Today on the podcast we sit down with the one and only Tabitha Brown, also affectionately known as “America’s mom.” We chat with Tabitha about everything from becoming an overnight sensation to how she balances it all (and continue to find genuine joy in cooking). She has provided millions with food for the body and soul with her everyday wisdom rooted in love, kindness, and compassion. She is the author of Cooking from the Spirit and Feeding the Soul, the recipient of two NAACP Image Awards, the star of It’s CompliPlated on Food Network, and the EMMY-nominated Tab Time on YouTube and has lines of products with Target and McCormick spices and so much more.
In This Episode We’ll Cover:
- What it’s like having everyone know who you are…overnight
- Tabitha’s relationship with cooking growing up (it’s not what you think)
- 3 of her favorite meals to cook in a hurry
- How to make vegan food taste flavorful
- Tabitha’s proven tips to get kids more interested in eating vegetables
- Her genius social media strategy that helps her stay sane
- & MORE
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Our podcast is released every Wednesday and each week we take a deep dive into topics like health at every size, food & culture, intuitive eating, mental health, and body acceptance. If you’re looking for a sustainable and inclusive path to wellness, come hang out with us to learn how to take care of yourself from the inside out.
Wendy: It's funny because for Halloween. Uh, one of our good friends, her daughter dressed up like you . So I got a problem. I gotta send you the picture because it was so cute and so cute and saw that like a lot of little girls have been dressing up like you. I'm like, oh my God.
Tabitha: Aw yeah. I'm sorry. My dog is busting in here. Blackie, um, . It's real life. But yes, I taught so many kids, it, it warms my heart. Like when I see them, I just, I'm like, oh my God, they're so cute. And it just makes me so happy, especially with like tap time and their little outfits. And I know the parents who join so cute.
Wendy: so cute. Oh my God. Well, today we wanted to talk to you a little bit about food and cooking. We know that you recently came out with a cookbook, so let's start off by talking about how food was like growing up. Were you always like drawn to cooking? Was your family big into being in the kitchen or was it quite the opposite?
Tabitha: In my family was huge on being in the kitchen. I was not . I didn't wanna be in there. I didn't care about cooking. Uh, my granny was a town baker. I didn't care about baking. Um, it, I didn't have time to be cooking, girl. I was a tomboy. I was outside, you know, climbing trees and catching bugs and, you know, in the, in the woods, like hiking and doing all kinds of crazy things, playing football with the boys.
I had no time for that. And so I used to always tell my mama and my granny, I don't need to know how to cook honey. When I, when I grow up, I'm gonna be a famous actress and I'm gonna have a, and I didn't know I was gonna become the person. . Yeah. It didn't happen. Yeah.
Wendy: So then, so how, where did the shift happen?
Like tell us about how you eventually did get into
Tabitha: cooking. So when me and my husband moved in together, you know mm-hmm. , uh, so about almost, almost 25 years ago, but about 24 years ago, um, we moved in together and I was like, oh Lord, I gotta feed this man . I don't know how to cook. You know? And so that's how I learned to cook over the phone.
I would call my mom, Andre and my aunts. They would tell me certain things on the phone, and so honey, in the beginning I messed up a lot of meals. I was like, oh Lord, this, this ain't right, you know? But trial and error and I got really good at it over time. So that's how it started.
Jess: Nice. And I know that it kind of all blew up for you,
Um, I feel like it was four years ago that you released that video about the T T L A sandwich at Whole Foods, which by the way, like after I saw that video I ran to get, The sandwich and I was like, oh, this is actually really good, especially with the Pickles, . Um, and then Whole Foods wanted you to be an ambassador and I feel like the rest was just kind of history.
We all can follow you and see all that online, but what did it feel like to go from an Uber driver to like almost overnight, just everybody knowing who you are. Like does that get overwhelming when you're out? Do people always come up to
Tabitha: you? You know what's crazy is this month will be five years. I did that video this month, five years ago.
