Father Ben Bradshaw's 'Soul Food' — Food for Body and Soul



Father Ben Bradshaw, a former professional chef, is host of "Soul Food."
  • Father Ben Bradshaw, a former professional chef, is host of "Soul Food."
Father Ben Bradshaw is host of Soul Food, but this isn’t a show about how to make sweet potatoes, fried chicken, and collard greens. It features Bradshaw by himself or with special guests talking about food or making it — and faith.

The videos are on Bradshaw’s Facebook page and the Facebook page for St. Michael’s Catholic Church, where Bradshaw is a priest.

It’s fitting Bradshaw, 47, makes these videos; he was a professional chef before he became a priest. He studied in the United States and France. Among his jobs was working for Erling Jensen when Jensen was at the old La Tourelle restaurant.

“Really, the only thing I know is food,” Bradshaw says. “I started cooking when I was 17. I went into the seminary when I was 27.”

The videos, he thought, were “a way to connect with people and not be preachy or finger-waggy about anything.”

He goes everywhere from restaurants to festivals in quest of food. “The whole goal is faith and food.”

And, he says, “It’s good for me ‘cause it gets me out of the office. Plus, there’s not really a culture in the world that doesn’t have traditions based around faith and food. It’s kind of cool as a priest and a former chef you see both of those worlds coming together.”

Growing up in Cooper-Young, Bradshaw became the cook in his family at a young age. His mother hated to cook. Bradshaw remembers when he was in the second grade and asked his mom what was for dinner. “She said, ‘You tell me. There’s the kitchen. Go help yourself.’”

Bradshaw went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Charleston, South Carolina, the New England Culinary Institute, and Ecole Lenotre in Paris, where he studied pastry making.

After he graduated, he worked at Ben’s restaurant, Restaurant Raji, and City Bread Co. in Memphis.

Becoming a priest had been on his mind, but it was when he did mission work in Russia that he decided, “You know what? I need to figure this out. I kind of tentatively started making plans over the next few years.”

He studied to be a priest in St. Louis, Washington, and Rome. “When I was in the seminary I did a lot of cooking, too. Mainly, most of it for people in the church.”

Over the years, Bradshaw spent a lot of time with Hispanic people. “They taught me a lot about how to cook from their countries, whether El Salvador, Guatemala. Every state in Mexico is totally different in their approach to food. And even to their faith.”

He began the Soul Food series when he was at the Church of the Resurrection. “Everybody eats. One of the things we try to do is use food as a medium. So, we talk about food in different cultures.

“We try to mix it up. Sometimes I’ll be cooking with other people. Sometimes me. Sometimes we’ll go to other places. Anything from a picnic to a restaurant to a kitchen that’s based around food. We’ll do anything from creme brulee to butternut squash bisque, chicken Florentine. I’ll talk a bit — a minute, no more — about the faith. The Christian faith of people.”

He did a Soul Food video with Rabbi Micah Greenstein. “That one’s really simple. I just made chocolate chip cookies.”

Rabbi Micah Greenstein was a guest on "Soul Food" with Father Ben Bradshaw.
  • Rabbi Micah Greenstein was a guest on "Soul Food" with Father Ben Bradshaw.
Bradshaw took the cookies to Temple Israel, where Greenstein showed him around. “At the end he prayed over me in Hebrew. It was really, really beautiful.”

The recent videos deal with “quarantine cuisine,” Bradshaw says. “I want to help people get their minds off the situation in the world community at this point.

“We made Baked Alaska. We tried to think of things people have around the house to keep kids busy. We made flourless chocolate cake, which we used to make at La Tourelle. We made flowers with Starbursts and Tootsie Rolls. We just made homemade pizza. e made ramen noodles. A lot of teens get into ramen noodles.”

Life is so different because of the COVID-19 crisis, Bradshaw says. “We’ve become a nation of monks. It’s kind of a monastic lifestyle we’re all leading at this point.”

He hopes after all this is over “people will really appreciate each other’s company a little more. Everybody needs other people. Even people that are fiercely independent need other people.”

To watch the shows, click here: http://soulfoodpriest.com/soul-food-episodes/

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.

Add a comment