Jessie James Decker's Culinary Heritage Fuels Her New Cookbook - Exclusive Interview

Whether you've been a fan of Jessie James Decker since her self-titled debut country music album released in 2009, or you're just discovering Decker via her more recent foray into the culinary world, you'll likely want to get your hands on her new cookbook. Titled "Just Eat," it's a follow-up to her prior bestseller, "Just Feed Me." It's packed with personal recipes from Decker's childhood, travels, and current family life, with plenty of cozy, comfort food favorites just in time for fall, as well as a full section dedicated to the holidays. 

In addition, this cookbook's release coincides with the debut of Decker's new cookware line. The collection, dubbed Just Feed Me by Jessie James Decker, is offered exclusively at and includes more than two dozen items, ranging from charcuterie boards to bakeware. In an exclusive Tasting Table interview, we spoke to Decker to learn more about the cookbook, her approach to cooking at home, and how both her family and her recent travels influenced the book. In the process, we learned the kitchen rules Decker doesn't follow, her favorite kitchen shortcut, and her favorite holiday dishes.

The hardest part of writing a cookbook

For fans of your prior work, how does this cookbook differ from your last and what should they expect?

This one is a progression from my last cookbook. I didn't want to break what didn't need fixing. I really loved my last book because it [featured] a variety of comfort foods. They were easy [recipes], not intimidating, and they're very family-oriented. I wanted to expand upon that. I paid attention to my fans and my audience, and the feedback on social [media] over the past few years. I saw what people gravitated towards, what they wanted more of, and what they didn't post about at all. I knew what to avoid and what to expand upon, and we did that with "Just Eat."

This time, I added a whole chapter on my family's travels to Greece and Italy, where I cooked with some of the most incredible chefs and family cooks, learning a lot of recipes that I included in the book. I also included a holiday chapter; everyone knows I'm such a cozy holiday girl, so it made sense to have a whole chapter and a menu dedicated to what would be great to cook around the holidays.

In the introduction, you mention that this book in particular has even more family recipes. Are there any that are particularly meaningful for you?

There's a couple that are definitely meaningful. It's so hard to choose. There's a recipe called Karen's Quiche, which is my mom's quiche that she made for us growing up. We love quiche. There is this hot dog-mashed potato thing that's going to look weird when people turn the page. My Yaya, which is one of my grandmothers — my Greek grandmother actually, but it's not [a Greek recipe] — would make this for us, and it was so good. That one's in there and I want people to give it a chance.

I have recipes I've created myself that have turned into family recipes that the kids and [husband Eric Decker] and my relatives continue to ask for, [like] my lobster risotto.

You also mentioned in the introduction that you don't follow a lot of typical cooking rules. What would you say are some of the rules you've tossed from your process, and are there any that you found you do actually need to stick with?

I don't love baking, because you have to follow rules. It's a science. There are numbers involved, and that part of my brain does not work. [For baking], I do follow the rules as much as I can.

That's what I love about cooking, though. Everything is to taste, and it's a very creative process. When I have to stop and focus on the directions, that's the hardest part about making this cookbook, to be honest. I have to sit there and really think about it ... "How much salt did I put in? I don't know. Whatever feels right." You can't say that in the book. "How much garlic? I don't know. You'll know when it's too much garlic." 

That's not fair, and not everyone feels that way. You have to be specific. When it comes to how much or how little [ingredients to use], on the cooking side, I don't follow any rules. I do what feels right between my fingers and my taste buds, but with the baking, I follow [the rules] as much as I can.

Marie Callender's can do it better

You included a recipe called "the best avocado toast of all time." What makes it truly the best?

I most recently discovered that I love avocado toast. I've always avoided it, but it's something my best friend Jessica always ordered. I recently decided to try every avocado toast at every restaurant and hotel I could find. There was one little mom-and-pop shop that did it very similarly to this recipe. It's the chili flakes. It's the amount of olive oil you throw in there. It's such a simple recipe, but as someone who's new to loving avocado toast, this is the best one.

In a lot of your recipes, you're not shy about using store-bought ingredients like pie crust, cake mix or biscuit dough. Are there any particular store-bought items that you constantly have in your home?

Pie crust. That is one that you can skip. I don't think you need to waste a lot of time worrying about putting a pie crust together. Marie Callender's can do it better. Whenever I make my mom's quiche or an apple pie, that's a step I can skip. You should always have frozen pie crust in your freezer.

There are also a lot of southern-inspired recipes in the book. What is your quintessential southern meal?

When you're from the South, it's hard to even think about, because some of these things feel normal to you. The pigs in a blanket — that's southern, right? I have a lot of Tex-Mex in here, because we lived in Texas quite a bit growing up. The Tex-Mex is pretty important.

