The format might really feel acquainted to followers of different Netflix meals exhibits, however make no mistake, High on the Hog is doing one thing totally different. The sequence explores African American culinary historical past, starting in Benin, the place in a very profound scene, host Stephen Satterfield and historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris go to the Cemetery of Slaves, the memorial marking the mass grave of West Africans who died in captivity earlier than they could possibly be placed on ships certain for the Americas. It’s the survivors of that journey, and their resilience as exemplified by innumerable contributions to American culinary tradition, that populate the following three episodes.
The result’s a way of lengthy awaited validation, for many who have deep roots within the African American barbecue tradition in addition to those that, as they view the episode titled “Our Founding Cooks,” understand for the primary time that their grandmother’s mac and cheese recipe is sort of one and the identical because the model launched to this nation by James Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved cook dinner. And in finishing the entire sequence, one’s left with the sensation that, given its place on a streaming platform routinely seen by tens of millions, this present has the flexibility to shift wider cultural consciousness round African American culinary historical past going ahead, or on the very least, elevate the profiles of its featured stewards, comparable to Omar Tate, B.J. Dennis, Toni Tipton-Martin, Michael Twitty, and naturally, Dr. Harris to the extent of recognition they deserve.
Excessive on the Hog additionally gives a brand new highlight for Satterfield, because the viewers’ information and stand-in. However the founding father of Whetstone Media desires to make it clear that, whereas he understands the inclination to thank the host of a present comparable to this — and within the weeks since its premiere, he says he’s obtained thanks from appreciative viewers around the globe as publications such because the New York Times have praised the present for its cultural significance — he’s merely a “vessel for the fabric.” The sequence is predicated on a book of the same name by Dr. Harris, and it was Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback who learn that quantity and believed it ought to be a tv present. And Excessive on the Hog wouldn’t be what it’s with out the contributions of different Black creatives, together with director Roger Ross Williams, whose “expertise and the belief that Netflix has in him allowed the present to be greenlit,” and showrunner Shoshanna Man. “All of the nuance required, all of the care that’s required for the fabric, actually wanted a Black lady to be on the showrunning aspect,” Satterfield says. “And Shoshanna did a tremendous job.”
I spoke to Satterfield in regards to the fruits of those efforts and the affect of Excessive on the Hog. This interview has been flippantly edited for size and readability.
Eater: How are you feeling now that it’s out on the planet?
Stephen Satterfield: I’m very relieved. It was actually unusual to be in limbo with the announcement being made and the present having not but been launched, however clearly we’re previous that time. The reception has been fantastic; it even exceeded my expectations.
What sort of expectations did you may have going into this?
It’s humorous, I knew you have been gonna ask me that, however the reality is I truly didn’t have any expectations. I feel what I meant to say is that I may have by no means anticipated the type of suggestions that we received. We hadn’t seen something like this within the meals and journey style. The makers of the present, the topic of the present, was actually about us reflecting our love for Black folks and Black tradition and appreciation for all these contributions, and I really feel that Black of us all through the diaspora felt that spotlight, they felt that care and love. That for me was by far probably the most gratifying a part of the entire expertise.
The present does such an ideal job of diving into the previous and addressing that, however the total feeling is one in all pleasure. I feel this quote from Omar Tate within the third episode encapsulates that concept: “A number of instances our historical past is darkish, or we view it as darkish. However there was simply a lot magnificence between the strains and I really feel like menus and meals is the synthesis that occurs in between the strains, in between historical past.”
Had been you fascinated by that as you have been making it, and the way did you stroll that line between showcasing and acknowledging the historical past, however not turning into mired within the darkness of it?
We didn’t have to arrange for that, as a result of that’s actually, I feel, the genuine nature of Black of us in america, and actually in every single place. This phrase that so usually precedes any description of a Black particular person within the U.S., which is resilience, is there for a purpose and it speaks to the type of unbelievable means and high quality to bounce again and to have pleasure regardless of all of the atrocities that our neighborhood has confronted.
