a black chef and white chef prepare the fruit for a cooking competition, I was entertained and a bit perplexed. They were teasing each other about interracial relations, using the raisins as a prop.
“Don’t mix the raisins,” one of the chefs said jokingly.
I was intrigued. I never knew the fruit came in different shades because it’s not my favorite, and the chefs were really funny. I immediately said to myself, “That’s a show,” but I didn’t have a title. “Ebony and Ivory?” I thought. Then a friend suggested Salt & Pepper, and Salt & Pepper: Shaking Things Up in the Kitchen was born.
Working on a limited budget – in other words, no money – our production crews were paid mostly with care packages of meals I made at home. “Getting people to do things for free—that’s your super power,” one friend often said half-jokingly. From the beginning, the people who helped bring Salt & Pepper Chefs to the screen have believed in this project. The challenge was finding the right talent.
My original hosts were female chefs who were knowledgeable about food and great friends. Unfortunately, on the eve of a scheduled video shoot, they backed out in an email. One got cold feet, and the other just didn’t want to continue. A second pair of potential hosts, also excellent in the kitchen, didn’t quite click on camera. One of those hosts, Brian Reeve, was a definite keeper. The challenge was finding the right counterpart for him.
While visiting Stratford University, I learned about one of the cooking school’s instructors—Chef “Tee” Terrell Danley. We met and my gut told me he was the one.
Brian and Chef Tee did live demos, radio and television interviews. Folks LOVED them. Then our big break—a major hotel chain approached us about making instructional cooking videos for its extended stay properties to get guests cooking. Unfortunately, the day we were set to sign the deal, the company backed out because of the recession. The chain couldn’t justify financing while struggling with cutbacks, lay-offs and a hiring freeze.
I thought, “Now what are we going to do?” With no money coming in I didn’t know how we were going to pull off a website. During my pity party, Brian and Tee kept things in perspective. “This is going to happen one way or the other,” they said encouragingly.
Suddenly, the past dramas didn’t matter. I found my true culinary husbands, who were willing to go the distance. The support got me out of my funk and on the phone. I asked for help from everyone I could think of, and soon we secured all we needed to make Saltnpepperchefs.com a reality.