Spring 2016

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Josh Givens: Food Operations Boss

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Josh Givens ’75, ’77 MS was working as vice president of marketing at Revlon when he met Norma Jean Darden, a well-known model who ran a small but thriving catering business in Manhattan. In the late 1990s, Givens, who had spent years in account management at major Madison Avenue ad agencies and sold ads at Ebony, jumped onboard as general manager at Spoonbread Inc. He applied his marketing and management acumen to grow the catering and restaurant business. Spoonbread, one of New York City’s largest African American–owned catering companies, serves authentic Southern comfort food, from smothered chicken and grits to collard greens and fresh-squeezed lemonade, all based on a historical collection of Darden’s family recipes (see two popular menu items below). For nearly 20 years, Givens, now vice president and partner, has helped operate Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too restaurant on the Upper West Side, where they dish out the same home-cooked cuisine. Celebrity fans including Serena Williams, Phylicia Rashad, Alicia Keys and Bill Clinton have dined at the landmark eatery. “You never know who’s going to walk in the door,” Givens says.

Bud’s Sunday Roast Chicken

 Two 2 ½- to 3-pound roasting chickens
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
    Chestnut and Rice Stuffing (recipe follows)
Juice of 2 lemons, or 1 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 375°. Rinse chickens thoroughly and pat dry. Rub chickens with prepared mustard. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then stuff with chestnut and rice stuffing. Place chickens on a rack in a roasting pan. Cover with lemon juice or wine. Bake for about 1 ½ hours, basting from time to time with the pan juices. Add water or wine if additional basting juices are needed.


NOTE: If you don’t have time for a stuffing, a stalk of celery and a whole onion placed in each cavity give a nice flavor.


Chestnut and Rice Stuffing

1 chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery, including leaves
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped canned chestnuts
½ cup chopped cooked giblets (from chicken in recipe above)
2 cups cooked rice

Sauté onion and celery in melted butter until tender. Remove from heat and add poultry seasoning, salt and parsley. In a bowl blend together chestnuts, giblets, and rice. Add sautéed mixture and blend well. (Double this recipe to stuff a 12- to 14-pound turkey.)



Sweet Potato Biscuits

 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Dash of ground cinnamon
½ cup melted butter
1 cup boiled, peeled, mashed sweet potato
cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°. Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. Using a medium-size bowl, beat melted butter into sweet potato. Add dry ingredients, stirring in a little at a time, alternating with buttermilk. Mix just well enough to moisten through. Form into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured board. Lightly pat top side with flour as well, since it is a rather sticky dough. Roll out to ½- to ¾-inch thickness with a floured rolling pin. Cut with a floured biscuit cutter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.


From Spoonbread & Strawberry Wine: Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family (Clarkson Potter, 1994) for Northwestern magazine/Permission authorized by Josh Givens, Jan. 14, 2016