You Know the Chef. Now Meet the Blogger!
But Allyssa Floyd’s passion for the tome of rural South cooking goes the extra mile. The Oklahoma native has already cooked 80 “Deep Run Roots” recipes… in just three months.
Allyssa is determined to make it through the entire book (that’s more than 200 recipes!) in just one year. She’s been documenting the journey on her Instagram page, @chefandtheblogger.
“I joke all the time that I’m on the Vivian Howard diet, because that’s essentially what I’m doing,” Allyssa tells us.
Chef and the Blogger is a nod to the method adapted in Julie & Julia, the popular blog turned book turned more-popular movie in which blogger Julie Powell chronicled her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 2002.
After meeting Vivian in 2016 on the “Deep Run Roots” book tour in Memphis, Tenn., Allyssa started brewing the idea to do something similar. But as a pre-K teacher, she didn’t find the time — or added motivation — until this summer, when she visited Chef and the Farmer. There she tried the tomato pie, and she got to it. Tomato pie was the very first recipe she made and posted on Instagram. But it didn’t go over so well. “I had no patience!” Allyssa says today. “I even used a pre-made crust. I’m definitely redoing it now that I know better.”
But that’s sort of the point of her project. Before embarking on this journey, Allyssa cooked from her same comfortable repertoire of easy recipes. Through this project, she wanted to challenge herself in the kitchen and, she says, become a more confident cook.
“If I could pick one thing that I’ve learned from cooking through the book so far, it’s how to cook with intent and purpose,” says Allyssa. “It’s how to bring my love for food and my foodie mentality into my own home. A lot of books will teach you how to cook to feed your belly. This book feeds your heart and belly. I think that’s why it stands out.”
She also wanted her family to experience a different style of cooking with super Southern ingredients. Allyssa lives in her hometown of Chelsea, Okla., a tiny town with a population just shy of 2,000 people. One of them is her twin sister, who lives right up the hill and often helps Allyssa out in the kitchen. Her grandmother lives nearby, too, and hosts Wednesday and Sunday suppers every week, attended by multiple generations of family. Grandma Marie makes Southern staples like stewed vegetables, “chicken-fried everything” and “the best meatloaf.”
“I want to keep that going,” says Allyssa. “My grandma has been the big cook in my family. Once my grandma is not able to do that anymore, I want to be the person.”
For Allyssa, “Deep Run Roots” is giving her a way to enhance that Southern quality with better ingredients, and maybe an advanced technique.
“My family is pretty simple with food,” she says. “I have a sister who keeps saying, ‘Is there not just a brownie recipe in this book?’ My grandma, bless her heart, she’s just so invested in it with me. She’ll say, ‘It was different, but it was good.’ She usually finishes her plate!”
Vivian has featured Chef and the Blogger on her own Instagram stories, which catapulted Allyssa’s follower count by 500 percent. Vivian often comments on the posts, and Allyssa says one of the book’s recipe testers and members of chef’s team follow along to “help out with suggestions and encouragement, so that has been really fun.”
Another reason Allyssa keeps up with the page is to foster a community, which she says has developed into friendships with people around the country. One of those folks is Diane, a woman in Arkansas who commented on Allyssa’s quest for muscadines (Allyssa had never even seen a muscadine before). Diane grows them, and offered some to Allyssa.
“I drove an hour to meet her at a gas station and pick up 12 cups of grapes,” says Allyssa. I tried to pay her for them, and she said, ‘I’m not taking any money.’"
“I knew that I was going to learn a lot, but I wanted other people to learn. And to get excited if they were scared to cook,” she adds. “I wanted a community. People are always sending me encouraging messages, giving me tips. It’s so much fun. I feel like I have this whole group of friends I don’t personally know.”
Allyssa and her husband are gearing up for their third trip to Kinston this month — an 18-hour drive — where they’ll eat at Chef and the Farmer and the Boiler Room, and maybe bump into Vivian (it’s happened before!). Once she’s back in Oklahoma, she’ll start prep for her annual Friendsgiving for 40 people. Of course, this year will be a Deep Run Roots theme!
Of all the fall recipes in the book, Allyssa is most excited to try the laborious B&S applejacks. We’ve included the recipe for you to try along with her! If you post it on Instagram, make sure to tag @chefandtheblogger.