Wow. December 30th. Um, and you know, it's, I mean, it's been five years of it. It happened really quick in that aspect from that video. But I've been in entertainment for over 20 years, you know, as an actress. And I was like, the thing that made me famous was eat the sandwich in my.
Jess: I feel like it's always like that.
Something so random.
Tabitha: This is crazy, you know, but, uh, it was, it, I. I've been in it to see it evolve into what it is now. But in the beginning when it happened, I was the lady eating the sandwich. People were like, oh, you the lady that was eating the sandwich in her car, you know? Uh, and then I had some loyal fans who had been with me from the beginning of it, like me cooking in my kitchen, and they were like, oh, that's tab,
Wendy: she, you know, be
Tabitha: cooking on her.
You know, her Facebook. And then some people would just call me, oh, you the vegan lady. Right? And then I was, I mean, I would embrace it all. It just was so much fun to just see like, oh my God, these people, you know, watch me eat the sandwich or watch me cook or taste food or try food or whatever. And then, you know, it, it, it never gets old to me.
Even now, I mean, now is completely. Those were the good days where I could, you know, before covid, before anything you, you know, you could see people in hug and laugh and talk and whatever, but now it gets a little crazy to, yeah, to go somewhere to even just, you know, walk through the airport or whatever the case may be.
It's, it's completely different, but I still love it. I'm still grateful. I feel like I built my brand from. And so when people see me, it's like a love fest. It's like a family reunion no matter who it is. They'd be like, damn. Like we know each other, you know? So it never gets old. I love it. I'm grateful for it.
That's good. You're better than I would be .
Wendy: I'd be like,
Jess: ah. I'm more introverted though. Are you an extrovert? It seems like you're extroverted. I
Tabitha: love people. I love. Yeah. Nothing about me. Is Ian Okay. . .
Jess: It gives you energy, like
Wendy: all the Yeah.
Jess: Which is, that's amazing. I need some of that energy in me. Um, how do you find a balance also with social media?
Because you're everywhere. You've completely blown up. You're on Instagram, you're posting all the time, and I know, and now your content is. , you have so much content. It's not just about food. You have, you know, your talks with your husband Chance, which my friend sent me one of those two randomly, like two months ago, and she's like, you have to watch this.
It's such a good episode. And I didn't, it was really good and insightful. Um, and then you just, I feel like there's a lot of life lessons, but you're giving so much of yourself. How do you find a balance
Tabitha: with all of it? Um, I do it when I want to. Mm. Right. That's good. Yeah, I don't feel pressure to post. Um,
It's kind of how I've always done it. You know, whenever I feel the need to share from my heart or when God places something inside of me and he says, you have to do this. I, I'm obedient and I do it, um, when I'm cooking, right? I used to cook live all the time, but now of course I don't have time. And so, but when I have a recipe or something I'm doing, I'm like, oh, you know what?
Let me film. In real time while I'm cooking for myself , or for my family, right? Because that way it's natural, it's organic, and it's easy for me. It's not like, oh, I gotta prepare to do this, you know? So I do it only if it feels right. And I don't do it just because, right? I don't care about numbers. I don't, you know, I don't look at that stuff, that doesn't do anything for me.
Um, and then, you know, when I want a break, I take a break. You know, so I just never allow it to consume me. Mm-hmm. , and that's balance. You know, I'm first right? I come first. So whatever feels well to me is what I do. If it don't feel well, then I don't do it. .
Wendy: I love that. I feel like I need to incorporate more of that because especially like when, for us, like a lot of the work that we do is in the online space, and so that pressure definitely exists and you know, even with the work that you're doing, I'm sure that it helps with like visibility, like.
For all of the new things that you have going on. And so you feel this pressure where you're like, oh my God. Like I kind of have to do it. And it takes away from the joy of just hopping on organically and being like, oh, you know, I, I feel drawn to like going in there. It's like, oh, well I kind of have to set the schedule for myself.
So I really like that approach. And it's really great that you're
Tabitha: able to do that. Yeah. We all should be in control of ourself first, right? And being in control of ourself allows us to be in control of what we do. or what we don't do, you know? Yeah. We owe that to ourself. That's how we stay balanced.
