“Step into the unknown! Sometimes, your world of possibility is just one more step!” shares Allyssa Floyd, who followed her own advice and took that extra step as she began cooking her way through Deep Run Roots a cookbook of over 200 recipes by Chef Vivian Howard.
To her 1600 Instagram followers, Allyssa is better known as “Chef and the Blogger,” a play on Howard’s renowned restaurant, Chef and The Farmer. Prior to her adventures with Deep Run Roots, Floyd didn’t necessarily consider herself an avid cook, but she couldn’t let go of the spark she felt upon the discovery of these recipes.
“It is true that I’ve always enjoyed cooking to an extent, though I would never have called myself an avid home cook until now. I have many cookbooks and dive into them from time to time. The idea of cooking an entire cookbook has been on my radar since the “Julie and Julia” craze. However, I’ve never been inspired enough by one to devote so much of my life to it. That changed when I came across Deep Run Roots from Vivian Howard. I fell in love with it as soon as I began flipping through the pages. The recipes were different, but somehow familiar too and the storytelling throughout the pages was enthralling.”
Though the recipes are a change of pace, that familiarity she speaks of derives from Sunday suppers with her family, lead by Marie, better known to all of her loved ones as Nan, and someone Allyssa counts as one of her biggest inspirations.
“She’s my biggest fan in every endeavor. She’s not an adventurous eater by any means but she has tried everything I’ve made out of this cookbook and brags on it to anyone she can.”
And those “bragging rights” are something Floyd has leaned on during some of the roughest times of her life, times that she says the cookbook has acted as comfort.
“On an even more personal level, it’s helped me through a struggle with infertility. Early this summer, my husband and I were told that it just wasn’t going to happen after trying for 7 years. I was devastated and down in the dumps. This project helped me to focus on something else and brought me the joy that I needed so badly at the time. We actually found out that we were expecting about a month after I started the project. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a successful pregnancy. The day I found out that I had miscarried, I made my 100th recipe. It may seem crazy to hear that that’s what I did, but it’s the only thing that I could control in that moment. Cooking is helping me through the grieving process. I’m so grateful for that.”
When asked who she looks to for inspiration, Allyssa could think of several ladies in her life.
“My Mom for all the obvious reasons. She let me chase dreams even when she knew they weren’t the right ones. When I realized that and came back home, she was there for that too!”
“Jenee Fleenor—At 16 years old, I became a fan of this girl. She was playing in the band for an artist I saw often. I was so excited to see a girl up there. I’ve watched her break barrier after barrier for females over the past 17 years. Even more impressive, she hasn’t changed a bit. Her humbleness and kindness are something that you just don’t find in very many people these days! She’s proof that hard work pays off and that all dreams are attainable if you want them bad enough.”
And of course, the chef herself, Vivian Howard.
“She’s just great. I’ve always been inspired by her drive to revitalize her community by using local farmers for all of her food supply at her restaurants, as well as tell their stories on her show. The way she took something that she loved and used it as a stepping stone to make a difference in the lives of those around her is admirable. I hope that one day I’ll be able to do the same for my community.’
Floyd never imagined that the chef would follow her blog, let alone be one of her biggest fans and supporters, lending tips, and special notes when she has the opportunity. ‘When I started my instablog for this project, I never dreamed she would follow along. Now, she not only does, but also comments with words of encouragement, and tips for improving some of the things I’ve had a hard time with. In my most recent trip to NC last month, she invited me to join her for lunch, and visit about the project.’
This journey has allowed Allyssa to live out some of her favorite words from icon, Dolly Parton, “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” Through this process Floyd has truly discovered some new things about herself, and found the courage to embrace them.
“I’ve never been a person with high self-esteem or confidence. I’ve always made excuses for why I couldn’t do something or do it well enough. This project has really helped me come out of that mentality. There is no room for “I can’t do that” when you have 200 recipes to get through. You just buck up and do it!”
What might we expect to see next from Chef and the Blogger?
“Well, I have a little over 100 more recipes to finish Deep Run Roots, so those will take priority. I’m really excited about working my way through them. I’d really love to do that! After I finish it, I plan to travel back to ENC and celebrate with a dinner at Chef and the Farmer. I’ve heard that Vivian is working on her next book, so, my mind is already whirling at the possibility of doing it too. Beyond that, who knows…we’ll see where the heart leads.”
You can follow along with Allyssa Floyd throughout her cooking journey by jumping over to her Instagram page @chefandtheblogger.
Follow Chef Vivian Howard @chefandthef, where you will currently find her conversation with Allyssa featured as part of her “Dear Vivian” stories. Part two of the interview will be featured in the section next Thursday, November 22.
Allyssa’s interview with the PBS A Chef’s Life Team.
Keep cooking, sister, I’m rooting for you…and ready for more taste testing! 😉