Shaking and Baking: Big Freedia’s Garden Cookout

It’s no secret that the other major passion of bounce artist Big Freedia is cooking. Since COVD-19 hit and tours got canceled, she was able to delve deeply into her passion of cooking in front of an audience by hosting the Garden Cookout in City Park’s Botanical Garden Kitchen. Since June, Freedia has cooked multi-course meals for her guests, and this is just the beginning of something new. “I want to open my restaurant called Freedia’s. I definitely want to transition into something bigger, and hopefully I get a cooking show on a network where I’m doing something different that no one else has done with their cooking show. I’m just excited to do new and different things exploring the food world. I also want to go back and do more culinary classes when I have time and work with a few more chefs here in New Orleans that I know. I’m excited about the whole journey and getting back on the road.”Big Freedia’s Garden Cookout started while Freedia was at home, her shows and tours having been canceled due to COVID-19. “It began from me cooking in my kitchen during quarantine, and I wanted to do something to keep me and the fans entertained. I’m always cooking, but to put it online was something different. Being a brand, I called it What You Cookin’ Wednesday, then I did the Gospel Brunch on Sundays. Sunday would be more gospel music, more settled, I would pray before we start, and Wednesday would be more bounce music, shake that ass kind of night. My team came out and said, “We’ve been looking for a spot to take this out to the public so that you can do it more and have an audience.” He came and found City Park. I did a walk-through and looked at the kitchen in the garden and all the vegetables. I was really excited about it. That was the start of it right there. I just fell in love with the space. It’s a great ambiance for my audience to get to experience something that’s kind of in this botanical garden with all these beautiful colors,” she said.

Since June, Big Freedia has welcomed fans to be a guest in her kitchen. She cooks for you, explaining each step along the way, speaks to her panel of guests, answers questions about her style of cooking and her life, and entertains. She also takes a couple of twerk breaks that attendees are welcome to participate in. “Thinking about what I’m going to cook next, what am I going to bring to my audience, how can I change the name, how can I put my own twist on it… a lot goes into it every week. I try to do month by month of the menu, but sometimes I get stuck. This was one of those stuck weeks where I didn’t find out til the last minute what I wanted to cook.

On this night, Freedia treated us to a three-course meal of Pork Egg Rolls, Baked Porkchops and Smothered Okra, and a delicious Caramel Cheesecake. Freedia demonstrated how to cook the porkchops and okra from start to finish, and it came out fork-tender and so perfectly seasoned! Freedia usually tries at her recipes at home first before bringing them to a wider audience. “At home, that’s where I did a lot of the new stuff that I had never done before. I was trying it out on me and my family before bringing it out to my audience where I have to give it my all and do stuff that I’m familiar with and know how to put flavor in.” The meal was perfectly complemented by an Absolut and Ca di Freedia Rose wine cocktail topped with a garnish of Baby’s Breath.

It would behoove someone to attend many if not all Garden Cookouts because you never know what’s going to end up on the plate. I wish I had gotten a taste of one particular dish that you will never find anywhere else. “I did a gospel brunch, and I came up with Bend Over Benedict. It was something very new that I have never done. I was like, “How can I create my own Benedict dish?” I took these two biscuits, and I used this metal spoonholder that’s shaped like a butt. I smashed them on there, and I baked the biscuits. After I baked the biscuits, I sauteed some crab meat, some shrimp, and I put that in some white sauce and put that on top of the biscuit with a fried egg, a little runny. And, baby, it was a creation the whole house was screaming. Just thinking of the concept of things I want to try and do; I do those at home first before I bring it out. Me and my family be the guinea pigs.”

Big Freedia and her crew are on the cusp of touring again, and she may not see as much of the Botanical Garden Kitchen in the coming months. If you ever thought about checking it out, now is the time before she leaves this small stage for a much larger one. The Garden Cookout is as intimate as it is highly entertaining. “It’s been a great experience. I’m very grateful for the people who have been coming to support me especially through COVID. Things have been really rough being an artist who relies on touring, and helping my team. This garden has been keeping me sane and keeping my mind going to keep bringing out positive energy, great love, and a little nourishment to the world.”

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