Let’s bring it back to the basics real quickly…
Remember when, prior to the explosion of technology, the only way to learn recipes and cooking methods was to observe someone in action or to read a recipe? Well, not anymore! Since, technological advances have changed the way we eat, cook, and how we learn to do so! Later, television cooking shows brought a new dimension to the experience: the chef’s entertaining personality. This ushered in the era of the celebrity chef, which coincided with the emergence of social media, specifically YouTube.
YouTube is without a doubt the ultimate destination for online video sharing. The platform has established itself as an unrivaled social media website where contemporary video culture unfolds on a daily basis. The internet has provided numerous platforms for creators to share their expertise and craft. Many hours are spent scrolling through popular social media trends, listening to favorite podcasts, and searching for DIY tutorials on YouTube. Those with the gift of seeking knowledge have capitalized on this in recent years, creating internet sensations. DIY instructional videos have become in high demand since the 2020 pandemic, with food at the top of the list.
The YouTube Effect
As a result, marketers have turned to YouTube to increase brand relevance and fuel their video marketing strategies. However, positive results have been popular to come by, particularly for marketers who are aware of key YouTube trends and have the substantial keys to success. Additionally, the rise of social media heightened the likes of ASMR, cooking channels, and more! Chefs online became the holy grail for those who missed the quality of fine dining or who simply needed to learn this survival skill.
With that being said, cooking channels on YouTube are among the most popular types of content on the platform. It’s no surprise that millions of people enjoy cooking or want to learn how to cook. To be honest, millions more simply enjoy watching others cook. In fact, it’s proven to provide a type of comfort and relaxation that’s similar to meditation. Want to know why I watch cooking channels on YouTube? All of the aforementioned.
Smokin’ & Grillin’ With AB
When I have the time, I enjoy cooking a nice meal. I also recognize that I have a lot to learn in the kitchen, and I enjoy participating in the cooking process with others, even if it is virtual. So, without further ado, let’s get Smokin’ and Grillin’ With AB! The “Best Of Both Worlds” cookbook author is also an entrepreneur, media celebrity, and one of YouTube’s top trailblazing chefs.
Recognized by the monumental platform as the Class Of 2023 alongside their Black Voices campaign, this food activist uses food, culture, and history to highlight Black cooking in the United States and around the world. Keeping us up on the cooking game, AB wrote one of the top cookbooks of 2020 for foodies worldwide! Which got many fans through the pandemic! Maintaining a demanding chef schedule while also managing family life, YouTube star Aaron Brown, a family-taught chef and creator of “Smokin and Grillin with AB,” not only provided video tutorials to his fans that simplified the cooking process, but also capitalized on the brand by expanding and becoming an empire. His raw, self-taught talents shut down the food scene with his sold-out South savoring style which is able to add a potent auxiliary to any culinary showdown.
The expansion went beyond the kitchen with the launch of “Real Talk with AB,” a successful weekly podcast co-hosted with Pat Neely. Providing product launches such as Smokin and Grillin’s customizable sizzling seasoning to the latest star-studded collaborative cookbook “Best of Both Worlds” alongside another YouTube star chef, Mr Make it Happen. The two have 120+ million views on YouTube combined, proving that their worthy knowledge has won the hearts (and stomachs) of their viewers.
Black chefs and cooks have made an impression on American cuisine. Because of this, let’s put you onto one of our favorite Black chefs and how he’s changed our tables for the better! While the founder of Smokin and Grillin has broken down many barriers, AB remains humble and identifies as the neighborhood chef. With the holidays quickly approaching, the Smokin and Grillin with AB brand offers a foolproof way to triumph in the kitchen! Don’t believe me? Take a look at our talk about the kitchen with charismatic chef, Aaron Brown here at KAZI Magazine!
KAZI Magazine Chops It Up With Founder Of Smokin’ & Grillin’ With Chef AB!
- Hey AB! Thank you soo much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chop it up with me on behalf of KAZI Magazine! Before we jump into all things smokin’ & grillin’… Let’s bring it back to the beginning! Who is AB and where did it all begin?
