Hall: Ken Harrison tantalizes the tastebuds of the Kelly Plantation Home and Garden Club

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Chef Ken Harrison cooking up the gumbo.

A lot of guys attended this meeting. I think the aroma of garlic and gumbo turned out a full house. Ken Harrison had researched the origin of Gumbo and he explained why you never find gumbo without the addition of okra. The word gumbo is derived from the Bantu word for okra, nkombo.

There — feel smarter now.  Gumbo is such an excellent example of cultural blending and creolization. The origin of gumbo is usually defined as a soup-like dish featuring two or more meats or seafood and served with rice.

Then the Germans come along and add something that seems to me very strange: they started the practice of eating gumbo with a scoop of potato salad in it. Ken’s meal consisted of gumbo, prepared before our eyes, and served with rice, potato salad and banana pudding for dessert. I have to tell you that I tried the potato salad and gumbo together. No offense to the Germans, but I will take my gumbo with rice any day.

Ken shared several of his secrets with us for making his delicious gumbo. Ken uses his favorite Andouille sausage — Manda’s — that he uses in the gumbo which is locally found only at Winn Dixie. He recommends cooking the roux down to the color of peanut butter though his personal preference is almost cocoa colored. 

The flavor of the roux takes on a nuttier flavor as it darkens. When the roux is ready, Ken adds raw celery, onions and peppers. These three ingredients called the Trinity, release their moisture as they cook. The natural sugars in the onions are released, which adds a subtle sweetness to the gumbo.

For extra tantalizing flavor, Ken grills and smokes the sausage and chicken before adding to the pot. If you don’t want to make you own stock, Ken recommends Swanson’s chicken stock. The chicken stock adds a much richer taste than broth.

Ken works as a realtor with Keller Williams, but can also be available to prepare food for private parties. Contact Ken at 714-3037.

Laura Hall is a freelance reporter and longtime Destin resident.  Have an interesting topic, contact her at