What started as a way to connect with students and faculty members during what many thought would be a temporary interruption of the Spring 2020 academic semester, unexpectedly
turned into a favorite online segment for many Xavier University of Louisiana students and faculty. The up and coming Youtube channel, “Cooking with Curtis,” features Xavier University’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Curtis Wright, cooking delicious vegetarian meals step-by-step while addressing current events.
Wright includes professional chefs, thought leaders and students in his cooking segments to bring a meaningful conversation around a hearty meal. For the Fall 2020 semester, Wright is now on episode 3 and was joined by Dr. Angela Bettis, from Xavier’s class of 2001 and senior Kaelyn Hinton to cook up jerked salmon with mango and coconut rice and broccoli. Both Bettis and Hinton are members of the Epsilon Tau chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and engaged audiences on Senator Kamala Harris’ vice presidential campaign on Sunday, Oct. 11. Wright has mixed conversations around food preparation with discussions around health, the pandemic and the upcoming 2020 presidential elections with his guest chefs. Wright’s hour long segment can be found on his Youtube channel here: https://youtu.be/zhSu2gf_Syg Wright shared the motivation behind his series for our socially disconnected time in a Q&A.
Q. What inspired you to begin the “Cooking with Curtis” series?
A. I began the series right when we went remote in March. I wanted to stay connected with students in a way where they could see us beyond the office and almost bring people into our homes. I wanted to share stories that would hopefully get people motivated.
Q. Do you feel you have connected with the faculty and staff as a result of this endeavor?
A. I don’t even know who is watching, and then I could be walking down the street, and someone will ask, “when is the next ‘Cooking with Curtis?’” I was talking with one of the women in institutional research, and she was telling me that as they were doing surveys and asking about how students were doing at home and she said there were many comments about “Cooking with Curtis.” I like that it allows students to see me differently.
Q. How are you handling the new-found fame that you have begun to receive?
A. Part of my job is making hard decisions. It’s not always easy, and it is not always going to be popular, but we have to be the face of those decisions. Most of the time, they don’t know me the person; they know me by name. I do enjoy it, though. It shows that they are listening and paying attention.
Q. Were you ever nervous starting your segment?
A. I was nervous for two reasons. The first being I don’t cook very often, so usually when I do “Cooking with Curtis,” that is the only time I cook that week. I also don’t eat meat. I haven’t eaten meat since 1993. I’ve been trying to find recipes that are appealing and interesting that I also like. I’m a vegetarian who hates vegetables. The good part is that there are no taste testers. I could pretend it’s the best thing ever.
Q. Why are you a vegetarian?
A. I became a vegetarian during my senior year of high school. I always thought we wasted too much food. I spent a summer doing a research program, and I met a vegetarian. Where I’m from, a small country town in southeast Arkansas on a farm, being a vegetarian was unheard of. So when I got back, I set a goal to see if I could be vegetarian from Thanksgiving to Christmas. While I was doing this, my vegetarian friend would send me articles on how meat was produced. It became less about saving a pig’s life and more about my own health implications.
Q. What is your favorite recipe?
A. Right now, it would have to be mac and cheese. I found a recipe by Patti LaBelle. Cheese is my favorite food. She calls for four, and I put like six different kinds of cheese in it. I grew up eating Kraft macaroni and cheese, and I never had it baked until I moved to New York. Now, if I am cooking, that’s what I’m making.
Q. Where do you see “Cooking with Curtis” going in the future?
A. I really like the current setup where we can feature our students and folks outside of the university community—being able to tell stories that are important to us, even post-election. I enjoy showcasing our students and what we do here at Xavier.