Food Story

7 must-have foods for a Southern cookout, according to Food Network chef coming to Macon

Celebrity chef Jernard Wells is considered one of America’s top chefs, appearing on the Food Network and opening multiple restaurants around the country.

A Mississippi native, Wells is true to his Southern roots. His fifth cookbook, “Southern Modified,” written with Denise Boutte, focuses on Southern-inspired dishes using healthier ingredients.

You shouldn’t have to sacrifice taste for healthy living, Wells told The Telegraph.

Chef Jernard Wells (2).jpg
Jernard Wells Special to The Telegraph

Wells will be in Macon on Sept. 22, hosting an event for the Middle Georgia Community Food Bank at the Anderson Conference Center. The Chefs & Spirits Extravaganza, to be held 11 a.m.-6 p.m., will feature cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs and a kids zone. Tickets are $45-$65 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

In advance of the event, Wells shared with us his top seven must-have foods to have at a Southern cookout.

1. Fried chicken

Wells said when he makes fried chicken, he likes to add a lot of seasoning, such as rosemary, cayenne pepper and thyme. He also uses buttermilk instead of whole milk.

2. Grilled chicken

This is the centerpiece for a lot of family cookouts. One of his recipes includes a hot buttered rum chicken. In this particular recipe, he likes to grill the chicken first and then transfer it to the oven to finish the cooking process.

3. Fried catfish

Wells said he prefers to cut up fresh Vidalia onions and put them into the grease to enrich the flavor of the catfish. He also has recipes for pan-fried catfish that he makes with difference sauces.

4. Smoked ribs

The key is smoking them low and slow, meaning on a low temperature over a long period of time, so the ribs can lock in the flavor and fall off the bone. Wells has a recipe for oven-baked apple ribs in “Southern Modified” that includes using apples as a main ingredient to add a sweet flavor to the ribs.

5. Potato salad

Make sure you know who brought the potato salad to the cookout, Wells said, as not everyone can prepare a proper salad. When asked if he was a mustard- or a mayonnaise-based potato salad guy, Wells said, “I use mustard, mayo and relish.” He also uses Idaho potatoes in his take on potato salad.

6. Collard green with oxtails and smoked turkey wings

From an early age, Wells watched his dad in the kitchen. His dad always used oxtails to season his collard greens instead of the traditional fat back. Wells still likes to use oxtails when he cooks his greens, but he also likes to add in smoked turkey wings for some additional flavor. The reason for the oxtails and wings is to add flavor to the broth, and he suggests getting some cornbread to dip in it.

7. Smoked macaroni and cheese

Gouda, mozzarella, provolone and cheddar cheese are just some of the cheeses that Wells likes to add. He also has recipes that include various add-ins, such as lobster, bacon and shrimp.