Need another reason to head South for the winter? We’ve got a delicious one! You can have brunch with superstar Trisha Yearwood at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
By Angela Caraway-Carlton
While the intoxicating smell of chicken and waffles and homemade biscuits wafts through the air, mingling with the sounds of guests merrily clinking glasses of bubbly or Bloody Marys — a hush comes over the ballroom of Loews Miami Beach when Grammy award-winning singer Trisha Yearwood takes the stage. The country crooner casually greets her 500 guests as if they’re old friends, and as she belts out familiar songs like “She’s in Love with the Boy,” the crowd sings along, matching her every word.
It’s what you can expect when Yearwood returns for a sixth year to host the Southern Kitchen Brunch at South Beach Wine & Food Festival, one of the country’s largest and longest running culinary festivals that takes place every February in Miami. Unlike most stars who breeze in-and-out of hosted gigs, the best-selling cookbook author and star of the Food Network show “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” is involved in every aspect of the buffet-style brunch, which boasts a dozen chefs whipping up their best Southern comfort dishes. Yearwood helps to create the event’s menu, even serving the food at her station; spends an hour taking pictures with eager fans; and at the end, performs a miniconcert. “During my first conference call with the Festival, there was a discussion about offering music during the brunch, and they asked if anyone had any suggestions of a quartet or trio. I finally said, ‘Could I sing? You know, it’s another job that I have,’” recalls Yearwood with an easy laugh. “I had such a good time that first year, and now I look forward to the brunch every year. I know the food will be good, and it’s going to be fun.”
NEW YEAR, NEW MUSIC
If you’ve followed Yearwood’s career, you know she’s seemingly conquered it all and shows no signs of stopping. She’s fresh off a three-and-a-half-year tour spanning more than 400 cities with husband and legendary singer Garth Brooks, has an Emmy award-winning cooking show on Food Network, and last summer, teamed up with Williams Sonoma to launch her own collection of mixes, seasonings, and sauces. “I’m at a place where I have the luxury of saying, ‘No,’ to things that don’t sound fun, and ‘Yes’ to what I enjoy. I’m very careful about my choices,” says Yearwood who admits that she thrives on being busy but also enjoys easing into her day with a cup of coffee.
During our phone conversation, she can’t stop gushing about her recent tour with Brooks, where she said the duo experienced something new at every show — from couples becoming engaged to gender reveals and even fans who were there to celebrate the news of being cancer-free. “As an artist, you get caught up in it. It’s like you’re all sharing this intimate experience,” she explains of the marathon tour. One might think that after performing hundreds of shows together, singing with Brooks might get old but not for Yearwood. “I’m always excited to sing with him. He’s a showman, the life of the party, and to be on the stage with his energy, it elevates my game. I sound like a fan, but I am.”
The Monticello, Georgia native admits that her own music has taken a backseat over the last few years due to touring, but she’ll start working on a new album this year, which she hopes to release in early 2019. “If you made me pick one thing, I will always pick music. I believe that I was born to do this,” says Yearwood, who was inspired to sing at just 14 years old after hearing her idol Linda Ronstadt. Expect more duets with Brooks on the upcoming album — their last duets were featured on a Christmas album in 2016. “There’s always been a buzz between our voices, they blend so well when we harmonize. Sometimes, when I’m listening to our music, I have to ask him, ‘Is that you or me?’ There’s such a chemistry there.” Chemistry goes beyond the power couple’s voices. The two longtime friends have now been married for 12 years, and Yearwood is quick to point out that despite busy schedules, spending time together is a priority. “When we got married, we made a conscious choice that we weren’t together to be apart. We feel grateful that we have each other, so we treasure and nurture our relationship.”
LIVING TO GIVE
If there’s anyone that Yearwood would aim to model their marriage after, she says it’s former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn, who recently celebrated 71 years of marriage. “If there was a hashtag for them, it would be #relationshipgoals,” Yearwood jokes of her mentors. She credits Carter for her longstanding relationship with Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit organization which helps people build their own homes and pay an affordable mortgage. Yearwood admits that when she and Brooks arrived at their first site build in New Orleans, two years after Hurricane Katrina, they planned to do a quick press conference and pose for a few photos with a hammer. “We ended up staying six hours. It was just incredible,” she says of the experience that’s ultimately led them to 11 years of volunteer service. “We get our hands dirty. We pour concrete, and I’ve learned to build walls and put up siding and dry wall. Every time we leave a build, Garth always says he feels guilty because we get more out of it than they (homeowners) do.” Last year, President Carter surprised the couple at concert in Atlanta with an honorary award for their tireless work with Habitat, a humbling moment that Yearwood will forever treasure.
The star is also passionate about raising money to find a cure for breast cancer. Yearwood’s mother, who was an amazing cook and is the force behind many of the author’s cookbook recipes, passed away in 2011 after a long battle with the disease. In the past, Yearwood and her girlfriends have participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a taxing three-day, 60- mile walk, and now that the tour has wrapped, it’s something she plans to do again in 2018. Another place that receives Yearwood’s time and support is Stanford Women’s Cancer Center (where her mother was treated), which she believes is always at the forefront of breakthroughs that could improve cancer survival rates. With all that Yearwood has accomplished, she knows there’s still more to do, and ironically — it all comes back to food. “I learned a lot when my mom was battling the disease. She decided to start a plant-based diet, and I was able to see how food could make her numbers better or worse,” says Yearwood, who also watches what she eats and has even devised Southern-inspired vegan and vegetarian recipes like a tomato bisque with cashew cream, a vegan gravy, and a “chick-less” pot pie. “If there’s something that I still want to do, it would be to figure out a way to prevent cancer through what we eat.” If anyone can do it…0
The Southern Kitchen Brunch hosted by Trisha Yearwood takes places on February 25 at Loews Miami Beach, along with a culinary demonstration at the Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village. For tickets, visit sobewff.org.