Food from the Heart: An Inside Scoop of Gullah Geechee Cuisine in Savannah

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  • Outside the restaurant

  • Fried shrimp over rice with cornbread, broccoli and fries.

  • Smothered shrimp over rice with cornbread, lima beans and mac and cheese.

  • Painting of Point Place in Savannah at 2 Chefs Gullah Geechee

  • Inside 2 Chefs Gullah Geechee

  • Chef ownersd OriBemi Adetutu (left) and Morolayo Akinrinnola (right) of 2 Chefs Gullah Geechee Soul Food

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Entering the kitchen of a Gullah Geechee home or restaurant requires all tablespoons and measuring cups to be left at the door.

In Chef Morolayo Akinrinnola’s kitchen at 2 Chefs Gullah Geechee Soul Food, she maintains the Gullah Geechee way.

“It’s called dash cooking. There is no measuring in our kitchen either. It’s eyeball–straight eyeball, and it comes out precisely every time,” Chef Akinrinnola said.

Also, there should be no expectation of written recipes because everything is shared by word of mouth.

“It’s almost like you have to be grandma’s favorite or even grandaddy’s favorite to get the recipes. And also, like a lot of the time recipes aren’t even documented,” local Gullah Geechee historian Mother Māelah said.

Food in the Gullah Geechee community exceeds its practical purpose of nourishment. It serves as a connection between the past and present and the Gullah Geechee community. Chef Akinrinnola was taught her recipes by her grandmother and is living out her grandmother’s dream by owning her restaurant and sharing the food with others.

When I sat down for a meal at 2 Chefs Gullah Geechee, Chef Akinrinnola was around mingling with customers in between orders, as I was greeted by the sounds of music and conversation.

I learned quickly that a few staple items on the menu were various dishes of shrimp or fish served with rice.

When the Gullah Geechee people were forced into a life in the Low Country, they brought their knowledge of rice cultivation and cooking from West Africa, but their recipes had to change some due to the different resources. Instead of yams, they had to “make-do” with sweet potatoes.

Fishing and shrimping were also important aspects of Low Country eating because of the abundance of aquatic life that served as a protein.

Over time, these make-do adaptations transformed into what is now Gullah Geechee cuisine. A collection of fresh vegetables, seafood, rice, rich herb flavoring and so much more.

It is common for Gullah Geechee cuisine to be confused with southern, and while there are similarities, the latter has one distinct difference:

“Southern is kinda trying to meet the demand of the people. But Gullah, when you use the term Gullah, everything is from scratch. No can is used here [at 2 Chefs Gullah Geechee Soul Food]. Everything is fresh–that’s the difference,” Chef Akinrinnola said.

The Gullah Geechee culture has continued to survive and thrive in Savannah. 2 Chefs Gullah Geechee reminisces on the importance of coming together over a shared love: food.

2 Chefs Gullah Geechee is located at 2007 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, and they are open Thursday-Monday.