Episode 10: Love Me Some Candied Yams | A Chef's Life | PBS Food

A Chef’s Life, Episode 10: Love Me Some Candied Yams

In A Chef’s Life, go inside the life of chef Vivian Howard, who, with her husband Ben Knight, left the big city to open a fine dining restaurant in small-town eastern North Carolina. Each episode follows Howard out of the kitchen and into cornfields, strawberry patches and hog farms as she hunts down the ingredients that inspire her seasonal menus. Using a chef’s modern sensibilities, she explores Southern cuisine, past and present — one ingredient at a time. A celebration of true farm to table food, the series combines the action and drama of a high-pressure business with the joys and stresses of family life.

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Vivian introduces us to Rob and Amy Hill, proprietors of one of the largest sweet potato farms in the country and two of the restaurant’s best customers. Vivian and her mom, Scarlett, make her grandmother’s candied yams and Vivian later re-imagines these for the restaurant with texture, sorghum and pecans. Mother Earth Brewery and Chef & the Farmer team up for a beer dinner featuring first-of-the-season sweet potatoes.


Vivian’s Cooking Demo


Vivian’s Featured Recipe

Candied Yams with Bacon Pecan Syrup

This candied yam appetizer will be a hit at your holiday table -- its almost like starting with dessert. This recipe appears in the "Love Me Some Candied Yams" episode of A Chef's Life, featuring chef Vivian Howard.



  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled & sliced into 1½-inch-thick rounds
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Salt
  • For the Pecan Bacon Syrup:
  • 2 cups bacon, cut into small dice
  • 2 cups pecans, chopped
  • ²⁄³ cup sliced scallions (white part primarily), plus more for garnish
  • ²⁄³ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 ¹∕³ cups maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp. chile flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. butter


  1. In a large pot, boil sweet potatoes until just tender. Allow slices to cool completely. Then press them between 2 pieces of parchment paper or foil, working in batches, so the slices flatten slightly and the edges spread. This can be done up to 2 days ahead. To finish, fill a deep skillet with an inch of canola oil and heat until shimmering. Fry sweet potatoes for about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels, and season generously with salt. To serve, stack sweet potatoes, top with syrup, and garnish with sliced scallions.
  2. To prepare the syrup:
    Heat skillet over medium and render bacon until almost crispy. Add pecans and scallions, and toast for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer until mixture has reduced by about one-third. Whisk in butter just before serving.

Yield: 4-6 servings


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