When I really think about the go-to Southern [meal], I think chili. I don't know if that's considered "southern," but growing up in the South, we always had some version of chili. I have a lot of chili recipes. I had a lot in my last book. I'll have a lot in the next one. Chili is very important to me. It's one of my favorite things to cook and eat. It's hearty, and you can do a million different variations.

Decker's best cozy, comfort food season and holiday recipes

This cookbook is coming out right in time for fall, when everyone's gearing up for cozy comfort food season. If someone's looking for that cozy, comforting meal, are there any recipes in the book that you would point them to?

I would definitely say my chicken thigh bake. That one is as cozy as it gets. It's hearty. It's filling. It can feed a lot of people. It feels and tastes like fall.

You also have a recipe for a pumpkin spice latte. For the diehard Starbucks PSL fans, why would you tell them to give this recipe a shot instead?

Not to pick on Starbucks, but mine has more pure ingredients. I've never been known to be super-vocal about that side of things, or super-healthy, but I truly am. I probably don't vocalize it that much. I like to [eat] as clean and real food as possible. It's not because it's fashionable. It's truly because I have learned that, with my body and with my kids' bodies, the more real food, the better. Whenever we splurge and eat "the fun stuff," we all feel sick. It's because our bodies are so used to the real thing.

What I like about my pumpkin spice latte is we're not using any fake stuff. It's as real as it gets. You're not going to feel sick afterward. I always feel a little sick when I [drink] the other ones.

For the holidays, do you have any favorite, unexpected, or non-traditional dishes that you typically like to serve when you're hosting at home?

This was in my very first book, so it doesn't count and I shouldn't even say, but I always seem to make jambalaya on Thanksgiving as a side, which is random... maybe [from "Just Eat"] my roasted rack of lamb. That feels a little different. I was obsessed with lamb for years but, with my last pregnancy, I had the most insane aversion to lamb. I still can't eat it, but I have the best recipe for it. Why punish everyone else by not sharing the recipe, even though I still can't seem to eat it?

For the holidays, when it comes to potato side dishes, what are you going for?

I'm so traditional. I go straight for mashed potatoes and gravy. We have potatoes weekly. We're a big potato family. We do wedge potatoes, French fries ... Any way that you can make potatoes, we seem to do it. Everyone's big on potatoes in this house.

A personal diary

Regarding the book's chapter dedicated to traveling to Greece and Italy, what was the significance of that on a personal level? What were some of your favorite moments from the trip as far as destinations, cooking experiences, etc.?

It was the first time any of us had ever gone there together. It was my first time in Greece. I was born in Italy, but it was my first time back. It was a really special family trip in general.

However, I made a very serious point that, If I'm going over there, I wanted to educate myself as much as possible on the food that I grew up on. I grew up eating a lot of Italian food, not as much Greek. The Italian part of my life was way more prominent. I wanted to dive right into the kitchen with these incredible people that were so kind.

I took my favorite recipes from all those experiences and put them in this one chapter. I included a lot of family photos that no one's ever seen. It was very personal. This chapter's a personal diary. It was so special and something my family and I will never forget.

Were there any particular favorite restaurants or destinations that you visited during the trip?

There's one place in Greece, in Crete, that we still talk about, how it was our favorite experience of the whole trip. We still miss it. We cooked with this incredible family in their little house on their farm. We made the tomato fritter [from the cookbook]... They were  incredible people and they treated us like family. We were there all day long. I included the Greek feta salad and moussaka [in the book], which they had, which were so delicious. With the tomato fritters, those were the key recipes that, everywhere you went in Greece, that's what they had.

Was there any 'best cooking tip' that you walked away with after that trip? Anything specific that you feel like you learned?

I wouldn't necessarily say "learn." I think "validate." I use olive oil for everything. Even when I'm going to use a boxed brownie mix and it's calling for canola oil, I skip the canola and I go to olive. I'll use olive oil as the oil in my pancake mix. I use it for everything. I've learned it does not alter the taste. It doesn't bother anything, and it's better for you. Olive oil is so good for your body.

I learned that they also use olive oil for absolutely everything — their bread, they put it all over their vegetables and throw a little sea salt on it. It was so fresh and so delicious. It made me feel validated in wanting to use olive oil for everything. It's definitely like gold over there.

For future projects, what do you have coming down the pipeline?

I'm very excited to get this book out there and do my book tour and meet everyone. I have a Christmas album coming out, which I am so excited about. It's going to be so amazing. I've always done Christmas projects, but this is probably the most different and unique of any of them — and continuing with Kittenish and creating beautiful collections and expanding. Also, I have a cookware line with Walmart that is launching the same day that my book comes out.

"Just Eat" by Jessie James Decker is on sale now, as is Decker's new line of cookware, Just Feed Me by Jessie James Decker.

This interview has been edited for clarity.