Mm-hmm. , we don't owe it to social media. We don't owe it to the world. We only owe it to ourself.
Wendy: Right. Yeah. And talking about balance, it would be so great to get some insight into like, how you find balance in your personal life. Like outside of, you know, like everything that you're doing and, um, the TV show and, you know, all, all of these things that you have going on.
How are you taking care of yourself, connecting with your family, um, just doing the things that you want to.
Tabitha: So it's again, me first, right? Start my day with me, end my day with me. Uh, and then of course family is my foundation. It is everything. Uh, I do like very normal everyday stuff that everybody else do , right?
So like yesterday we were at basketball game, then we were at a flag football game. Like after I left the studio, like it was like, okay, we. I love being a mom and I love being a wife. Right. My husband is a basketball coach. Uh, my son is an athlete. He plays basketball and now he's playing flag football. So we do it all.
Those are the things that I enjoy the most. Uh, and then coming home and putting my pajamas on chow and laying on the couch with my husband and watching, you know, a series or movies, especially during this time of year, I'm kind of starting to slow down a little bit to take a break for the holiday.
Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , uh, , but I also, as you can see, I'm in my hoodie cuz I just finished working out. So I start my days with workouts and even if it has to be a later start time for me, I'm like, you know what? I still gotta go in and do this for myself. Um, sometimes it's juicing in the morning cuz that's how I take care of me, right?
What, like this week I'm eating a lot of like raw foods, a lot of, um, alive food so I can feel more alive. I had a little bit of a cold like two weeks ago, so I still feel like a little raspy, so I'm like, okay, let me just put. You know, really good nutrients into my body and, and just take care of me. And, uh, yeah, reading and writing, journaling, all those things are, are ways I balance myself spending time with my dog.
I don't know if you got, if y'all are animal people, but listen, animals have this, um, purity about then. Mm-hmm. . So judgment with them, they are just all love. Right. And so we can learn so much from. You know, they also, uh, forgive instantly. Doesn't matter what they did, if they got in trouble, is the moment you say, okay, you come back, they, they don't care.
They, they all for the love, right? So just learning how to be even more compassionate to me is taking care of myself cuz that way I can help take care of others that way. But all of that is, it plays a role in how I love.
Wendy: Yeah, I love that. And napping too, right? Does your sweater say naps over? Is it naps over everything?
Big naps over here. Yeah, huge naps.
Tabitha: A nap. I'll, I'll be up at 5:00 AM but you better believe about two o'clock. I'm gonna hit me a little 30 minutes. That's right. . .
Jess: Yeah. You, I can't even function without a nap. And also the same thing with the animals. I totally agree. Yeah. My dog is my best friend, , and
Jess: just makes my life so I, I get it.
And it just, it makes you so much. More compassionate to all things I feel in a way that you wouldn't have been before having an animal. Um, the other thing I was curious about, you mentioned you and your husband watch your shows at night. Like what are your guys' favorite shows to watch or what
Tabitha: series do you watch?
Well, right now we are on the, uh, like Tulsa Kings. I don't know. That's what I haven't seen that, that's, it's so good. It's on paramount. And it's new, so it's only on like episode four. And then, uh, last night we started watching, um, uh, Wednesdays. Have y'all seen
Jess: Oh, I started it too. Okay. So do you like it?
Tabitha: Love it. We're only, we watched two episodes so far, but I'll like, Ooh, this is gonna be good. So, uh, reasonable Doubt was what I was watching. It is, it is going off now, you know, but we binge watch it, you know, we watch it together, but if you haven't binge watch it, it's so good. , it's on.
Jess: Okay. On Hulu. Okay.
Taking notes cuz
Tabitha: I always am looking, I don't get to watch TV a lot when we do. When I do get to watch, it's like, oh, let's watch this. Like, let's take some time and like, watch this like we did. Um, the House of Dragons, uh, it's, it's just certain things that Sundays are our day that we can, you know, watch TV at night.
And right now, because I'm going into like kind of break phase, I got a little extra time at nighttime, so I'm like, let's watch some stuff. So, .
