When the world paused in March of 2020, Tamika Scott — one fourth of the hit-making group Xscape — traded time on stage for time in the kitchen. Quarantine consisted of making her daughters’ and husband’s favorite foods. Whether learning new dishes or pulling from memories of cooking with her mother, Scott relied on homemade meals as a way to comfort those around her during trying times. Eventually, social media caught wind that she had both vocal and culinary range. For years her husband, Darnell Winston, told her she should write a cookbook, but encouragement from her fans made it feel like a real possibility.
This week, Table Set: Cooking with Tamika Scott (Hunter Publishing) hits bookshelves (May 17). A combination of personal stories, recipes, and family photos, the book offers a look into Scott’s kitchen and her life. From dinner staples to fun cocktails, she’s aiming to bring a taste of the South to a table near you.
Ahead of its release, we spoke with Scott about the process of creating the book, why she chose to write it herself, and what’s next. Hint: She might have a food empire in the making.
ESSENCE: How did your book deal come about?
Tamika Scott: Hunter Publishing was one of the many publishers that reached out after I started posting my food on Instagram. They came with a master plan, like, “Hey, you know, we see you’re cooking, let’s take this to a whole ‘nother level.” I said, okay, I’m glad they’re interested. Let me show them why they really need to do this. I’m not just Tamika Scott from Xscape. I cooked a spread. I threw down, I had the shaping dishes out. I had the table set up. I had my best China out. I had so much food and they were just amazed. [They] pulled out the checkbook and it’s all she wrote.
In your book, you include very personal stories and photos from your private life. What made you decide to include those personal touches?
I just wanted to be authentic. And when you are authentic, people can relate to you. I didn’t want to put on a show. And I just wanted people to see me in my purest form. I wanted people to see the mistakes I made. I wanted them to see when I was happy. I wanted them to see when I was sad. I just wanted to be as authentic as possible.
What do you hope that people take away from Table Set?
I want them to feel the love. Cooking is my love language. When they read, I want ’em to read the love that’s in each page, each sentence. I want people to get that this is genuine. I did this. I wrote this whole cookbook. I didn’t have a ghostwriter. This is all me. So, you may look at something and it might not be proper English, but this is Tamika Scott, no filter.
Can you expound on that?
I wanted to present something that was from the heart. I wanted to do it myself so I could show other people out there that it’s possible. I didn’t go to school for this. I didn’t go to culinary school. I cooked. I learned. I want people to see me and say, if she can do it, I can do it too. Whatever it is. It doesn’t have to necessarily be cooking. It can be something that they love, something they’re passionate about.
You also have a spice line. Can you tell us about Tamika Scott’s Southern Fuse?
I was actually working on it before COVID hit, but I wasn’t really as focused as I should have been. So once I was at home, I was like, okay, I have to do this. I have eight different beautiful, delicious seasons, no preservatives. I created it in my own home. I took it and I sat down with a food scientist and we went over everything.
What did it feel like the first time you walked into a store and saw your seasonings on the shelf?
I wanted to cry. I just wanted to cry. I was sitting there and I said, wow, wow. This is amazing. Like, it was even bigger than getting a record deal to me because it was something that I created. I took my time and to see it manifest, girl, I was just in tears. I was like, okay, Tamika, keep it in, don’t cry off your lashes, girl.
So you have the spices and you have the cookbook…
And a restaurant in the making. We’re looking to open in July. It’s going to be a food experience. I’m part owner. I got the best partner in the world, Chef Liz Rogers. She’s a real chef and owns Creamalicious Ice Creams that’s in Walmart. It’s called Magnolia’s Southern Table and Bar. It’s a very upscale, beautiful, sexy, Southern restaurant located in Ohio. You should come!
And do you have any advice for the aspiring home chefs who don’t necessarily feel that comfortable in the kitchen?
I’d say, start with one recipe at a time. You know, there’s so many cookbooks out here. There’s recipes online. There’s recipes on YouTube. Just try to do it. Go out here, do it, write it down. When you write things down, it’s like muscle memory. I say, try that one recipe and perfect that, and then move on to the next and then move on to the next.
Table Set: Cooking with Tamika Scott is available at Hunter Publishing Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.