Exclusive: Chef Bren Herrera Celebrates "la cultura" with Her Debut Cooking Show Culture Kitchen
Bren Herrera was destined to be a chef.
The Cuban-born, U.S.-raised author of Modern Pressure Cooking: More Than 100 Incredible Recipes and Time-Saving Techniques to Master Your Pressure Cooker never planned to pursue cooking as a career. For her, it was just her passion.
"When I was in college, I would host these ridiculous dinner parties. Then I would take leftovers into the office and the lawyers would say: 'Well, why don't you host this dinner party?'" she tells People Chica. "I was just the girl to go to for fabulous food and dinner parties. Then, when I moved to Atlanta, it literally fell on my lap. I had this crazy opportunity to cook for a local radio personality and the people at that party were media people. I got invited to cook on Fox Atlanta on January 1, 2008, and the rest is herstory."
Born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Washington D.C., Herrera left her law career and became an award-winning celebrity chef, entrepreneur and TV personality. Now, she is starring in her own show Culture Kitchen with Bren Herrera on CLEO TV as the first Afro-Latina to host a lifestyle cooking series on a major U.S.-based network.
"We came up with the name Culture Kitchen as a way to celebrate la cultura in every way. Not just how my family celebrates culture, but how I celebrate culture through my friends, my family and travel. Everything for me happens in the kitchen," she explains. "We wanted to show how much fun we have in the kitchen and who we are through our food."
The idea for her own show came after Herrera was invited to co-host four episodes on another CLEO show. Her vibrant personality impressed the network brass and they asked her to host her own program, offering her sixteen episodes for her first season.
"They said the network was super impressed, and they loved how I represented not just Cuban culture, but Afro-Latino culture. The network didn't have anything like that, and you just don't see that on TV anywhere," she says. "It was a really exciting offer to come host my own show, and they really wanted to use the platform to show the world, show the audience through food that Black people are diverse, Latinos are diverse, Americans are diverse —and what better way to introduce people to culture than through food."
Each episode invites the audience to learn about Latin and Afro-Caribbean culture through Herrera's unique lens as an Afro-Latina, an immigrant and a world traveler. She also is bringing influences from her family and her personal experiences to each dish she brings to the show.
"The purpose of the show is to introduce you to the culture. So, really, the menu is all over the place. But the one concentration is the Afro-Latin culture," she laughs. "I love talking about the diaspora, how we got yuca over here, plantains, pumpkin and butternut squash... I talk about all of these things and then I make these recipes that are inspired by my mom's cooking, my abuelita's cooking, but also inspired by my global travels. I bring those influences back to my kitchen."
As she invites her family members and friends to join her on the show, she brings her own spin on traditional dishes such as oxtail (with a nod to her grandfather's Jamaican ancestry), yuca con mojo, and a Chilean sea-bass with a papaya beurre blanc and lentils.
On the episode that will air on November 17, she invited Derrick Jones, aka DJ D-Nice, who brought people together through his virtual IG Live sets "Club Quarantine" throughout the pandemic.
"There's two things people always connect to and that's food and music. The culture—any culture—whether you're Latina, European, Spanish, everyone always connects through food and music," she says about that episode. "Inviting him on to Culture Kitchen was my way of saying: 'Thank you so much for loving people, for loving on the culture, and celebrating us during a time that was really, really difficult.' Because he spent the pandemic by himself just playing music in his kitchen."
The chef will also air an episode toward the end of the season where her entire family will join her in making and eating a special meal.
"You don't see us on TV, you don't see Afro-Latinos on TV, you don't see an entire family on TV where everyone is speaking English but also Spanglish," she says. "And it's such an honor to be that first person to do that."
Culture Kitchen with Bren Herrera airs every Wednesday at 9 PM EST on CLEO TV.