We didn’t have to provide course within the elements of our story that have been somber or tough. That sober feeling, that unhealthy feeling may be very simple to entry. It’s at all times near the floor, however that Black love and pleasure and neighborhood can be near the floor. Omar is a homie, he’s somebody that I respect. Filming in his firm, consuming his meals — that’s pleasure, that’s a celebration in itself. Gabrielle [Eitienne] is somebody I like, admire, and respect. BJ [Dennis] and so many different unbelievable skills of our folks, of our tradition, and our story are reflecting it again to the world in an unbelievable method. It was simply an honor to have the ability to share in that have with them.
One thing else I actually appreciated in regards to the present was its scope. As I watched, there have been elements that I discovered from and others that simply caused a deep sense of recognition; as we’re going by the present, we will see you experiencing either side of that. What have been a few of these studying moments for you?
Positively in Benin all the pieces was a revelation. Romauld Hazoumé, the artist, I discovered him to be, as nice artists are, so insightful and revelatory in his work with the oil cans and breaking down the geopolitics between Nigeria and Benin by that paintings.
Studying in regards to the warrior ladies of Dahomey, it was a historical past that I had examine. However being in Dahomey, being on that pink clay getting a way of what life was like on the continent a whole bunch of years in the past, how the various tribal teams all coexisted and lived alongside one another, and, as we see within the movie, in fact, are sophisticated — tough complicitness is a part of the story as nicely. These are issues which you could examine, however seeing the bodily surroundings, speaking to descendants and speaking to educators and historians in that place and area is a very profound studying alternative that can stick with me perpetually.
Within the first episode, meals blogger Karelle Vignon-Vullierme says, “I don’t perceive why African meals shouldn’t be as widespread as Asian delicacies or French delicacies.” Do you are feeling that Excessive on the Hog will transfer that needle?
It’s solely been per week, however I do suppose that this present not solely has the capability and potential to vary tradition, however [also] present [running] tradition. We’ve seen repeatedly in media and particularly within the leisure sector, when assets are given to Black creators to inform their very own tales, they’re extraordinarily profitable. We’ve got seen the outcomes of that repeatedly in Hollywood. And I hope that so far as meals media and the meals journey area, that this adjustments the concept about who could be a host in addition to what sorts of the way we will inform tales about meals.
You have got a protracted and established profession in meals media; does the Netflix highlight really feel like a complete totally different enviornment?
It completely is, sure.
The place do you need to go from right here? What’s subsequent for you?
Nicely proper now, I’m the CEO of Whetstone Media. I’ve quite a lot of accountability simply working and rising our firm. I’ll proceed to deal with that, and I’m doing precisely the work that I need to do. Very similar to Excessive on the Hog, the work that we do is about reclamation. It’s about pushing again towards narrative exclusion and erasure and distortion and obfuscation and about reclaiming our personal identities and energy, and being related to our historical past. You see this in the way in which that we current and promote that dialogue.
I feel if something the response for me has been validating for what has been my total vocational thesis, which is meals is a robust method of connecting to folks’s identities, of radicalizing folks and of instilling some needed pleasure in a single’s tradition that permits them to be themselves on the planet. And hopefully by being safe in their very own place on the planet, they’re in a position to make the world safer and extra open for different cultures. I feel this present has demonstrated that there’s a whole lot of reality in that thesis primarily based on the actually private, intimate responses that I’m seeing from folks all around the world.
Are you able to share any of these responses that notably moved you?
One factor that I’ve been seeing quite a bit are letters from Brazil, from our cousins on the opposite aspect of this commerce, who have been statistically impacted in even better methods than we have been in america. That want for connection, and the depth and the extraordinary gratitude of their writing, lets me understand how deeply they have been impacted by the present. That cousin connection for me has been the factor that hit me the toughest within the chest and in addition let me understand how deep this materials goes.