Jeffrey Lampkin’s “Soul Saving Greens”

The South Carolina singing chef hits a high note—and makes collard converts

A bowl of collard greens

Photo: courtesy of Jeffrey Lampkin's Country Boy Kitchen

Normally, having made it to “Hollywood week” on American Idol might be the standout on a list of a person’s achievements. So it’s saying something that Jeffrey Lampkin is even more famous for his collard greens.

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photo: courtesy of Jeffrey Lampkin’s Country Boy Kitchen
Jeffrey Lampkin.

The need to sing came first, leading Lampkin and big sister Michelle to earn golden tickets for their 2008 Idol audition duet in Charleston. Today, he still flexes his vocal cords as praise and worship leader at his church, and director of the award-winning Francis Marion University YGB Gospel Choir. But while he was in college, he began cooking for classmates and ignited a passion for soul food that eventually led him to open Jeffrey Lampkin’s Country Boy Kitchen in Sumter, South Carolina, in 2019, followed in 2021 by Jeffrey Lampkin’s Country Boy Bistro.

Both restaurants offer Soul Saving Greens, a recipe that came together almost divinely. “I wanted a signature greens dish, because greens are so important to African-American culture and Southern culture,” he says. “So I went into the kitchen and the first time I made it, I knew it was the recipe I wanted to stick with. It’s foolproof!”

Notably, the recipe doesn’t call for adding any seasoning until the collards are already cooked to tenderness. Another Lampkin preference is to trim away all traces of stem. “But I do like the texture of the leaf, so I encourage home cooks not to shred their greens,” he says. “Give the people something to chew on.”

Lampkin’s menus are peppered with scripture references, from a Faithful Fish Sandwich to Yahweh Yams. Why do his collards earn the Soul Saving sobriquet? “Because for anyone who thinks they don’t like greens,” he says, “I tell them that eating these will make them a believer.”

If a believer is also a regular, odds are pretty good they’ll hear “Chef Jeff” singing on the job. “Oh, if you come in on Sunday with the after-church crowd, customers are always requesting that I sing, and other choir people join in,” he says. “Singing, like food, is a connection to people’s hearts. When you cook with your heart, you will save their souls.”


  • Jeffrey Lampkin’s Soul Saving Greens (Yield: 5–6 servings)

    • 6 bunches fresh collard greens (about 1½ lb. each)

    • 2–3 slices fatback

    • 2 tbsp. white vinegar

    • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

    • ½ tbsp. salt

    • ½ tbsp. black pepper

    • ½ tbsp. all-purpose seasoning (such as Accent)

    • ½ tbsp. cayenne pepper

    • ½ tbsp. white sugar

    • 2 tbsp. chicken stock or butter


  1. Thoroughly rinse the greens under cold water. Cut out the stems and discard. Roll the leaves into tight spirals and cut into pieces about 1 inch to 1.5 inches long. 

  2. Add greens to a large stock pot and cover with cold water by an inch. Bring to boil and simmer until tender. Add the fatback, vinegars, seasonings, and chicken stock (or butter) to the greens and simmer for 15 minutes more. Plate and enjoy immediately!