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Acclaimed chef traces journey from jail to kitchen in new memoir

Los Angeles chef Keith Corbin in an undated photo.
Kathia Cordero
Los Angeles chef Keith Corbin in an undated photo.

Chef Keith Corbin's earliest memories of food come from his grandmother's kitchen.

"My connection through my grandmother and food is just the love of feeding people. I witnessed my grandmother's love for cooking in her love for feeding people and feeding her community," Corbin said.

It's a similar passion that drives him now as the chef and co-owner of acclaimed Los Angeles eatery Alta Adams.


Before he was a celebrated chef, however, Corbin was involved in gang activity and drug manufacturing in the 1990s.

This lead to a period of incarceration where he had his first culinary experience as a prison cook.

Now, Corbin focuses his time on developing an imaginative menu that incorporates his own spin on soul food classics.

Corbin said an important component of his cooking is dispelling the myth that soul food is unhealthy. Instead, he hopes to highlight issues like food insecurity in underserved communities by challenging existing notions of Black-food culture.

He reflects on his past experiences and current culinary vision in a new memoir "California Soul: An American Epic of Cooking and Survival."


Corbin joined Midday Edition on Tuesday with more on his book.

On Saturday Corbin will take part in two workshops on memoir writing and social justice through food writing during the fourth annual San Diego Writers Festival.

The festival is happening Saturday, Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Coronado public library.