Alright, for me, you know, AB stands for Aaron Brown been called by my initials since I was like a little kid, right. Born and raised in South Central, you know, Los Angeles, California. Just been around food, and you know, food is just who I am. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell.
- When did you know you wanted to be a chef? Did you go to culinary school, did you start off in restaurant kitchens? How did you get where you are?
Ah, no culinary school really started with the family. You know what I mean? Just being a kid. You know, being in the kitchen with my great grandmother. You know, watching her cook and asking her Can I have the bowl that she made the cakes out of and all of that. Wanted to sit down with that with a spatula, and licking the beaters and all of that, right? So I just spent so much time on my granny in the kitchen. It wasn’t like She really said, Hey, this is how you cook it was like I just spent so much time with her because she was a cook. In real life. I mean, cook as far as home life. And she was a head cook for a hospital. You know, when I was a kid, right? I learned I was able to just look at what she was doing and seeing it so many times. I started saying granny “Hey, we need this. We need that”. She was like, “Hey, I see you learning”. And then before you know it, I just was making my own dishes.
- What was the first meal you made yourself?
Okay, so when you say meal I can tell you like my first dish that I made. I mean, the first little thing I’d make was – I started making pancakes on my own. I remember that. From that I went on to make Lemon Meringue pie. And then before, you know, I was making greens at a very, very early age, like standing up way over the stove too small even really be doing that. But I started making my own greens.
Chef Chronicles With AB
- I have to ask, as a chef I’m sure you’ve seen it all, cooked it all and maybe even tried it all. With that being said, what would you say is the strangest thing you’ve eaten or made?
The strangest thing I’ve ever eaten and I can’t even say I really hate it. I’ll just got to taste it and I couldn’t really get it down. Octopus. That would be the strangest thing that I ate. That and shark. I don’t like neither one.And then okay, so yes, it was the strangest thing I’ve ever made. I haven’t even made that. That’s I’ve tried to get involved with and that’s like making chitlens, you know, and I just couldn’t. I tried to go into the kitchen and all of that. And I just I couldn’t do it. Because of the smell. Yeah, they say all kinds of stories. I hate when you clean them good and all that. It was a process of it. And because I know what they are, you know, I mean, it’s a it’s a mental thing for me
- What are your top 3 most important kitchen appliances that you can’t do without?
Oh, I like wooden utensils gotta have that. I mean, you know, because everybody not doing great like not how they’d like to be doing. Like some people have like the nonstick cheap, you know pans or whatever so if you got wooden utensils it’s okay to use those so you’re not ingesting none of that nonstick toxic stuff you know stuff like that. So you got to have a wooden utensils you got to have a good set of pots and here’s something else that I really don’t say but it’s an every one of my video, you got to have a radio, you got to have that in some kind of way — your phone or something so you can play you set the mood when you’re cooking. I just made cooking you know, fun. I put on some tunes. I get in there and I just create.
- As a motivational mogul, who blends business, marketing & fun- what would you say entrepreneurship means to you?
For me, it starts with first you got to have you got to have a dream. You know, I mean, then you gotta have action behind that. So entrepreneurship means you got to be willing to try. You know, I mean, you can’t be scared. Same thing, I teach when I’m talking about making food, especially for the new people, you know what I mean? We got to get out there, and we got to give it a chance. And most of all, we got to start, and we got to learn from our mistakes, you know what I mean? Then when you look at where you started from, because you had nothing when you started, and then you turn it into something that’s generating some money? You know, I mean, in creating some wealth, not just for yourself, but for others, that’s what entrepreneurship is, for me.
- Since the start of your career, you have made a point to avoid being boxed-in — but you’ve also opened up platforms dedicated to your own ideas of “black” cooking. How important is it to you to highlight foods from our culture as well as others?