Jess: Yeah. It's always fun to snuggle up and watch something. Um, so you mentioned all these different things that you do. I'm curious, do you still cook or is that something that.
Now that you've made it big, do you outsource it?
Wendy: Girl, didn't you just see me some portello
Tabitha: steaks the other night?
you have a I do. We do have, uh, a chef that comes in and cooks because I travel a lot and so when I was on tour, my husband, they be eating junk if I ain't here. And I was like, Uhuh, y'all not gonna do that. So I do have someone who will come and prepare meals and make sure. everybody getting some balanced food and not ordering our everyday Burger King or stuff like that.
Cuz you know, my husband would be like, but it's an impossible burger. I'm like, no . But yeah, honey, I still cook. I cook Thanksgiving. I, girl, I I love to cook. Um, so yeah, I absolutely still cook.
Jess: I was wondering that too, for holidays. So do you host the holidays at your house? Okay. You don't get overwhelmed?
Tabitha: No, I've, I've done it for years. Okay. . You know, when I first moved to la me and my husband, we were, you know, we're young. Um, We've been here almost eight. We've been here 18 years. And so when we first came, we were like, in my group of friends that I met, I was the only married one. I was the only one with a child.
Cause you know, we started very young and so I was like, oh, so many of these people, like for my active class, they were here by themselves. No family, you know, they didn't know anybody here. And they're all from different places. So I started doing Sunday dinners every Sunday in our apartment, and I would just invite people from class and new people that I met that I knew didn't have family.
I'm like, y'all come to my house on Sunday dinner. So I've always cooked every Sunday I would do for years. Wow. Grew and I would always host Sunday dinners. Me and my husband. We would just do that. And so now of course, I'm so busy, I don't get to do Sunday dinners anymore. But we'll still have like a party and I'll cook.
Like my husband's birthday was, um, Thanksgiving weekend too. So I hosted Thanksgiving and then that Saturday, it was his birthday we hosted, and I did like a taco bar. And you Yeah, honey, I love, I love to entertain and you know, I'm like that, that the old grandmother love to see people eat they food like y'all like it, don't you,
It's just, you know, it's rewarding for my heart to like feed people and not just feed them with food, but but their soul, you know?
Wendy: Yeah. Mm-hmm. . I love that.
Jess: So one thing that you cleared up for me was that you are actually making those meals in real time on your channels, because I always wonder that, I'm like, is this.
Yeah. Are you, are you literally eating this after you make it? Like you're saying, you're like, oh, I'm just in the mood for this wrap. I'm gonna make it now. Watch me do it. Um, which I think is cool because most people don't do that. Most people are like us. We're kind of planning out these recipes and having a shoot and I think that's probably what makes you so unique and people like it.
It's just very much in real time. Um, I'm curious, like what are two of your favorite meals to make on a busy day?
Tabitha: One or two? Oh honey tacos, cuz it's, Right. Yeah. Or a taco. It's super quick. Um, those are, those are like my go-to, like avocado toast, like it's quick. Those type of things. Um, yeah, those, those are like my go-to things or salad.
Of course those, you know, chopped salad. But my salads don't just be regular, you know, I be having everything in there. And lately I really love, uh, butternut squash. Mm-hmm. and I it up and I throw it in the air fryer, put a little bit of sunshine. And it has a nice crispiness, but it also has that softened sweet inside, kinda like a sweet potato, but it's healthier for us, right?
And so I put that on top of my salad. So I have like a little harvest salad with avocado and you know, cranberries and some seeds and it's so good. But. Yeah, girl, I, I'll throw something together real fast. Good , but just I can be clear. Whenever you see a video of me doing like a product, like I have to do a branded, branded content, that would be pretty much the only time you'll see me do a video that was prerecorded.
Okay. I do, if you, if it look like I'm eating right, then that means I just cooked it and ate it and, and edited it real fast as posted it, or I do it in so that I don't even have to edit this all done for.
Wendy: Yeah. And it all looks so flavorful too. And that's the thing, I think vegan food oftentimes is associated with vegetables, raw vegetables that are, you know, the flavor's just not all there, especially for black folk.
