Episode 2: Strawberry Stay at Home | A Chef's Life | PBS Food

A Chef’s Life, Episode 2: Strawberry Stay at Home

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 and Ben rebuild their restaurant against the backdrop of the Southern harbinger of spring, the strawberry. Their twins go on their first strawberry picking excursion and Vivian and a friend develop a recipe for Coconut Cornbread Strawberry Shortcake with Basil Whipped Cream.


Vivian’s Cooking Demo


Vivian’s Featured Recipe

Strawberry Shortcake with Basil Whipped Cream and Coconut Cornbread

Make strawberry shortcake with basil whipped cream and coconut cornbread for a cookout or celebratory dessert. This recipe appears in the "Muscadine Time" episode of A Chef's Life, featuring chef Vivian Howard.



  • Coconut Cornbread
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1.5 cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1/2 cup Coco Lopez (cream of coconut)
  • 7oz coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp. coconut extract
  • Strawberries
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • Whipped Cream
  • 2 oz fresh basil
  • 2 cups heavy cream


  1. Cornbread: Preheat the oven to 350. Combine and mix to incorporate the cornmeal, flour, sugar, coconut flakes, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the vegetable oil, melted butter, honey, beaten eggs, coco lopez, coconut milk and coconut extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir to moisten. Put about 2 Tbsp. butter into a small casserole dish and place it in the oven. Allow the butter to melt and brown slightly. Take the dish out of the oven and move it around to make sure the butter is coating the inside of the dish. Pour the batter in. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown.
  2. For the Strawberries: Top and wash the berries. Slice each berry into 4 or so pieces. For 1 cup of sliced berries, sprinkle 2 or so Tbsp of sugar. Toss to incorporate and let this sit for 30 minutes or until the berries produce a syrupy delicious sauce.
  3. For the Basil Whipped Cream: Steep 2oz basil (stems and all) in 2 cups heavy cream. Strain out the basil and allow the cream to chill. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with your good old arm fitted with the same “attachment,” whip the cream to medium stiff peaks.
  4. To Assemble: You can go wild here to fit your needs. At the restaurant we use Ball canning jars. You could use a trifle bowl, a sundae dish or a wine glass. It is however nice to see all the layers, so keep that in mind when selecting your vessel.
  5. Spoon a small amount of your strawberry love on the bottom of the vessel. Top with coconut cornbread that you have torn into smallish pieces. Top that with a nice amount of strawberry dream stuff and finish that layer with several dollops of basil whipped cream. Continue this layering process until you reach the top of your vessel making sure that you finish with the basil whip. Top the whole thing with a few whole or halved strawberries. In a perfect world you would let this sit refrigerated for a minimum of six hours before serving, overnight would be even better.


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