Free-spirited singer Kelis still brings a unique flavor to everything she touches. The 38-year-old, android-voiced songstress that formerly rocked crinkly, mandarin-colored hair is now bringing the heat in the kitchen.
The Grammy-nominated chanteuse who churned out spaced-out, infectious singles like “Caught Out There,” “Young Fresh ‘n’ New,” “Milkshake,” “Bossy,” “Acapella” and “Jerk Ribs” crafted a cookbook entitled My Life on a Plate: Recipes From Around the World in 2015. A spice and marinate extraordinaire, Kelis has her own line of sauces and dressings, Bounty and Full, with all-natural, self-sourced ingredients. The Harlem, New York native believes transitioning from arena stages to behind the stove is an extension of her expressive nature.
“It’s another way to express my creativity and who I am,” a raspy-voiced Kelis explains during an appearance at My City, 4 Ways, a music, epicurean and automotive concept event, in Atlanta. “It’s such a part of who we [African-Americans] are as people culturally. There’s always music and food at every gathering, a date, a wedding, a birthday or whatever, and those are my two favorite things.”
Throughout My City, 4 Ways, Kelis—the daughter of a jazz musician and caterer—broke a sweat preparing braised oxtails, pickled beets and carrots, pecan-smoked bacon brittle with pumpkin pie crème, crab salad with Colombian ahi with avocado crème and fire-roasted corn, and a deviled egg with picked onion and duck confeit.
Kelis, a protégé of production team The Neptunes and the ex-wife of veteran rapper Nas, began to take her culinary skills seriously around 2007. She wasn’t happy with her record label deal with Jive and fought to be released from her contract.
Contemplating her next move, Kelis, now wearing a shorter but still curly hairstyle, was randomly watching a television commercial on cooking schools at home. A week later, she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu. Always paying close attention to various markets and restaurants anytime she travels domestic and abroad, Kelis actively preps dishes with olive oil, garlic, a variety of seasonings, mustard and pickles. (The road warrior doesn’t care to prep any dishes with mayonnaise.)
The maverick vocalist and foodie behind the albums Kaleidoscope (1999), Wanderland (2001), the gold-certified Tasty (2003), Kelis Was Here (2006), Flesh Tone (2010) and Food (2014) was quite enthused to be back in Atlanta, where she married Nas and once lived.
Of course, her choice meal fresh off her flight, along with her love of the southern mecca, hit a sweet spot. “I got some barbecue yesterday [on Campbellton Road] that was slammin’,” a chuckling Kelis says after putting her glass of red wine down. “I was really excited about that. With traveling so much, being able to really get out of your hometown and out of your comfort zone to come back and see what we’re best at, you really appreciate it even more. Atlanta is so black and so cool. So many different shades, tones and styles.”
Kelis is concentrating on moving into her 40-acre farm in Malibu with chickens, horses, goats and cows before the end of the year. She plans to erect a restaurant on the property and to give her two sons, Knight and Shepard, a simpler life. There are additional plans to launch a mobile app featuring some of Kelis’ signature recipes.
“I love the irony in that [40 acres] because I bought it,” Kelis said. “I wanted to give my two boys space to be outside. I also wanted to take back control of our lives. I’m going to eat what I know is right.”
Even with her newfound glory as a culinary mistress, Kelis take pride in performing and parenthood. The former host of The Cooking Channel’s Saucy and Sweat now co-hosts the BBC One vocal competition series Pitch Battle. Kelis believes striving for work/life balance is a personal choice. She adds it’s key to not let personal pride get in the way.
“It’s a conscious effort to balance it,” Kelis said. “You have to want it enough. You have to want to be a great mother as much as you want to be successful.”
Kelis, who appreciates anytime her kids can see her in her element, adds, “You have to talk to your kids. When we work a lot, especially as moms, we know that we’re doing it for the better of our families. Sometimes, you have to bring them so they can see it. It should feel good. I like coming home and feeling like I did something.”
It’s taken some time, but Kelis is comfortable being a triple threat—a sought-after entertainer overseas, an all-star chef and loving mother—on her own terms. She has no regrets about her career but knows she’s in a good place. It doesn’t bother her anytime someone assumes women can’t juggle their passions with their obligations.
She encourages all women to be consistent but to also prioritize what matters in order to achieve personal success. “People are always going to talk mess,” Kelis reflects. “But step out there, and do what you need to do in order to better yourself and your family. I want my kids to see me as the woman I think I am, not just who I say I am.”
Who’s on Kelis’ Playlist When She Cooks:
The Notorious B.I.G.
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