The secret ingredient that elevated Leslie Jordan's family cornbread recipe

Jordan's family eschewed sugar in cornbread, leaning into a more savory iteration

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published October 25, 2022 6:29PM (EDT)

Leslie Jordan attends the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 12, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for GLAAD)
Leslie Jordan attends the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 12, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for GLAAD)

Leslie Jordan's star perhaps never shone as brightly as it did at the height of the pandemic. In those dark, unnerving moments, as many of us sat at home for weeks or months on end, Jordan's silly, unvarnished and downright uproarious viral videos were a shimmering beacon of humor, light and positivity.

An unlikely "influencer," Jordan's posts garnered more interactions, likes and traction than nearly anything else in those trying times (aside from maybe that "poor taste" cover of "Imagine"?), and he rapidly became an immediately recognizable face and voice. However, as the New York Times reported back in 2020, Jordan had already "accumulated more than 130 television and film credits, so he hadn't been exactly undiscovered, but the Instagram stardom at age 65 was an unexpected treat."

To put his meteoric rise into context, CBS News noted that "when the pandemic hit, Jordan received yet another wave of fame with his viral videos on social media. He went from 80,000 followers to nearly 6 million."

Whether joking about WAP, spouting off hilarious one-liners or telling genuine, heartfelt stories about his family and upbringing, Jordan was by all accounts a relatable, jovial and good-natured personality. Despite his passing Monday at the age of 67, Jordan's big heart, timeless talent and warm, Southern-tinged voice will surely continue to provide comfort to legions of fans for years to come.

Jordan's expansive career in the arts

In addition to his sensational social media rise, Jordan was an accomplished actor, musician and writer, who received an Emmy Award for his turn as Beverley Leslie on "Will & Grace." He won that award in 2006, for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series.

Jordan starred in dozens of films and TV shows, with credits including "The Help," "Ally McBeal," "American Horror Story," "Boston Legal," "Call Me Kat" and "Reba." He also acted in theatrical plays, as well as developed and staged his own autobiographical works throughout the '90s. He even released a gospel music album in 2021.

Last year, Jordan was the recipient of the Timeless Star Award from GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics. In 2009, he released a book detailing his upbringing and move from Tennessee to California for acting roles and later a 2021 autobiography

While Jordan may have been most celebrated for his social media postings over the past two years, the scope of his talent was immense.

Jordan's heritage and love of Southern food

While Jordan was both proud and challenged by his Southern upbringing, he was most definitely an adherent of the cuisine. During a 2021 appearance on the Allrecipes podcast "Homemade," Jordan discussed his family recipes, along with tips, tricks and insight into the classics of Southern cooking.

According to the publication, Jordan's family eschewed sugar in cornbread, leaning into a more savory iteration. In fact, the secret ingredient in their cornbread recipe was actually bacon grease. "If that makes you a little squirrely, having bacon grease, well, then you're not going to like this cornbread," Jordan said of his family's choice of fat. 

Jordan noted that he always used a cast-iron skillet to fry his cornbread batter — deploying bacon grease as the go-to fat — which helped to get it "crisp on the outside . . . before you put it in the oven." He added that "it makes that beautiful crust on the outside of the cornbread, doesn't it? And the inside stays fluffy." What's more, he made it clear that it was OK to leave the batter a little bit lumpy. No need for any fussing over making sure it's completely smooth — it's as easy as pie. 

In 2020, Jordan told the New York Times in an interview that he loves the "people that pull me aside and say: 'Listen, I don't want to bother you, but I've had a rough go. I've been locked down. I've got kids, and I looked forward to your posts and you really, really helped me through this tough time.' When people tell you things like that, you realize comedy is important."

Furthermore, as a proud gay man and someone who battled alcohol and substance addiction, Jordan was not only a symbol of pride and resiliency but also an inspiration to so many.

Jordan's beloved star shone so brightly, and he'll be so deeply missed by family, friends, loved ones and fans worldwide. May he rest in power.

By Michael La Corte

Michael is a food writer, recipe editor and educator based in his beloved New Jersey. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, he worked in restaurants, catering and supper clubs before pivoting to food journalism and recipe development. He also holds a BA in psychology and literature from Pace University.

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Bread Cast-iron Cornbread Food Leslie Jordan Southern Food Tv