Very. So I’m gonna say something I don’t want you to get get it wrong. I don’t want you to, you know, get no wrong opinion on myself. So I’m gonna just say, let’s look at a tick tock. If I look at tick tock, and even Instagram, you know, how I see some trends, right? Mothers, they got to grandmama, the mother and the daughter. They going in and off the screen and all that, and I love to see it. I’m looking at it, I’m bouncing my head, hey, you know that right? But I think that the lost art, you know, of cooking is now being handed down. I think we’d like in a different generation.
I read my comments on all of my videos, and a lot of people saying the majority of them are saying, they never had a chance to really learn that from the grandmother and nothing like that. This is the food that I ate, and I did have a chance to learn, you know, I mean, so I think it’s important that we just find out. I mean, we just keep our culture, you know? So I guess growing and being able to pass it along. So now they learn it. They saying they didn’t know how you, you know how to make it or whatever. And then guess what? They’re gonna pass that down. So that’s how you keep it going.
Welcome To The Grillin’ TV Network!
- Okay, so you have some years under your belt! Which is really exciting. Not only are you a phenomenal cook, but you also have your own Youtube channel, Grillin’ TV Network, You show us how to bring restaurant cooking into our home kitchens. Can you talk a little about why you decided to start your channel? What tips would you give to home cooks on how to improve our skills?
Okay, so the grill TV network is two different things you know, as separate from smoking and grilling, will you be smoking and grilling with a meat that’s where I’ve been able to get over 2 million people that follow me over there on that channel. That’s where I became the Google Well, YouTube guy brought me in to the campus down in California to let me know that I was the largest African American Food Channel on YouTube. As far as subscriber wise, right? So I thought about several different things. So where’s the black presents? Really on, on like, like cable TV, stuff like that, like, I’ve been inspired by a couple of people, they are black, but they get a short run. And then, you know, I’ll look at other people to get a lot more, you know, run than we do.
I just got to say it the way it is. I don’t know how to say that No, no nice way. And I’m not saying it in a bad way. I thought in my mind is, I thought, in my mind, I was thinking like, why can’t we have our own little network and grow that and put some of us here, and you know, just become a network. Like, for example, BET. It started with a dream. I’m sure they said something to somebody and they laughed. But then look what it became. So this is a dream of mine. I started it and then season three, I’ll be willing to, you know, put it out here for the world to see it. You know, I got several talents that are going to be on here. Some big names with some new talent. Really not saying too much about it, but it’s gonna be fire! That’s what I’m gonna say that it will be.
- Recently, YouTube added you to their top ranked Class of 2023 and to their Black Voices platform. Congratulations on that amazing accomplishment! Could you tell us what that moment was like?
Ah, to be honest with you, you know, I was flattered. Right off the bat flattered, you know, what I mean, I still struggle with when I go to put my head on the pillow at night, I ask myself all the time, like why me? You know, I mean, there’s so many other great channels out there, you know, that could be awarded this, even celebrities that are on Food Network, you know, I just want to know, like, “Why me?” So it just really recently sank in after they announced it. I have known for a while, you know, but just for legal reasons, I wasn’t able to say nothing. So I went with it for a couple of months. And it just had me blown back. Like, this is crazy. But now I can inspire even reach out and reach more people to inspire. And I understand YouTube is not everybody’s journey. You know, I mean, but maybe somebody can look at me and just see, like, I’m just a regular cat, like everybody else that grew up in the concrete jungle, you know what I mean? And if I can make it, I’m sure anybody who puts some real effort into something, they can too. Whether it’s YouTube, or whatever it is in life. They can be their own entrepreneur.
The Success Of Smokin’ & Grillin’ With AB
- With that being said, I would love to know more about your heritage and how that influences how you cook. In terms of how you define Black food and the role your heritage plays in that.
Okay, first of all, I gotta say this, because a lot of people don’t think about this. Even for you, I might ask you a question. Like, have you ever had some food? You know, I mean, it took you back and remind to your grandmother, or something like from your childhood? So listen, I told everybody food is like a time machine. You know what I mean? It’s certain things that we eat throughout the year, especially around Thanksgiving, it takes everybody back to when it was the whole family getting together. And just, you know, eating good food. So the heritage and the food that we ate that come from down south that’s what it is for me. Like I live for the Thanksgiving time. You know, I mean, I enjoy it with my immediate family.
