Bun B trademarked the word “trill.” The combination of “true” and “real” is in his music, in his life offstage—and in his cooking. After all, what could be truer or realer than the time you spend in the kitchen with friends and family?
That’s the guiding light behind Port Arthur-bred, Houston-based rapper Bun B’s cooking show, Trill Mealz. For Gulf Coast Texans, and for the rest of us, the viral videos of his family in the kitchen show nothing less than the warm glow of hearth and home—nourishment, love, warmth, and music.
The short, sharp videos—five of them have been released since their debut late last week—teach the audience how to make dishes like chicken pot pie, oxtails, and brown sugar cornbread. They come across as montages, both playful and somehow militaristic, with Bun B’s direct kitchen orders in that solid mahogany voice of his interspersed with gleeful shots of his daughter swigging on blue Hawaiian Punch and giggling, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse of an Astros poster (“Go ‘Stros!” he enthuses), Bun B hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree, tippling out of rock-made shot glasses. “Do a shot with a chef!” he says—and seconds later, “Now do another one!” Next he’s taking quick smoke breaks, and peeking at the fate of his fantasy football team—but only when the deft interplay between pot, skillet, and baking pan allows. The frenetic pace of the videos—all of which are exactly one-minute long, give or take a single second—is intentional. “We make sure the shots are showing very little, because you don’t want people all over your house like that. We don’t want to show people too much of our life, so that’s why I cut it the way I cut it, very tight, very close, very sparse,” says Bun B. “I’ve gotta save something for us, as a family.”
The videos also feature a bluntness that could only come from PA-T: Port Arthur, Texas, where trill was born. The hurricane-wracked, chemical plant-ringed place has been mocked by outsiders as “the armpit of Texas,” but it’s also a two-fisted town that has always punched way above its weight class in producing Texas legends: former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson; NFL stars Jamaal Charles and Little Joe Washington; musicians including Janis Joplin, Lee Hazelwood, and UGK. Bun B’s instructions on how to flavor chicken are as true and as real as Janis Joplin’s wailing blues had been: “Dip that thang and flip that thang.” “Put it in the bag and season the shit out of it.” (Referring to his beloved Tony Chachere’s seasoning powder). “Put some flour in the oil—if you don’t know, ask ya mama or ya grandmother.” “Burn some sage, f*ck it.”
He’s Ridin’ Dirty on the stovetop. Keeping that kitchen Super Tight and draped up and dripped out.
For Bun B, music is an important part of the cooking experience. “I think a lot of us grew up with music in the kitchen on Sunday morning when mama’s cooking. A lot of the music that plays in your house kind of influences you,” he says. “For us, it brings back that feeling of nostalgia, that warm feeling you had growing up with our moms.”
Because he and his wife recorded their first cooking video—lobster mac n’ cheese—on a Sunday, church music was the first selection they brought in the kitchen with them. But that’s not always the case. “During the week, we’ll throw in a little bit of everything,” he says. “Throwback old-school stuff, Ruff Ryder, Bad Boy, No Limit-era—stuff like that.”
To Bun B, the joy of cooking is a way to share time with those he loves, and to find a way into different communities—an appreciation of his diverse home that many Houstonians share. “Houston is an extremely multicultural city. You can’t just come in and say it’s all cowboys and barbecue,” says Bun B. “There’s so much more that makes it unique, and food is a pathway to a lot of these different communities for us, you know? It’s a big crawfish city, and Vietnamese-style crawfish has opened a lot of people up to that culture, opened us up to a different way of cooking something that we’ve always eaten. It’s not necessarily a fusion—it’s just unique to where they’re from. I have friends from Sweden, and they eat crawfish, but they eat ‘em cold. It’s just about being open to other cultures.” And you can see that in his kitchen, with his spice selection alone: some Latino Goya, some Cajun/Creole Tony Chachere’s, and recipes that are 100 percent Southern soul food. Mixing stuff up in the kitchen, as Bun B does, comes naturally to Port Arthurians: it is the most South Louisiana-influenced Texas town, a place instrumental to the birth of both modern and Cajun and zydeco music, where sounds from the swamplands mixed freely with those of the piney woods of Texas.
Bun has yet to share a recipe for cold crawfish on Trill Mealz, but the channel is full of his infectious love for sharing food with his family and his city. That communal ideal, the idea of Gulf Coast boils and the universalism of the soul of food, is why he wanted to bring people virtually into his kitchen. “There was no pretension behind Trill Mealz,” he says, living up to the concept of the word “trill.” “We just thought it would be fun. We never thought it would take off like this but it has. But it brings people together and I think that’s why it’s gone virally like that.”