Some Spice is Nice: Millennial Chefs Share Holiday Recipes Passed Down through Generations

When you think of a Christmas holiday meal, what comes to mind? Gathering at the table with A Motown Christmas Album” playing in the backdrop as relatives surrounded delicious dishes including Great Aunt Ruby’s decadent pecan pie? Or Grandaddy’s prized ham smoked and glazed just right? Extra pineapples, please. Whatever it is that might whet your appetite around Christmastime, this upcoming holiday [though atypical] and your family recipes might feel extra special this year.


Especially when making cherished family recipes passed down through the generations for our family and friends to eat. Because all of our loved ones might not be able to come around our tables due to certain restrictions because of COVID-19. But, hopefully, these recipes from two local chefs will spread some holiday cheer, and who knows, maybe you could add these dishes to your family collection, too.


For Detroit-based Lauren Gillon, 25, she has perfected cooking into a work of art with her business Elle, the Foodie. The food and wine blogger and co-host, The Millennial Winedown, details her food adventures at And on her website, she shares one of her famous recipes passed down from her great grandmother: braised collard greens. Gillon’s mother gave her the recipe after receiving it from her mother, who received it from her own mother.


Gillon, who grew up cooking greens before the holidays or for Sunday dinners said that making them entailed creating a small assembly line her grandma created where one would pick the greens, wash them, and rinse for cooking.


“During college when I was away at school I would get home and get recipes,” Gillon said later of developing a desire to cook food, which she has been doing for the last four years.

Lauren Gillon, a home-based chef, and her grandmother inspired her to make delicious dishes, including braised greens.

Photo provided by Lauren Gillon

Everything from homemade, buttery, flaky biscuits to hearty chilis [layered with bacon and colorful [vegetables] can also be found on her seasoned Instagram page — just don’t go there hungry.


Now, as an adult, Gillon makes her grandma’s greens and prepares them for her whenever she gets a craving, and she approves of them every time.


When asked what it smells like in her kitchen with the greens cooking on the stove, with sincerity, and without hesitation, Gillon said something like home.


“Like a southern grandmother’s kitchen,” Gillon said, adding that it smells savory, smoky, with a hint of acidity from the vinegar to round it all out.


Braised Collard Greens Recipe:

  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tbsp of minced garlic
  • 3 to 4 bunches of collard greens
  • 2 to 3 lbs of smoked meat
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 tsp granulated garlic
  • 3 tsp granulated onion
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste


  1. Start with the base flavor. My family has always taught me to make greens with smoked meats. They add a distinct flavor to veggies and the smokiness is undefeated. In college, finding smoked meats wasn’t always easy so I would substitute for fresh bacon. My preferred meat is smoked turkey parts. You can also choose smoked pork parts. Start by heating 2 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat. I like to add a medium onion that has been peeled and chopped as well as minced garlic.
  2. Next, I like to add chicken broth or chicken bouillon with a cup or two of water to prevent the bottom of the pot from scorching. I also like to add in my garlic powder, onion powder, and crushed red pepper. At this point, I add in whatever smoked meat (in this case, a smoked turkey leg) I have chosen to use and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the collard greens to the pot with smoked meat. Add in vinegar and sugar and pushed the greens down into the pot during the wilting process. They may not all fit at first, but as they cook down- you will find that there will be plenty of room.
  4. Cover the pot and allow the greens to simmer for 2 hours or until the smoked meat has fallen off the bone. Serve immediately and tag @elle.thefoodie in your pics!


Detroit Chef James Chatman, 30, marches to the beat of his own drum and our taste buds are ever so grateful for it. Chatman, years ago, played football and had a scholarship at Wayne State University that he turned down because cooking was his true passion.


“When I was in the kitchen I was calm and relaxed and felt peace; I knew it was something I wanted to do,” Chatman, who graduated from culinary school, said. “I got my inspiration from literally watching the women in my family cook.”


Both sets of his grandmothers threw down in the kitchen and his dad isn’t too shabby either. That’s when the recipes were passed down to him like his grandfather’s teacake and honey-baked ham recipe; and his grandmother’s roast.


“Since I can remember it started with my grandma [making the roast], then my mom makes it and now I make it from time to time — I usually only make it around holidays,” Chatman, who operates Family Table 313 said, adding that he is the first chef in his family. For more information find him on Instagram @jecwhlgn or email him:

Local Chef James Chatman makes teacakes and other foods based on recipes from his family, among other inspirations.

Photo provided by James Chatman


With his tea cake recipe, he said a lot of people love it but they are skeptical at first.

“People are like, ‘What is it?’ because it looks like a real brown piece of cornbread,” he said, adding that the cinnamon-infused morning treat is something to accompany tea or coffee. “My granddad made that all the time, especially around Christmas and Thanksgiving.”


Chatman said that food is relative, an element which he tries to incorporate at his business.


“Food is life; it’s my life,” he said. “Food is definitely family.”


Tea Cake Recipe:


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter-flavored shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg room temperature
  • lemon zest 1 small lemon
  • 1/2 vanilla bean scraped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk Instructions
  • In a large bowl cream together butter and shortening until creamy
  • Mix in sugar until well combined
  • Mix in egg.
  • Mix in lemon zest and vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg
  • Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk
  • Turn dough onto a smooth surface and knead until the dough is soft
  • Shape into a disk and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate for 1 hour (or freeze for 30 minutes)
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Remove dough from fridge and plastic wrap.
  • Knead the dough to soften it
  • Roll dough to 1/4-inch thick ( I rolled the dough on parchment to prevent sticking)
  • Use a round cookie cutter to cut out circle shapes.
  • Place cookies on prepared pan about 2 inches apart. (see note)
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottoms are lightly golden. (see note)
  • Remove from pan and place on a cooling rack to finish cooling
  • Once cooled store in an airtight container


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