But listen it still puts me back. When they asked me, you know, they say I’m quiet. It’s taken me back to when I was a kid, you know, being at the table. First time my grandfather invited me to the grown ups table. When I was a kid we had big family dinners for Thanksgiving. You know, they had a kid’s table where all the kids and everybody cousins and all that and if you were a certain age group, you were outside. Or you were sitting at your own table, right. And then the grown ups were at the grown ups Thanksgiving table, right? My highlight of my life is when my grandfather told me, he said AB you at this table this year. It made me cry at 10 years old, because I’m the only kid that ever sat at the table like that.
- What do you think it is about yourself that helped you survive the gauntlet that’s defeated so many other black chefs?
That to me, is just as clear as you asking me that question. I think I got it figured out. I gotta say think because somebody else might say yes, not yet. But you asked me and my heart is just a way mean, you haven’t a conversation right now. This is how young when I make my videos, I’m not being fake. You could’ve called me 15 seconds before we started talking right now and it’s okay. Because I don’t need to get in character. I don’t need to do nothing. Me and you just going to have a conversation. I do that when I teach people how to cook. You know, I mean, so my name on the internet is Unc. Everybody call me Unc. I’m the dude that lives next door to you. I’m the guy that’s down the street from you. You know, I mean, I’m your uncle that everybody wants to come over and turn up, get in the pool and all that. I got the music and the food. You know, I mean, so I just be myself and do my show. That’s it.
- What advice do you have for black cooks starting out as entrepreneurs within this industry?
Okay, so the only way I can speak it is from just being you know, large on social media as far as YouTube. All right. The hardest thing to do is to start, you’ll never know. I’m a welder by trade. Right. So who ever thought a roughneck the definition of a redneck, that’s me. I’ve been all over this country, building America, right. And if I can get to where I’m at, anybody can. I just say you got to start. If it’s your true passion, all the way down. It doesn’t have to be about food. You just have to do it. You know why? Because when you out here and you’re doing it, and you make it, whatever video you make, in it, only 20 people saw it. After a while your heart comes out of it. But if you do something you truly love, you don’t care if nobody likes, you love it. And that’s what pushes you to, you know, me. So my advice is to just start, you know, figure it out. If you’re gonna do the video way after 10 videos, you look back, you will cringe at your very first one, but you have a look at the rest of the nine and you’ll see you’re getting better and better. By the time you get to 100 you will look like TV.
- Also, for those who may not know. You’re also a published author for your “Best Of Both Worlds” cookbook. Please tell us more about it & will there be more?
Okay, so actually it’s co authored by myself and a guy by the name of Matt from a child called Mr. Make It Happen. I met him when he was younger. We come from two different walks but we come from the same walk of life. But you know, he’s white. That’s just what he is. But when I saw him for the very first time, I knew right off the bat, like with this dude white and black, they go hand in hand. You know, his swag, right. Me and him started working together, I started helping him grow his channel. And then we brainstormed to put out a cookbook. By publishing standards, we had a number one bestseller, but we still published it together. We got together. You know, he flew out from the East Coast. We sat down in my office and pushed out a book. And it turned out great! You know, and will there be a second one? Yes, it will be. Yes, it will be!
- Next, you have your Smokin’ and Grillin’ With AB website which features your cookbook, ebooks, recipes, customized culinary guides and tools and much more! With that being said, which two recipes are your personal favorites and why?
I’m gonna make it real easy. It will be smothered pork chops and gravy. You know, they got to be smothered with the gravy and all of that. And then the next thing is I got to have dessert. I probably can have those smothered pork chops and I can have a peach cobbler. Oh, gotta throw in some vanilla bean ice cream to go with it. That right there will do it for me.
