While one would think that becoming a personal chef to Oprah Winfrey is the pinnacle in a culinary career, Chef Kenny Gilbert continues to raise the bar. The Ohio native has not only served as the former talk show host's private chef, but he's worked in some of the world's most prestigious kitchens and settings, including those in Japan, Spain, the Caribbean and more.

Gilbert was also a contestant on season 7 of Bravo's Top Chef, and he will soon release his first cookbook, Southern Cooking, Global Flavors, on April 11, 2023.

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Southern Cooking, Global Flavors
Chef Kenny Gilbert with Nan Kavanaugh (Rizzoli)

Price: $35

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"I started cooking by the side of mother and father. My parents entertained a lot while I was a child and I loved the social aspect of gatherings that focused around food, beverage, music and fashion," shares Gilbert.

EBONY spoke with the celebrated chef to learn more about his culinary journey and some of Oprah's favorite and most requested dishes. He also drops a bomb recipe that is sure to have your family or dinner guests talking for months to come.

EBONY: How would you describe your cooking style to someone unfamiliar with Southern cooking?

Chef Kenny Gilbert: My cooking style is classified as international cuisine with a Southern influence.

What was it like being tapped as Oprah's chef? What are some of her most requested dishes?

Cooking for Oprah has been an amazing experience. It’s like cooking for your favorite auntie. She loves to entertain and to make people welcome in her home. Her love language certainly is food, so to be able to be a part of special occasions and events based on the food I cook has been a blessing. Most memorable dishes would have to be my jalapeño cheddar drop biscuits, fried chicken, greens, field peas, cornbread, smothered chicken and dumplings, truffle smoked Gouda drop biscuits and flavor bomb chicken sandwich.

Tell us more about your restaurant. What is the significance of the name?

Silkies Chicken and Champagne is named after the chicken breed, which is a black pigment chicken from China. I wanted to name the concept after a breed that was unique and tied to the culture and the fact that this is a Black-owned business. I trained in Japan at the Ritz-Carlton Osaka. While there, I worked in a restaurant called Shingtao where I first learned about the breed while watching the chef prepare it by making soup in a clay pot with ginseng root.

Check out Chef Gilbert's recipe for his signature flavor bomb chicken, below.

Chef Kenny's The Flavor Bomb

Image: Courtesy of Chef Kenny Gilbert.

Chef Kenny's The Flavor Bomb


  • 6 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Juice of 2 lemons (1⁄4 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons Chef Kenny’s Fried Chicken Seasoning, or other poultry seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons Chef Kenny’s Raging Cajun Spice or other Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt


  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄2 cup jarred roasted red peppers with juice
  • 1⁄4 cup Creole mustard
  • 3 fresh habanero peppers
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 navel oranges, cut into quarters
  • 1 small Spanish onion, sliced (1⁄2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Chef Kenny’s Raging Cajun Spice, or other Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon Chef Kenny’s Fried Chicken Seasoning, or other poultry seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon xanthan gum


  • 4 cups self-rising flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter, melted
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1⁄4 cup dried chives
  • 8 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons black truffle oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Chef Kenny’s Fried Chicken Seasoning, or other poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum


  • 4 cups canola or corn oil
  • 1 pound lard
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1⁄2 cup cornstarch
  • 1⁄2 cup rice flour
  • 1⁄4 cup Chef Kenny’s Fried Chicken Seasoning, or other poultry seasoning
  • 2 large eggs



Brine the Chicken

  1. Place the chicken thighs into a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the water, buttermilk, lemon juice, soy sauce, liquid smoke, chicken and Cajun seasonings, and salt.
  3. Pour the brine into the plastic bag with the chicken thighs and toss with your hands to thoroughly coat the chicken.
  4. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator. Brine for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to 24 hours.


Make the Flavor Bomb Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the shortening, honey, water, vinegar, roasted red peppers, mustard, habaneros, garlic, oranges, onion, salt, Cajun and chicken seasonings, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and xanthan gum. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  2. Check a habanero pepper and an orange wedge for doneness. If they can be pierced easily with a knife, they are soft enough. Puree the mixture with a handheld stick blender until smooth. Set aside at room temperature. (This sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Leftovers are a great sweet and spicy condiment that can be used for chicken wings, pork chops, ribs, fried cauliflower, and much more.)


Make the Biscuits

  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, shortening, dried chives, Gouda, eggs, truffle oil, apple cider vinegar, chicken seasoning, salt, and xanthan gum by hand, just until the dough starts to come together. Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes, just until the dough starts to come together.
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using an ice cream scoop, portion out 6 large biscuits. Lightly dust each biscuit with flour and lightly press them down with a spatula or small bowl to a 1⁄2-inch thickness.
  3. Transfer the sheet pan to the refrigerator and chill the biscuits for at least 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. Rotate the sheet pan and bake for another 8 minutes, until the biscuit tops are golden brown. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 170 °F.


Make Dredge and Fry Chicken

  1. Heat a 14- or 16-inch cast-iron skillet or frying pan on medium-low. Put the oil and lard in the skillet and heat for 20 minutes.
  2. Mix the self-rising flour, cornstarch, rice flour, and chicken seasoning in a large bowl.
  3. Remove the bag of brined chicken from the fridge. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Add the eggs to the bag, seal, and thoroughly coat the chicken with the egg by massaging the bag.
  4. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge each piece in the flour mixture, then set on a plate. Let the chicken rest for 3 to 5 minutes; reserve the flour mixture.
  5. Check the temperature of the oil in the skillet with an instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches 325° to 350 °F, dredge the chicken again in the flour mixture. (Note: The first dredging of the chicken creates the first layer of batter on the chicken, while the second dredge adds the crunch factor.)
  6. Gently set half the chicken pieces in the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes. Turn each piece with a long-handled strainer or spider and fry for another 5 to 7 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
  7. Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels. Check the temperature of the chicken. If the chicken is under 165 °F, return it to the skillet and continue to cook, flipping the chicken often to ensure even cooking. Move the cooked batch to a sheet pan and place in the warm oven. Continue until all the chicken is fried. Remove the chicken from the oven to briefly toast the biscuits. Increase the oven temperature to 400 °F.

The Build

  1. Halve the biscuits and place on a parchment paper–lined sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes.
  2. Place the fried chicken in a large bowl and gently toss with 3 cups of the Flavor Bomb Sauce until well coated.
  3. Top the bottom half of each biscuit with a piece of fried chicken, followed by the biscuit lid. Plate the remaining servings and serve any remaining sauce alongside.

Chef Kenny's Fried Chicken Seasoning

Price: $7

Colgin Liquid Smoke

Price: $9

Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Price: $15