We want the flavor, we want the layers. And so what are some of your favorite ways to add flavor to your recipes? What are some of your favorite spices?
Tabitha: Ooh, honey, you know, I love flavor, honey. That's when people be like, you gotta put a little bit and I'll be putting right much. Okay. . I love garlic powder.
I love my garlic powder. Um, but even fresh garlic, when we chop it, fresh onions, it adds so much flavor to, to food, you know, all spice, turmeric, cumin, all those things. Like, you know, ginger is one of my favorite things, mango like, I love a little bit of sweet and a little bit of heat too. Mm-hmm. . Um, but I just love layering flavor as I cook.
And I'm very big on salt free. And that way you can layer as much as you want because it ain't no salt. So you just adding flavor without killing your meal. And so then afterwards, if we need a little bit of salt, I'll use a little pink kimaya sea salt. Things like that. But, um, if you see my, you know, I got my own seasoning sunshine, and it has all those things in it, from ginger to pineapple to mango to, you know, cumin and turmeric and it's just, it, it just goes on and on.
But it's just like vacation in a bottle, . But yeah. I
Jess: love it. So switching gears to your show, you have two shows, right? Tab time, and then what's the other one? It's
Tabitha: on food. Oh, it's contemplated. I did one se It's contemplated one season.
Jess: Okay. Okay. So with tab time. Mm-hmm. , can you tell us a little bit more about that?
I've heard you describe it kind of as like a Mr. Rogers, like a modern, more diverse and inclusive Mr. Rogers neighborhood for kids. It's a YouTube original.
Tabitha: Yes it is. It's a YouTube provisional. We're in our second season, uh, right now, and it is very much so, like a lot of people say modern day, Mr. Rogers Field.
Uh, but with me, of course, you know, as the host and it is all about teaching children how to love themselves and see them. And love others and see others while learning together. Right? And so we start every episode out in my garden. And so in the garden I have my best friend who is Avi, the Avocado. And so there's always something that Avi is up to.
That causes me to have a question of the day. And so like in the very first season, the, the question was how things grow. You know, Avi's trying to figure out how things grow and so then my wind chime, who is breezy when she chimes? That means it's time to go to the next. You know, place to answer the question.
And so we go on this journey throughout the episode and so we go into our imagination and that's when I become animated into this cartoon and we go on this special adventure trying to answer our question. And once we leave special adventure, cuz we meet all these different people. and uh, and characters in our special adventure, uh, segment that help us answer our question.
But the question continues right there. We have to get so many different answers cuz there's not just one answer in, in how we grow or. Any question that you have that's not just one answer. And so then we go, uh, to our lab where I have special celebrity guests that come in and they play different characters.
Right. Which is so much fun. Um, rel how LilRel how was my first guest on how we, how things Grow Episode, and he was former Sprouts and so he's teaching us through food, right? Through fruit and vegetables, how they grow, right? Sometimes things look ready on the. , but that doesn't mean they're ready on the inside.
Just like us. Sometimes we can look like a big girl or a big boy, but we're still afraid to do certain things or we may not have, um, we're not equipped yet to do the thing that we look like we can do, right? And so that way we learn. And then from there we go to craft time. And then I have children. And we do a craft that also helps us answer our question for the day.
And children learn from, from doing right. We all learn from actually doing things. And a craft is fun. And so whenever we are having fun or we laugh, , it helps us remember, cuz our memories are tied to emotion, right? So having a good time and doing something helps us remember. Um, so I'm, I'm depositing these amazing tools into the children.
And then from there we go into snack time, which is my favorite. And then we get to eat, okay? Mm-hmm. . And so I create a snack that also helps answer the question of the day. And I have my little friends that they are, are animated, that's Bernie and Starla, who helped me in the kitchen. And they always try the food, of course.
And then the snack is of course, always vegan. , and I never have to say that. It just is, it's a, it's a healthy snack to teach children how to crave healthier options. And then after that we go into story time and we tell the story of our day and how we got to the answer. And that's it. That's, that's the show.
