Ten years ago, Angela Davis found herself at a career crossroads. Working as an accountant for a Washington, D.C., construction company left her feeling drained, and she struggled to find balance between single motherhood and 60-hour work weeks. But cooking was her reprieve.
The kitchen was where she headed when life felt too chaotic. And despite having no formal culinary training, she decided to document her cooking journey in a blog aptly titled The Kitchenista Diaries.
“I had no big plan to change careers at the time,” says Davis of her early blogging days in 2012. “I had been working in the [accounting] industry for about 10 years — and the corporate environment, it just put a lot of stress on my life.”
When Davis unexpectedly lost her job the year after she started the blog, the idea of returning to the drudgery of 9-to-5 work felt like a step in the wrong direction, so she decided to take a chance and create a living where sharing food online took center stage.
“I started selling digital PDFs of single recipes. I sold my sweet potato pie recipe for $5 on Twitter. When that worked, I sold a couple more. And then I said, ‘OK, well, maybe I’ll just do a whole book.’”
Growing The Kitchenista brand took a lot of hard work and sacrifices, including moving back in with her parents in Virginia, where she’s originally from.
Then in 2019, an opportunity led her to the Motor City. She had been catering events in Washington, D.C., for a while and met a potential client from Detroit. He needed a private chef, and she was ready to move out of her parents’ house. Plus, what she saw going on in Detroit was exciting to her, so she accepted the offer.
“I looked at the opportunity, like everything about Detroit with what they were doing in the hospitality industry and the money that they were pumping into new businesses. I saw opportunity here.”
Ten years and four e-books later, The Kitchenista brand has grown to reach over 180,000 fans on Instagram, and Davis is living her dream. She describes her cooking as comfort food but with an elevated twist.
“I use gourmet ingredients in an accessible way,” she says, later pointing out that while the majority of her followers are women, their experience level can range from first- timers to seasoned home cooks, so her recipes are for everyone looking to jazz up the classics. She’s also branched out with videos on TikTok.
As for whether fans can expect a Kitchenista restaurant project any time soon, Davis admits that while the idea has crossed her mind, she is more interested in opening a culinary studio with in-person classes, food photography, and other creative pursuits. She is also excited to spend another holiday season in metro Detroit.
“I’m continuing to be surprised by Michigan,” Davis says. “I’ve been in a lot of different places, and I always expected to settle in Virginia just because that’s what felt familiar to me. But I’m really glad that I took a chance. … I feel very much at home.”
A peek into Angela Davis’ holiday pantry
“The pandemic has given many people the freedom to break the rules,” Angela Davis says. “Make whatever you want! You don’t like turkey — why are you making turkey every year? That’s the vibe I’m definitely going to be on this year. Make what you love and just do it. Do it well.”
Here, Davis shares some ingredients to take your dishes to the next level.
1. Duck fat
It’s essential for achieving that super- crispy turkey skin without burning, as butter does under high temperatures. It can be used in the roux for your gravy, for cooking roasted veggies, or to add a savory flavor to collard greens without using pork products. Plus, it can be used as a substitute for shortening or lard in biscuits or pie crusts.
2. Ceylon cinnamon
Known as “true cinnamon,” Ceylon cinnamon has a mild, clean flavor that’s great for holiday recipes. Ceylon cinnamon sticks have a soft bark that can easily be ground up with other whole spices in homemade blends.
3. Garnet yams or jewel yams
These are some of my favorite sweet potatoes to use in my sweet potato pie or candied yams. Compared to standard sweet potatoes, these two varieties have a deeper orange hue, very little stringiness, and richer flavor.
4. Fresh herbs
In holiday cooking, every ingredient counts, and fresh herbs make all the difference in that homemade, from-scratch taste. When I prep, I mince up a huge pile of fresh Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage to use throughout my recipes.
5. Maple syrup
So much refined sugar is used in holiday baking, and our palates need a break somewhere in the menu. I love working with real maple syrup when just a touch of sweetness is needed, or for glazes like the one we make for ham. The scent of maple lends cozy winter vibes, and its flavor complements both sweet and savory dishes.
This story is from the December 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.