Episode 3: Pimp My Grits | A Chef's Life | PBS Food

A Chef’s Life, Episode 3: Pimp My Grits

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.

Episode Preview

The restaurant gears up for a practice service where the new equipment and new menu will be tested in real time — but nothing is going as planned. One of the big changes to the restaurant’s menus is the addition of a section called “Pimp My Grits,” where Vivian exalts the lowly, quintessentially Southern ingredient in four distinct ways.


Vivian’s Cooking Demo


Vivian’s Featured Recipe

Grits with Mushroom, Sausage and Pepper Ragout

"At the restaurant, we categorize the Pimp My Grits section of the menu as something to share and possibly dip into. We build each Pimped Grit in a 6 inch cast iron skillet, and that skillet is finished in a very hot oven. Each composition treats the grits as a blank canvas and strives to be balanced and unique. This is a customer favorite." -- Vivian Howard



  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 lb country style sausage
  • 1 cup mixed color bell peppers (small diced)
  • 1 jalapeno minced
  • 1/2 cup green onion (sliced)
  • 3 cups button mushrooms (quartered)
  • 5 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 2 cups tomatoes (diced)
  • 2 cups water
  • Basic grits


  1. In the largest saute pan you have, start by browning your sausage in vegetable oil over pretty high heat. Once it is nicely browned, remove it from the pan and reserve.
  2. Leave the tasty fat in the saute pan and with the heat around medium high, add the mushrooms in a single layer. Let them sit there. Do not stir them around. Do not shake the pan like you are dying to do. Let them sit for about 2 minutes.
  3. Shake the pan and see the nice caramelization you have accomplished. Do this again with the newly exposed side.
  4. Once you have achieved nice caramelization, season the mushrooms with salt, shaking the pan once more. Remove the mushrooms and reserve.
  5. Add the bell peppers, jalapeno, green onion and garlic cloves. Hit them with a little salt and allow them to sweat for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, sausage, mushrooms and water to the pan and bring up to a simmer. Let this go for about thirty minutes. It should all cook down to a nice comforting looking ragout.
  7. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
  8. To serve with the grits: Spoon a generous helping of the ragout on top of warm, seasoned grits. Top the whole thing with grated parmesan cheese and pop in the oven for about 4-5 minutes or until the top is slightly browned and the whole thing is bubbling.


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