Shelly Marie Redmond
Keeps It Spicy
“I always tell folks I’m super strategic.”
She also boasts fiery red hair, an exuberant personality and a wealth of knowledge about food and its preparation. She's a prominent fixture on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. She has a substantial following of enthusiastic supporters who are not shy about sharing their opinions with her and about her.
She’s Shelly Marie Redmond, author, dietitian, unique personality; a Louisiana native born and bred with no intention of moving. “I grew up in Houma. I always tell folks that I didn't cheer, I didn't do athletics. I was a 4H-er. I grew up raising rabbits and doing the cooking contests," she said.
After she won a parish cooking contest when she was 12, she decided her future lay in food. "I knew I didn’t want to run a restaurant; I knew I wanted to be in the business of food and teaching food. I dabbled in everything. Then I realized I wanted to teach the healthy version of this. So that’s why I eventually went into the career of dietetics.”
While attending Nicholls State, she took a community nutrition course, which required students to tape a cooking segment at a local community access cable channel.
Despite the primitive technology of the studio, Redmond discovered a love of the video medium and described the experience as the turning point in her career.
“TV is another education tool. It's another kind of avenue to have fun with food," Redmond said.
Redmond is big on having fun, as watching her YouTube channel will reveal. It's part of what makes her different from a lot of cooking programs and blogs. Redmond, slipping into third person, describes her style as simple and relatable. "She really gets into it, and she lives our lives. We can trust her because she's simple. She shops at Walmart. She shops at Drug Emporium. I am not going to be a girl who uses lavender and all that stuff in cooking.”
Redmond said she’s also teaching affordable cuisine. “Because that's very important. Everybody definitely lives on budget; I live on a budget. I own a business. I don't have $20,000, and I don't travel to Taiwan and Thailand; I travel to Gulf Shores if I'm lucky.”
Redmond has begun to focus her efforts on YouTube after having published several cookbooks.
She has been on Facebook for several years but found YouTube a better vehicle for her teaching style. Her publicist, Emerie Gentry, said Redmond has 13,000+ followers on Facebook, approximately 3,000 followers on Instagram, and 4,000+ on YouTube.
Gentry also is a personal supporter of Redmond’s teaching. She said her doctor referred her to Redmond for dietary advice, and Gentry was able to lose 40 pounds on Redmond's plan.
What makes her cooking different? “I would have to say if folks were to characterize my Cajun food, it would be very seafood-based,” Redmond explained. “My specialty would be seafood, particularly crawfish. Some people will do more of the Creole style. Some people claim Acadiana. They have Southwest versus Southeast. I try to stay out of those arguments because people's feelings get hurt.
“A lot of folks think that Cajun food is very spicy. I prefer to say it's more flavorful. We don't want to burn people's tongues off. If I went to a restaurant in Lincoln, Neb., that said it was Cajun food, I bet you, nine times out of 10, it's just going to be spicy. We can make any cultural food spicy. We can put spice in Dacca. For me, the food of the land Cajun-wise is seafood. Granted, I do like some gator. I’m not really into the squirrel and wild game, which some folks are.”
Though she's focused on teaching via video demonstration on her YouTube channel, she hasn't ruled out the possibility of a new cookbook. “I am going to rest from writing a cookbook for probably a couple of years. I really want to spend this year building content. 2020, COVID hit, and I realized that people needed content. So, I'm focusing on that educational content on our YouTube channel. My goal is to have one to two videos a week. Then mid-June or July, I'm going to redevelop our blog. We’ll see in 2022 what the whole book landscape looks like. More than likely, if I do, it would be an air fryer-based one.”
The standard interview question for a cooking personality is, of course, what’s your favorite recipe? Redmond’s are naturally found in her cookbooks. “My favorite from the first cookbook is crawfish bread. That is my favorite recipe to make, and it is not keto-friendly. I make it low-carb, but it's not keto-friendly.
“My other one, and it’s another crawfish recipe because crawfish is my jam, I have a cheesy crawfish dip that’s in our slow cooker cookbook that is fantastic. It is really good. I know it sounds weird, but it is super, super good.”
But crawfish has a season, even in Louisiana, and how does she feed her jam the rest of the year? “I call my parents. I say, hold me some. I'm very good at freezing. Again, I'm a strategic person. I am not a type B person at all. I'm gonna freeze this crawfish, and we are going to be good to go.”
Redmond likes teaching and cooking, but not confrontation. “Try it. If you like it, awesome. If you don’t, it’s not a big deal. That’s really important in my field. Because so many chefs, they will get irate. ‘I can’t believe you don’t like my cooking.’ When folks on my YouTube say they don't like my keto pizza, I'm like, OK! You're not going to like everything you try.”
The Houma native said she tries to take a page out of Rachel Ray’s playbook. “One of the reasons that Rachel Ray is so popular is because she’s relatable, she’s super friendly, she uses easy items. That is what I want to bring to it. But the final touch is always to bring in a little bit of Cajun flair to it.”
In everything she produces, Redmond said the most critical factor is trust. "If I don’t get folks to trust me, they don’t buy in to what I’m saying. It’s no secret that in my field of dietetics, sometimes we may not have the best bedside manner. Sometimes folks can be really dry. In today's world, you need a lot of compassion when you're working with people. The trust is a big factor in my job because people want to know, is this simple? Is this easy? OK, she's not a traditional food blogger who feeds us 20,000 paragraphs about her husband and kids and dog.”
Redmond has a theory about why social media has become such a good avenue for her work. “Cooking skipped a generation because we’re so busy.” She creates simple recipes that people can add favorite ingredients they remember from childhood. “So, when you go back to basics, whatever spices they might have had growing up, add that to it because that makes you comfortable.”