“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.” —Bubba explains the shrimp business to Forrest Gump in the Academy Award winning film, Forrest Gump.
We all remember actor Mykelti Williamson as the shrimp expert, “Bubba,” who passionately indulged Tom Hanks‘ “Forest Gump” character in this 1994 romantic comedy-drama. Well he’s b-a-c-k, with some spices, seasoning and sauces to go on all that shrimp. “Bubba Style,” is a health conscious mix of seasonings and spices that he hopes will one day sit on the shelves of chain stores and specialty shops around the world.
As he chats with EURweb publisher, Lee Bailey, who caught up with the busy actor while he was promoting acting projects, it is easy to see how proud he is about following his lifelong passion for cooking with the launch of his Bubba Style product line, sold for the past year on his web-based store, BubbaStyle.net. At the age of 7, Williamson, an Air Force Brat and former Latchkey kid had the responsibility of walking home from school with his sister, letting himself in, and waiting for his mother’s daily call from work; where she would walk them through the start of meal preparations.
“When she came home she would mostly do the seasoning and have us cook it. So we wouldn’t over-salt stuff, ‘cause we didn’t know, we were kids, and she would teach us when she got home,” says the actor, who is the creator of the Bubba Style product line and the President of Independ-A-Vision Inc., the parent company of Bubba Style Spice Company.
Williamson says he has been making spices and rubs and sauces for folks on the movie sets and recalls a time back in the 80’s when he was on the TV show, “Hill Street Blues.”
“We used to take chicken wings and put my seasoning on ‘em and climb up the latter and put it in the back of a big light…those big lamps, harplights is what you call it; and they’re hot like an oven in the back. So we’d wrap the chicken in some foil or something, season it and stick it up there. About 25 minutes later people were sniffin’ like, ‘what in the world is that?’ So I would sell chicken wings for .50 a piece on the set, back in the 80’s.”
After being encouraged by his brothers a few years back (because he’d be in demand every holiday season, with folks calling to get seasoning for their various rubs and sauces), he decided to put his Bubba Style brand on the market.
“And instead of calling it Cajun Style or Southern Style, its Bubba Style!” the entrepreneur grins.
On this day, as he spoke to Lee Bailey, he had a red-top seasoning called “Spicy Old,” a mild black top seasoning called “Good Old” and an all-purpose seasoning called “Fry Bubba Fry,” (Yep, you got it, like “Run Forrest Run!”). And in case you’re wondering, the health conscious seasonings use less amounts of sodium than brands such as Lawry’s, who Williamson says has 360mg’s of sodium per ¼ serving (actually, its 380. I just checked!) versus some Bubba Style seasonings he showed us that have 10mg or 35mg per ¼ serving. Williamson adds that when we purchase seasoned salt or flavored salt we may think its seasoning, but its not. Bubba Style offers herbs and spices with a dash of salt. The brand also offers a “Smoked Brown Sugar” seasoning that Mykelti says kids have been putting on popcorn and no-salt chips for years.
If you are wondering what motivated this in-demand actor (truly, he has a slew of projects lined up; and did a fine job in his recurring role on TV’s Touch) to start a food line, here’s a strong reason.
“I started blending these for my relatives who have high blood pressure and diabetes,” says Mykelti. As a matter-of-fact, the smoked brown sugar seasoning doesn’t even have enough sugar to register on the Nutrition label. “It will say zero because its not quite a milligram. Its very, very low in the smoked brown sugar, but its there.”
Currently, Williamson, who is financing the brand along with his two brothers, says there is a handful of restaurants and specialty stores across the country that carry Bubba Style seasonings and spices. At press time, the company has appointments with Costco and Whole Food stores to discuss a potential partnership; and he has also been invited to appear on the Shark Tank TV show. But this entrepreneur is OK with going slow to build his brand. He is not seeking an equal partner, nor is he interested in partnering with someone who doesn’t quite “get it.”
“I make my living as an actor, writer, director, so this is a passion for me…I just want to do it right, so I’m in no hurry. So I think the Whole Foods [and] Costco introduction(s)…will be nice. But we’ll just have to make sure the numbers work,” he contends.
Williamson already has the trademark for the U. S. and Canadian markets, and is now working to secure the European and Chinese trademarks.
His 5-Year Plan also includes the creation of a portable BBQ Grill that fits neatly in the trunk of your car. Similar to what George Forman did with his product. So Bubba Style will offer the cookware, the cooking accessories, even microwave ovens! This man is even looking at having a cooking show in the future…Well, not hosted by him but certainly one of his chef friends.
When asked if the tag “Bubba” came from his role in the infamous Tom Hanks vehicle Williamson admits,
“You know what? I was always a Bubba, and it’s interesting because Bill Clinton is a Bubba…It’s a term of endearment for anyone that you might love and care a lot about…Another actor who uses that phrase all the time is Don Johnson. He would use that term on Miami Vice all the time when there was a guy and he didn’t know his name he’d go, ‘Hey Bubba.’”
Williamson doesn’t want Bubba Style to be confused in any way with the Bubba Gump brand. They are totally different.
To learn more about the brand, or order from their list of products, visit the online store at BubbaStyle.net.
DeBorah B. Pryor is a Los Angeles based writer and Adjunct Instructor of Public Speaking and Communications at UCLA Extension. Visit her website at http:[email protected]
EUR EXTRA BUBBA STYLE COVERAGE:
In the video below, taped in the wine room at Wolfgang’s Steak House in Beverly Hills, watch as Mykelti Williamson explains the health and taste benefits of his “Bubba Style” seasonings: