Chef Kimberly Brock Brown’s Pro Tips for Food at the Family Reunion

Call her “Madam President” and follow it with a “Yes, Chef!” Kimberly Brock Brown is the new national president of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), a 92-year-old organization that is the largest professional chefs’ organization in North America. (Some of your favorite celebrity chefs are members.) She has the distinction of being the ACF’s first African American and woman president. Chef Kimberly’s culinary road has been paved with jobs as an executive pastry chef, a professional caterer and author. If anyone knows the ins and outs of feeding a family reunion, it is Kimberly Brock Brown. 

Taking time from her busy schedule, Chef Kimberly answered questions about family reunion food and has even offered a few questions to ask yourself during the planning journey. 

Know what you are working with

If you are a part of the family reunion food committee, then you have the weight of ensuring food is available wherever the family has paid to eat. You know the venues, geographical location and the climate. You will also know if the family (you) is responsible for the food or if the venue requires that you use their caterers and approved vendors. Chef Kimberly says, “Often the menu is dictated by the venue.” She suggests that during the venue scouting experience, you consider the following:

  • Is there a kitchen? If yes, will you have access to it? If yes, is there storage for both hot and cold dishes? Will you have the ability to cook on-site? Are there extra costs to use the kitchen? 
  • What does the equipment look like? What equipment is available? Is it a true commercial kitchen or more like a home kitchen? Are there utensils, pots and pans, and service trays for hot and cold dishes? 
  • How much time will be given for the kitchen’s use? 

Where are you traveling to meet?

Chef Kimberly believes that “you should showcase the food of the city or region” to give family members something different to eat than what is available in their hometowns. “Make sure they are treated to the foods important to the host city.” 

But that was the easiest part of her advice, here are some other considerations. 

  • What’s the season? What are the seasonal foods of the region? Plan your menu around what’s available. 
  • What’s the climate like? The Chef says, “Choose and provide foods that hold up indoors and outdoors. Stay away from custard-based desserts and foods – like a prepared salad – that will wilt or go soggy in hot weather.” 

Allergy or aversion? Vegan or vegetarian? Chicken and no red meat? 

Family reunion food planners are not to be envied. They have to deal with the demands of family as well as the mental gymnastics of feeding people with true food allergies and dietary restrictions with those of the people who just do not like okra and chicken with those of the vegan and vegetarians. Chef Kimberly has a solution. 

“Create options and if you feed people buffet style, then they can choose to eat what works best for them,” she says. 

And if all else fails…

“Cater,” says the global leader of chefs working in every industry. “Isn’t the point of the reunion to spend more time with the people? Spend time with the people and add the cost of catering to the budget and the fees to attend. Let professionals serve you and your family.” 


We hope you use the tips for planning food for your family reunion and get some recipe inspiration form Argia B’s  MUMBO SAUCE here.