By Kharisma McIlwaine
Food has always been a connecting thread. Nothing brings people together better than a great meal. No matter where you are in the world, food is tied to culture and community.
Patricia Marshall Harris has always understood the power of food. Growing up in Detroit as part of a large family, she spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen watching her mother create masterpieces for her loved ones.
Harris’ love for food eventually led to a career as a caterer and private chef. Now as a nutrition and healthy lifestyle consultant, the founder and owner of Classie and Essential Nutrition, and the host of “Dishing with Patricia,” she shares that love for food and the importance of nutrition with the masses.
“My love for food started very young — probably about 7 or 8,” she said. “Because I came from such a large family, my mother was everything. My mother always had a garden, and we grew up having fruit trees. My mother was always preparing food, everything was from scratch and we had desserts at every meal. I wanted to spend time with her, so in order for me to spend time with her, I had to be in the kitchen. That’s how I started… watching my mother.”
Harris was especially fond of her mother’s salmon croquettes and homemade biscuits, she added.
Her company, Classie and Essential Nutrition, pays homage to her late mother, Classie. Harris took the lessons she learned from her mother in the kitchen and continued to develop them. Her love for food blossomed throughout her life, ultimately leading to a career in the culinary arts. She began preparing food for a former business, which eventually transitioned into a catering venture.
“I used to have a lounge and liquor store in Atlantic City with my first husband, who passed away,” Harris said. “I would bring in what I was cooking, and folks would ask ‘did you make this?’ So, I started catering for the parties we used to have in our lounge. That’s when I knew that other folks really liked my food.”
It’s been 13 years since Harris began her career in the food industry. Certified in both wellness and nutrition, her career has led her down a number of paths. Catering led Harris to offer her knowledge of nutrition and love for food to a tailored group of clients as a private chef.
Dedicated to a healthy plant-based lifestyle for over 40 years, Harris always had a desire to give the wisdom that she acquired over years of cooking and international travel, to her clientele. Her husband, Bruce Crawley, encouraged her to set her sights on a wider audience and expand her platform even further.
“I was a private chef,” Harris said. “I would do private events and I had private clients that I would cook for. My husband Bruce said to me, ‘You’re bigger than this… you shouldn’t just be cooking for one or two people.’ He said ‘you have a talent and you should be sharing this.’”
The extra push from her husband was the spark that ignited the idea for “Dishing with Patricia,” a video podcast series where Harris incorporates her love for food and conversations.
During the podcast, which is set in Harris’ kitchen, she and her guests discuss their life experiences and personal journeys through their respective fields. Then Harris serves up delicious dishes to her guests, while walking viewers through her choice of ingredients, the process of preparation and the health benefits the meal provides.
“I always knew I liked food, I liked talking about it and I liked people eating my food,” she said. “For as long as I can remember, I always knew that I could cook and food is important… but if you’re not sharing it that’s not right.
“I teach corporate clients, but with COVID, I could no longer go in and do my workshops,” Harris continued. “So, I started doing my classes on Zoom, along with videocasts and demonstrations. People started requesting more and my husband said, ‘let’s do a podcast.’”
The first episode of “Dishing with Patricia” aired on January 11. Millennium 3 Management (M3M), Harris and her husband’s marketing and communications firm, was the mastermind behind the concept. M3M brought Classie and Essential Nutrition in under the umbrella of the company and helped to develop the podcast into the show that viewers know and love now.
“The M3M team came up with the logo, did the formatting, the platform and said ‘this is how you can do this,’” she said. “I like the platform. I like that I’m able to have conversations with people about what’s going on in their lives, what they’re doing, how they’re contributing, and I love having them share information with my audience that’s going to make a difference in their lives. It’s all about making the world a better place and if I can help facilitate that with things that I have to say with my food… I’m good with that.”
“Dishing with Patricia’’ gives viewers a peek into the lives of guests who have a multitude of perspectives and experiences. The recipes that are shared on the show are also a reflection of the global food influences that have inspired Harris throughout her cooking career.
“Diversity is something I always talk about when I’m cooking,” Harris said. “I want my food to be as diverse as I would hope that our world would be. Just like your plate… your sweet potatoes go with your greens, or a caramelized onion is sitting next to your mushrooms or fennel. But ultimately, food is medicine and if we went back to a more natural state of how we ate, more of us would be healthy.”
Not only does Harris offer healthy and diverse recipes on “Dishing with Patricia,” she also meticulously selects recipes that will resonate with each guest specifically.
“My guest Kim Hall Jackson, for example, is a colorectal cancer survivor, so I wanted to prepare vegetables that are known to be helpful for cancer,” Harris said. “On that episode we had broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables known for their benefits. With Dyana Williams, I did plantains and a peanut stew to tie in her Puerto Rican and African American background. I like to learn about my guests’ backgrounds, their ethnicity, if they have health issues and if I think they are going to be fun… I’ll introduce them to something they’ve never had before.”
There is no denying the passion that Harris has for food and sharing the love for it with her audience. Through years of experimenting with a variety of spices, seasonings and flavors, her instincts let her know when one of her recipes will be a success.
“When I say something is good it’s because I really like it,” Harris said. “I’ve gotten the texture and the taste that I want. It’s something in the back of my throat and I’m chasing that taste… I have no idea what it is, but it’s something and I know it when it reaches the back of my throat.”
All episodes of “Dishing with Patricia” are available at: https://www.classie-essential-nutrition.com. New episodes air every Wednesday.
Be sure to visit the recipe section of the site to try some of Harris’ recipes and feel free to submit questions or comments in the “Ask Patricia” section.
You can also follow her at: @classienu on Instagram for beautiful food pictures, recipes and live food demonstrations… you won’t be disappointed!