And it is such a magical purpose, right? That's what it feels like. It feels like a magical purpose that God has a, has trusted me to do in, in doing a children's. , it came from being obedient to what God had put in my heart. And for years he kept telling me I had to heal the world. And I was like, well, Lord, I'm one person.
How can I one person heal the world? And then years later in prayer, he said, it starts with children. And so I was like, oh wow. If I could get a children's show, this can really help me with this mission. And so that's what I've done, uh, and I'm so grateful to be trusted with. And to be nominated for two Emmys and Right.
You know, be in season two. And it's, it's just, it's such a blessing. It is the thing that I am the most proud of in my career.
Wendy: That's incredible that you were able to merge your passion for food with TV and like being able to have this show that's so meaningful. And I know with children like, you know, and trying to get them to be more curious about food, sometimes it's like they either shut down or they're like, ew.
Especially with vegetables. So what do you think is helpful with. Kids to be a little more curious and trying foods that maybe they're not familiar with or that they're just like not open to.
Tabitha: I mean, if you watch the show, you'll see right When we do snack time, we create characters with food. Mm-hmm. , or we create fun things with food and we eat with our eyes.
So if you make something that looks like a monster, but it's really just apples and peanut butter and sesame seeds, you know, or sunflower seeds. It's, it's, and it, it is just something that kids are curious about. They're like, wait, it's a monster. I wanna eat the monster. You know, , , you create something that they have to use their imagination and that makes us more curious.
It makes us excited. And also if they do it themselves, when kids are a part of something, they feel proud and they also wanna. You know, my son hated anything green for a very long time. He hated it. And we got a arrow garden that's like the little one that you could sit on your countertop and it grows the different things.
And he grew his own lettuce, honey, he could not wait every week. He kept watching it grow. He couldn't wait to eat this lettuce. He never ate lettuce before, but because he grew it and he watched it, and he watered it, he nurtured it. He wanted to try it. So sometimes that's all it takes. Yeah. Is allow kids to be involved.
Right. And make it fun. Mm-hmm. ,
Jess: that's really good advice. Yeah. So in wrapping for adults, , who wanna add more plant-based foods into their diet, but they don't really know where to start, is there any one piece of advice that you
Tabitha: give them? Ooh, honey. Start with your why. Right? Why do you wanna do. Like, why do you want to incorporate more plants into your diet?
Um, if your why means something to you, then you will not make excuses, right? You will stick to it. You won't say it's too hard. You'll figure it out for me. When I started on a vegan journey, my why was life or death. I wanted to live. I was so sick. Um, and eventually, of course, my why changed many times why I do things.
And so I always tell people if you start there, then start with what are your favorite non-vegan foods? Try to figure out the vegan version of that so you don't feel like you're missing anything. Right. Um, and don't feel like. You're taking something away from yourself, think of it as if you're adding something new.
Wendy: it. Mm-hmm. . I love that. Yeah. Like not feeling so restrictive about it. Like you're depriving yourself of something
Tabitha: that you enjoy. You're gaining something new. That's it. Yeah. Taking away, you're gaining something new. I love that.
Wendy: All right. Well this has been great. Um, tell us like, where can people watch the show?
Where can people get your book? How can they connect with you?
Tabitha: Absolutely. Um, you can watch the show on YouTube. On YouTube Kids app or on my YouTube channel, Tabitha Brown. Um, and I'm on all social media. I am Tabitha Brown and you can get my books anywhere. Target, Amazon, uh, all the places where you can buy books and.
Yeah, that's, that's it. . Yay. Thank you
Wendy: tab. That was perfect. Awesome. Thank you so much and good luck with the show. I will be tuning in with my nephew. Yes. .
Jess: I feel like I need to have kids just for the show, . Yes,
Tabitha: you have. So, cool. Well, happy holidays to y'all.
Wendy: Yes, thank you tab. All right, you take care. Bye. You too.
Take care. Bye bye.
Jess: I'm gonna exit and then we can. Okay. Okay. .