Kristi Brown, a Seattle Soul Sister!

By United Way of King County, on October 25, 2022 | In Eat, Drink & Be Generous, Events, Fighting Homelessness, Success Stories

What is “Seattle soul”? Here’s a hint: It is not an old school R&B genre that dominated the local music scene before grunge and hip hop took over the airwaves.

“Seattle soul” is a term popularized by Chef Kristi Brown, owner of the widely popular COMMUNION Restaurant and Bar as well as the catering service That Brown Girl Cooks. United Way partners might have sampled Seattle soul during one of our events that Brown has catered. If you haven’t, join us on November 9 as Brown conducts a virtual cooking class at United Way’s next installment of our Eat, Drink & Be Generous series.

Brown will be cooking Deep Fried Buttermilk Marinated Fried Chicken Thighs over Sweet & Red Potatoes. Seasonal Mixed Greens, Juicy Tomatoes, and Jerk Ranch Dressing. Brown will be joined on screen by United Way campaign co-chair Patty Meden.

Chef Kristi Brown

Brown, a James Beard semifinalist who was also named one of Seattle Magazine’s most influential people in 2021, will demonstrate innovations and tips that helped make her restaurant one of the region’s hottest. COMMUNION’s accolades include being named one of CONDE NASTE’s 12 best new restaurants in the world. The restaurant was also named among the New York Times’s 50 places in America we’re most excited about right now; Seattle Met’s Restaurant of the Year; and Seattle Eater’s Best New Restaurants.

Proceeds from Eat, Drink & Be Generous go toward supporting families most impacted by rising costs and helping them put food on their table and stay in their homes.

On the COMMUNION website, Brown describes Seattle soul as an homage to her roots, which include enjoying a cuisine from African Americans in the Deep South. The cuisine, she said, comprises lima beans and ham hocks, the sound of crackling cornbread in a cast iron skillet, boiled or sautéed cabbage, fried pork chops, stuffed clams, grits and barbecue.

“All of these,” Brown says on her website, “are a treasure trove of food memories that connect me, and my son, to the legacy of my grandmother’s long, beautiful, brown fingers in doughs, forming and making pies, biscuits and dinner rolls. Only to watch her leave the house to play the organ right before preaching a sermon.”

Seattle soul, Brown says, is soul food with Pacific Northwest influence, which includes infusing soul food ingredients with tofu, pok pok salad and savoy cabbage. “If you look deeply into the various neighborhoods within our city, you begin to understand the influences that made COMMUNION,” Brown says.

COMMUNION and That Brown Girl Cooks culminate a near 30-year culinary journey for Brown, who has experienced almost every facet of the restaurant industry en route—including prep cook and dishwasher.

After completing Seattle Central College’s culinary program, Brown launched That Brown Girl Cooks in 1999 while honing her craft through experiences at Plenty Café and Nordstrom.

Chef Kristi Brown

Brown helped launch her businesses via United Way’s Individual Development Account program, which set up savings accounts with matching funds to help people realize dreams of buying homes or starting ventures. Through the efforts of United Way and its partners, the former program enabled individuals to take all the funds and invest in their dreams. United Way has enjoyed Kristi’s cuisine since we enlisted her catering service, That Brown Girl Cooks, to cater our board of directors’ meetings and receptions.

Most recently, Brown catered United Way’s Eat, Drink & Be Generous event in April at Metier Brewing Company in Woodinville.

Brown is one of two local chefs with ties to United Way who were named James Beard Award semifinalists this year. The other is Chef Melissa Miranda of Musang in Seattle. Brown also supported Miranda’s community kitchen efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

United Way’s Eat, Drink & Be Generous series was launched to support our vulnerable neighbors and lift up our local restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis, it continues to bring our community together while cooking and eating amazing food and raising critical dollars for our neighbors in need. To learn more about future events, click here.


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