Welcome to Kitchn's series Follow Her, where we highlight some of the coolest, most inspiring women in food you need to know about right now.
Jerrelle Guy is doing some of the coolest stuff in baking right now. The blogger behind Chocolate for Basil recently released her first cookbook, Black Girl Baking, which includes a recipe for charcoal banana bread. You guys, charcoal banana bread! How exciting is that? I can say from first-hand experience that it's some of the best banana bread I've ever had. "It was a little experiment on how changing the color of something can alter our expectations," Jerrelle says of the bread. All of Jerrelle's recipes are like this — both deeply familiar and also innovative and fun.
Jerrelle and her partner, Eric, live in Boston. Although just recently graduated from college this past December, she has already established herself as someone to watch out for in the food world. We caught up with her to talk about who inspires her and what it means to bring #blackgirlmagic to the kitchen.
Who are you most inspired by in baking right now?
Currently? Dorie Greenspan's cookie book, Stella Parks for her nostalgic baking, and Cenk Sonmezsoy — he has precision with just the right amount of creativity, and I admire that because he is my opposite in a lot of ways.
What was the inspiration behind the charcoal banana bread?
I wanted to take something classic, something everyone knows and probably has a recipe for, and make it discomforting. It was a little experiment on how changing the color of something can alter our expectations of it.
Munching on the last slices of Charcoal Banana Bread from my cookbook, Black Girl Baking! (Which I smeared generously with homemade choc almond spread) At times I talk about the color of food and how it can change the way we perceive flavor. I just uploaded the trailer to the blog to show a sneak peak of its insides!! Link in bio to watch! And of course, Sunday soup stuff coming at you tomorrow! Happy weekend!! 💛
In your cookbook you talk about taking up space in the kitchen. What does that look like for you?
We're given really small spaces as women of color. Historically speaking there was a wave of women that exited the kitchen after slavery, and people told their daughters to not go back. But I think the kitchen is a wonderful space to reclaim. Not only are you taking control of what's going in your body, but it also can be a place to be creative and express yourself.
It's important to me that I'm not restrained, and the kitchen lets me do that.
How are you bringing #blackgirlmagic to your kitchen?
By being myself and sharing my story unapologetically. I think that representation is important for other people like me. Not following a set of rules, not measuring my ability next to anyone else's. For me the #blackgirlmagic movement is all about this process toward self-love, and this book is all about celebrating the process (of baking) and using food as a means of self-discovery.
You talk a lot about your grandmother as a cooking influence in your kitchen. What did you learn from her?
My grandmother's food was about bringing people together. She taught me how to be resourceful and practical, but she also experimented a lot in the kitchen. She was creative with the things she had around her. She taught me how to be flexible. I'm able to go into my pantry and make something out whatever is in there.
What's a part of your daily routine that you can't live without?
Meditating, sound baths, and taking time to just think. It's important to me to allow myself to step out of my head or take a break from the energy that other people bring. I used to be too accommodating and it wore me down. I was so stressed and I saw it take a toll on my body. When I get into a more relaxed space I have so much more time to be creative. My work flows.
Go-to thing to bake for people you love?
Cookies. 100%. (Right now I love chili chocolate chip cookies.)
You take the most gorgeous Instagram photos. Do you have any styling tips for the perfect shot?
I try to excite the eye just enough, but then stop before it gets too overwhelmed. Usually I put a lot of textures and colors in the dish to create these little intriguing layers next to larger solid areas — and then shoot on very dark or very light backgrounds.
Kitchen tool you can't live without?
Scones or muffins?
If you were a baked good, what would you be?
A chocolate chip cookie with three different types of chocolate.
Milk of choice?
Best music to listen to while you're cooking?
When I'm cooking, music in the vein of Lianne LaHavas, Erykah Badu, Ben l'Oncle, Ibeyi, the Fugees, Daniel Caesar, 90's R&B, J.Cole, JID, etc. But when I'm baking in the day, I listen to classical and jazz instrumentals, lately Mozart station on Pandora — I'm usually measuring and trying to write down my notes, and vocals can distract me.
What's something your social media followers don't know about you?
That I'm not a vegan.
Food trends you're excited about?
I'm excited about ugly food. It's fun to throw something onto the plate and not think about it.
Interview has been lightly edited for clarity.