Down-home Reunion

This guy really knows how to cook. Here's a taste of the food he grew up on.
Scott Jones

Thanks to hard work, an unbeatable personality, and the popularity of his nationally televised cooking shows, Curtis Aikens has become a celebrity. Luckily, fame hasn't gone to his head. Curtis greets you with a warm hug, genuine Southern charm, and an enthusiasm for life that's downright infectious. You feel like you've known him forever.

These winning attributes, combined with his undeniable talent in the kitchen, landed Curtis a spot on the Food Network in 1993. Curtis still owns a place in his hometown of Conyers, Georgia. He and his family gather there several times a year to enjoy the kinds of home-cooked meals he so fondly remembers from his childhood.

Strong roots are what distinguish Curtis from his colleagues on the Food Network. "Growing up, the three most important things were church, family, and food," he remembers. At an early age, Curtis recognized the importance of having family around the dinner table. "I'm so blessed with the parents I have," he says. "They taught us to keep our chins high and treat people the way we'd want to be treated. No matter who you are or where you come from, food is our common bond. It's that social interaction and breaking of bread that makes preparing and eating food so much fun."

To his credit, Curtis has never lost sight of his Southern upbringing and the tremendous influence both his immediate and extended families have had on his career. "My mom is probably my biggest culinary influence, followed closely by both of my grandmas," Curtis says. "Of course, I loved to spend time with my granddaddy Curtis, who grew the best collards in the world. He also grew onions and hung them to dry, and he smoked hams. Through my grandparents, I had the privilege of seeing where all the food came from, so I had a much better appreciation for tastes, flavors, and tradition."

Today, when the Aikens family gets together for one of their signature homecoming meals, there's no mistaking their bond. The house buzzes with excitement as Curtis and his mom prepare a wide assortment of dishes, such as Mama's Fried Chicken, Barbecue Eggplant, and Stuffed Summer Squash. Once the food is blessed and the dishes are passed, Curtis sits back and reflects, "There's nothing like family and a home-cooked meal." We certainly hope you and your family will enjoy these scrumptious specialties too.

Curtis's Homecoming Meal: