On June 24, PBS will premiere “The Great American Recipe,” an eight-part series where home cooks will showcase two of their beloved signature dishes. Bambi Daniels, of Winston-Salem, will feature his family’s signature “Smoky Mac and Cheese with Bacon.”
Bambi describes his family’s cooking as “heart and soul” cooking “because it’s made with love. It touches and comforts the soul. When you add the heart to it, it’s a part of my family. When you come to our house, you will have a full meal, dessert and something else. It’s by the grace of God that we don’t all weigh 400-500 pounds,” jokes Bambi.
She is a real sweetheart and absolutely hilarious! I laughed and almost fell out of my chair several times during the interview. Bambi’s humorous and serious sides came through as she shared how genuine bonds are made and walls are broken when families sit together at the dinner table. She did an accurate and hilarious impersonation of TV character Sandra Clarke on the ’80s sitcom “227.”
“Busta, it’s just a joke, but even if your cousin stole your husband, when you’re at the table, you have to fix things,” Bambi joked.
After we regained our composure with a laugh, she paused for a few seconds and then said softly, “We’ve always done it right, and we’ve always done it with food.” I was taught that food is a reflection of you. If you do it with bitterness, your food is bitter. If you do it with love, whatever anyone gives you is the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
When “The Great American Recipe” comes out on June 24, the world will fall in love with Bambi Daniels’ cooking demonstration and energetic personality. She credits her Aunt Azalee with her personality and sense of humor. “She was our superstar. She was our icon. She was the one who introduced the family to Sunday brunch after church,” Bambi shared.
Her mother, Mary Emma, is her biggest inspiration and the glue that holds the family together, but recent health issues have left the matriarch unable to cook. “My mother contracted COVID at the end of 2020. She stopped eating and lost weight; It was hard. Just as she was getting better, she had a severe stroke. She coded on us; it was a code blue. I grabbed her and said, “Mom, you can’t leave now,” then I screamed for the doctors and nurses. When they brought her in, the first thing she said was, “Is that Bambi screaming over there?” And tell him not to tell anyone what happened to me,” Bambi joked. She added with a laugh, “The doctor said, ‘How are you going to wake up from the sky and tell people what to do?'”
Mary Emma is a strong and sassy woman and while battling her illness she continued to cook and nurse one of Bambi’s sisters. But, after the major stroke, Mary Emma’s body had become very weak. “She’s always maintaining and in a good mood,” Bambi said with a smile. Bambi has this magical ability to take a serious story and turn it into something funny and beautiful.
In 1987 Daniels left Chester, South Carolina to attend North Carolina A&T State University and later became a resident of Winston-Salem. “I’ve been here forever, Busta Brown! I remember when you used to hang people up,” she said with a laugh. Growing up in Chester on her grandparents’ farm “…everyone in my family cooked. It’s our love language. We were never brought up to go to restaurants. We were raised to eat meals prepared with what we grew and raised. We have always had wonderful meals. It wasn’t until I was 10 that I learned to cook chicken back for my grandmother. I had never heard of chicken back, so I asked Bambi to tell how it was prepared. “You cut the thighs and you get the chicken. Season it well, add water, then roast it in the oven.
This summer, Bambi Daniels will share one of his family’s signature recipes, Smoked Mac and Cheese with Bacon, with the world. “It’s passed down from generation to generation. And you add your own twist to it by trying to make it better than the other person. It’s a competition in itself, so this competition is going to be easy,” said Bambi. She talks about “The Great American Recipe” contest.
I asked Bambi what the judges will say after tasting his smoked mac and cheese with bacon. “It will be like someone gave them a plate of love!”
I asked her how she had heard about the competition. “I got a message in my inbox and gave them my email, then one of the producer’s assistants sent me all the links and information. I sent in my audition tape to share what I love to cook and what I would bring to the show. I said, I sing and I dance. I was just me,” Bambi shared. The South Carolina native received an email announcing that she had been chosen as one of ten contestants.
“I was like, oh my God! When I get nervous, I stutter, and I’ve been told people will perceive me as stupid. Because I’ve always been funny and silly, people said mean things on me. So I had a lot of doubts why I shouldn’t do the show, but my husband said, it’s your time; do it. So I said, you know what? I I’ll do it!” shared the horny seven-year-old. Bambi’s husband, Owens Daniels, is a well-known visual artist and photographer.
Bambi shared the wonderful experience she had on the set of the TV show. “Everyone was extremely nice and it felt like family. Even the celebrity chefs were amazing! It’s totally different from all the other eating contests I’ve seen on other networks. It’s a family matter. We tell our family stories. It looks like a competition, but the judges don’t judge, they teach us how to better develop our craft. Even the competitors weren’t competitive; instead, we became great friends and were like family. I’m so excited!
My phenomenal person of the week is Bambi Daniels. Winston-Salem, be sure to save the date and show your support. “The Great American Recipe” premieres Friday, June 24 and continues through August 12, 9-10 p.m. EST (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS Video app. The show is hosted by Alejandra Ramos, with celebrity judges Leah Cohen, Tiffany Derry and Graham Elliot.