What’s Next For AB?
- Every week you drop gems for the foodies on your “Real Talk With AB” and you provide merch for fans through your spreadshop. Tell fans where they can tap in!
Okay, so there’s two ways, you can always go to my website, which is smokinandgrillinwithab.com, you can go and click on the merch page. And once you get there, you can look and see, everything is on there from custom cutting boards, which are made in house, or you can get your custom text. All of them do say Smokin’ and Grillin’ with AB on them. But if you want to customize them, you can put that into text and then we’ll put whatever. It can be laser engraved. We also got t shirts and we got aprons. Also, these make great gifts. You know, I mean, we’re working on a bundle right now, which will be out in like the next seven days, where you can pick up on, you know, maybe a cutting board, an apron, and some different types of swag. All of that will be on the website. You know, next year, we’ll have pots, we’re doing some utensils. And I think we’re gonna do like a meat thermometer. Gotta have one of those. I know, my grandma was probably like, just upset that I said that, because my grandma thump me and tell me if it was ready or not. But for me, I like to do it I mean, I guess the right way and just stick a thermometer in and make sure it’s at the right temperature.
Then the other way would be if you’re looking at any of my YouTube videos, right underneath the video, there’s a merch shelf, I just put out some new merch. You guys go buy it! You know, go out there and check it out. You know, if you’d like to get some they make great gifts. And I’m not trying to sound arrogant, but with so many millions of people that follow me. If you give a gift more than likely they’re gonna say, Hey, I follow that cat. I know who this is. So they just make good gifts and put smiles on people’s face. I mean, get out. Go out, grab yourself something. Get you some swag. If you get a cookbook, me and Matt have signed so many books, we still getting them out. So good luck to everybody. Because we just like a surprise now. You know, thats the merch in a nutshell!
- Eager to hear more, what’s next for AB as we close out 2022 and enter 2023?
That is a great question. Let me bring you up to speed. Earlier this year, I designed and had me a food trailer that I just went and picked it up yesterday. I went and pick ed it up in another state. It was finally done and sitting in front of my house right now. So 2023 I’ll be opening up. I guess I can’t call it a brick and mortar because it’s on wheels. But I’ll be opening up something new. Maybe for February at the latest. It’d be March 1, you know, out here in Las Vegas, you know, bringing a Southern cuisine infused with barbecue. I have dishes like the traditional meats like brisket, ribs, pull pork, chicken, stuff like that. Right? But I mean a fuse. Like I said with that down south. Gotta have the greens. Gonna put a twist on it with baked potatoes and a slice of brisket on the inside. A lot of cheese, lot of garnish. I’m leaving some things out. But I’m just trying to give you a mental so you can get your brain going and get your mouth watering.So from here I’m taking it to county we’re gonna get it wrap. January first I’m making the announcement to the world!
- Lastly, is there a message that you’d like to leave with fans?
There is and I think we touched on it before but I’m gonna say it again. You know, just, hey, we got to follow our dreams, folks. That’s what we have to do. We got to get something you know, pray about it and if that’s what we’re gonna get behind, we can’t just like talk about it, we got to just get behind it and do it! Listen, I have learned a lot from my failures. All the way down to hiring. And I want to say this too, I got a great staff. And it starts with my wife, also. My wife, she tolerates it, and helps me but everything that I do about my channel and all my entrepreneurship, it runs through my family, and that’s my wife. That’s my immediate, right.
I’ve been blessed enough to have a great staff behind me. So I got two people to work for me they’re great! One, her name is Mitzi. I mean, and then I got another one, her name is Nata. I would just say, without my trio I have in my world, I couldn’t do it. So I just wanted to make sure I said that before this was over. I just want to pay homage to them and just say, Hey, I’m thankful. You know, I mean, but back to the original question, I just want to tell the world, get behind something and follow through. And don’t be afraid. If you thought it through. The only way you’re gonna learn is to put your thoughts into action. Who knows? You might be able to strike lightning, catch lightning in the bottle right off the bat.