Vivian Howard Is Ready to Expand Your Ideas of Southern Cooking


Apr. 24 2020, Updated 6:36 p.m. ET

When someone says "Southern food," most people instantly think of crispy fried chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread. 

But PBS’s new series Somewhere South with Chef Vivian Howard hopes to change that perception by introducing viewers to the diverse dishes that make up true Southern cooking and culture. 

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Hosted by chef Vivian Howard, who previously hosted the Daytime Emmy and James Beard award-winning show A Chef’s Life, Somewhere South will explore the lesser-known roots of Southern cooking and how it becomes a connecting force between different cultures. 

Along with a group of other talented chefs, Vivian Howard is helping to usher a new world of Southern cooking as we know it. But if you haven’t seen A Chef’s Life, you may be wondering exactly who Vivian Howard is. 

Keep reading to learn more about this talented chef and learn about how she reconnected with the roots she had been running from all her life.

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Who is Vivian Howard?

Growing up, there was no place Vivian Howard wanted to leave more than her hometown of Deep Run, N.C. And she did manage to escape for a couple of years, working in some of New York City’s most popular restaurants and meeting the man she would go on to marry. 

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However, just as she and her husband were about to settle down for good, her father offered to help her set up her own restaurant. It only came with one condition: that she move back to Deep Run. 

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And so, Vivian and her husband Ben moved back to N.C., opened up their restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, and documented the shift from city to country life in the PBS show A Chef’s Life, which ran for five seasons. 

Unlike other culinary series that replicate recipes or are high-intensity cooking competitions, A Chef’s Life follows Vivian’s day-to-day in North Carolina and watches her build a network to support her business, while also paying the bills, via TV, to support her growing family. 

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What is 'Somewhere South' about?

In Somewhere South, Vivian explores the rich and varied stories behind Southern cooking, showing a broader picture than what people usually think of when it comes to Southern cuisine.

A combination travelogue and cooking show, Vivian travels across various southern states to highlight different communities and show the specific culinary touches they contribute to Southern food. 

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Each episode explores a single dish and the ways people from different cultures interpret the making of that dish. For example, in the dumpling episode, Vivian explores how people prepare dumplings using different French, Chinese, Jewish, and Soul food culinary traditions. 

Invariably, viewers get to see how the choices that go into preparing a dumpling a certain way are reflective of the deeper values, cultural histories, and identities that make up the American South. 

As opposed to many other cooking shows that tend to feature only famous chefs, Somewhere South focuses on well-known local chefs and home cooks, all of whom teach Vivian something new about the foods she thought she already knew so well.

New episodes of Somewhere South with Chef Vivian Howard come out Fridays on PBS.

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