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Cooking like Dad
Fathers footsteps lead to kitchen as local cookbook author nurtures body and spirit
Winder resident Daunte Gibbs recently published a cookbook dedicated to his father. Gibbs says he love for cooking and cuisine came from his dad and the many lessons learned in the kitchen. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

Daunte Gibbs can really burn in the kitchen.

Not in the sense of ruining a meal; in Gibbs' case, it means he can really cook up something pleasing to the taste buds.

"I kind of got into cooking out of necessity when I was out on my own after finishing my undergraduate degree," said Gibbs, a Winder resident.

"Once I began, I noticed that I enjoyed it. It was kind of therapeutic. It was something that made me feel good once I completed a meal."

Although the kitchen is typically thought to be a woman's domain, Gibbs says his passion for cooking for his family and others actually came from watching his own father, Stephen Gibbs Jr.

"He had breakfast, lunch and dinner for (my brother, sister and I) every day. He took on that responsibility even more after my mother passed away when we were all kids," Gibbs said.

"Even when I was in college, whenever I went home, there was a spread on the table."

To be so meticulous about his children's meals came naturally to the senior Gibbs, who used to help oversee preparation of meals for hundreds of soldiers during his years in the U.S. Army.

"My philosophy has always been that children need to eat well-balanced meals daily, beginning with breakfast. It enables them to build a healthy profile and allows them to focus in school and other activities," said Stephen Gibbs Jr., who lives in Alabama.

"If you give them money to buy their own lunch, you can't be sure that they get a balanced meal. Children don't always have a sense of what vitamins and minerals they need."

As a kid growing up in Huntsville, Ala., the Winder chef and author of "Soul Food: Soul Nourishing Devotionals and Recipes," says that his passion for cooking started with his nose.

"The smell drew me to the kitchen," Gibbs said. "Even when we go to visit now, if I'm asleep and hear the pots clanging and start smelling the food, it draws me in."

From homemade biscuits to the cakes that always seemed to be found in the kitchen, Gibbs says his father did it all.

"We didn't have much money growing up, but dad was very creative and resourceful," Gibbs said.

"Even if it was just beans and cornbread, dad made it taste like Thanksgiving dinner."

As a father, Stephen Gibbs Jr. says he's proud to see all of his children, especially Gibbs, continue the cooking tradition.

"It gave me a sense of achievement to see how my experiences have impacted my children. It makes me proud to see that my family has retained interest."

He even appreciates having his children try their hand at his signature dishes.

"It is very satisfying to taste his cooking and to know that he added the same touches I would have if I had prepared the food," Stephen Gibbs Jr. said.

The cooking tradition doesn't end with his son's generation, grandson Christopher Gibbs also seems to have an aptitude for cooking.

"When I cook, I'm starting to notice it rub off on my son. He had a toy baseball and was pretending to make a yeast roll," Gibbs said of his 3-year-old.

"He was rolling it between his hands and then he put it in the oven, just like he's seen me do when I make rolls. "

Christopher doesn't just have his father's baking instincts; he also shares his love for Stephen Gibbs Jr.'s homemade yeast rolls.

"Now I call him and say, ‘Dad, I knocked out a pan of your yeast rolls and now it's your grandson who is eating them all up. I can't get to them fast enough,'" Gibbs said with a laugh.

Besides his cooking talents, Gibbs also credits his father with teaching him other life lessons, which he hopes to pass on to his own son.

"He always told us to eat well, but in moderation," Gibbs said. "He taught us that to be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late and to be late is inexcusable.

"He showed us that it's a matter of your actions speaking loudly for you, more so than your words. He set the example for leading a well-balanced life. Through my dad's living, through watching him, it gives me insight into who I am."

Part of that insight Gibbs developed lead him to the foundation of his book, a combination devotional and recipe book.

"Cooking is something that I really enjoy doing, it's part of what I feel my natural purpose is. My spiritual purpose is nurturing people. My book brings the two purposes together," Gibbs said.

"I enjoy things that nurture the body, but also that nurture the spirit."

Although he didn't understand it at the time, Gibbs says he can very clearly see his father's influence on his life, which he counts as a blessing.

"I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather, but I'm pretty sure that who my dad is, is because of what was imparted to him by his father," Gibbs said.

"It's what he imparted unto me, and that's what I look to impart to my son. These things are gifts. I didn't realize it until I was an adult how all of those things I'd witnessed as a kid began to manifest in me.

"I started cooking because I had to, but once I got in there, it was an instinctive thing. The seed was there, it just needed nurturing."