SUAVV: That’s hilarious. So, what were you like as a kid? Were you the glamorous girly girl type?
Denise: I was actually kind of a Tomboy, so I’m not really that girly girl. But you would never know it from the characters I’ve portrayed. I was this smart kid. I liked to go out in the yard and rough and tumble and play in the dirt and stuff, but I was not very coordinated. So, while I was on the basketball team four years in a row, it was more so like, you know, can I get you anything? “Can I refill the water bottles” because I just wanted to go to the games. My parents were really strict so that’s kinda the only way I could go to the game. I would just basically do it to ride the bus and hang out (laughing). Athletics in high school were so competitive and you have to try it. If I had to try out, there’s no way I would’ve been on the team, but it was a little small country school, so pretty much anybody who was interested got on the team. So, if you bought some tennis shoes and you could wear the uniform, you were in. No, I was a student class president. I was the student body, whatever, this, that, and the other. Anytime there was a regional competition of any sort or whatever, I was the one that was leading the way. I’m a great talker, I’m a thinker, and I’m a people person in that regard. But yeah sports….it’s a no.
SUAVV: I got you. So you’re tomboys as in like, you just like to get your hands and do things, but you’re not going to go play sports because you didn’t have coordination.
Denise: Well, just really laid back. I’m not prissy, If you see me on the streets, nine times out of 10, there’s no lipstick, there’s no hair done, it’s not flying in the wind with wind machine. Like everybody in California, I Guess yoga pants is just a way of life now instead of mom’s jeans and tennis shoes. I’m just that girl. I like to get out and jog, rollerblading, and riding my bike. But, only on the beach. I’m not a big biker because there are too many hills where I am and that’s overexertion. So, I don’t do all of that.
SUAVV: Okay. that makes sense. So, we found out that you are a cooker. You put out a cookbook. Now two things that kind of go together but not really is southern food and Los Angeles. When I was there, it was hard to find some good southern food. So what made you make this cookbook?
Denise: Well, because everybody here is Vegan and living a healthy lifestyle. Everybody’s really into being healthy, conscious of what they put in their bodies. And for instance, which Kinda sucks. Southern food has a stigma of being unhealthy, which doesn’t have to be. So that’s kind of where the concept for southern modified came from a chef Jenard Wells who’s a frequent face on food network. He and I met about three years ago and just kind of built up this rapport. He and his wife and my husband and I would get together. Sometimes they would come over here and overtime built this friendship and started supporting one another. We were talking about him being from Mississippi, me from Louisiana and how we had all these heart issues and everybody’s, unfortunately, being diagnosed with diabetes. And so we were both talking about individually and how wanted to do a cookbook and I’d already started cookbook, but that was one more so homage to my grandparents and how I grew up on a farm in backwoods Louisiana. My grandmother was one of the most amazing cooks I’ve ever met, my mom also. I mean that’s what she did until she retired just a couple of years ago. But all of these dishes they used to prepare. I wanted to put it in a place where, as a family, we could all cherish and keep it alive.
When Jenard and I started talking we were like, why don’t we do something different? What kind of angle could we come from? Why would somebody want to buy a cookbook from us? We started talking about maybe a niche or whatever we could target that wasn’t very prevalent and that’s where it came from. And the tagline is, Southern Dishes Modified for Today’s Healthier Lifestyle. That’s what Southern Modified is all about. Modified took common dishes, like for instance, my section takes Gumbo and modifies it. Like for instance, instead of using all this sausage and all this other fun stuff that has all these calories and stuff you’re using smoked Turkey and getting a flavor from that. Instead of using a big block of butter, grease, or whatever, you’re using alternative, ingredients. It’s a tweak.
SUAVV: That’s dope. We love some good food in this office. LOL. Now, what I find amazing is that not only do you have this cookbook, but you also created your own signature spice line.
Denise: So the seasoning, which was another part of that, I’ve been using that in my kitchen since I moved to Los Angeles because in Dallas I was just learning how to cook and I’ll call my mom on Saturdays and we would talk and I’d be like, how do you do such and such. So she told me the night before, I went to the grocery store Saturday morning she would kind of coach me through how to make it. So, I was doing it the good old fashioned way. But when I came here and pursuing, acting, I’m like, oh, I got to do something. I have to firm and tone and do some things right. I adopted the California healthier perspective. And then I mixed that seasoning because I love traditional southern seasonings like Tony Shahoes and Black Your Mama. Which was a new one. I loved it but it was too much salt. So, in an effort to cut back on salt, I would just mix this little plastic container and over the years my friends and family that would come, they would ask for it.