Most days, Sheletta Brundidge has her hands full. The Emmy-award-winning comedian is a producer at WCCO Radio in Minneapolis, Minn. and is founder of SHElettaMakesMeLaugh.com, a podcast network. She’s also the mother of four children, three of whom are on the autism spectrum. Also, she and husband Shawn share their home with Shawn’s father, who has dementia.
Under these circumstances, one would think if the producers of a new show called “Family Dinner” called up and asked if she would be interested in them shooting an episode with her and her family, she would have simply said no.
Instead, her response was, “We would love to!”
And so it happened. Last June, host Andrew Zimmern and his crew showed up on her doorstep and spent two days with the Brundidges shooting footage for “Family Dinner” episode 117, which is now available on the streaming service discovery+. The show is slated to move to Chip and Joanna Gaines’s Magnolia TV Network coming July 15, but for now a preview of “Family Dinner can be seen on discovery+.
“Family Dinner” has Zimmern visiting families across America to explore how the cultural, regional and historical facets of who they are translate into what and how they eat.
Brundidge was not stressed about cooking with the show’s host because she didn’t have to do it.
“My husband Shawn is the cook. All I did was maybe cut up some cabbage or something,” she said.
She was more concerned with how her younger children — Brandon, 8; Cameron, 7; and Daniel, 6 — would respond when the crew showed up to film.
“Having three kids with special needs, they may ask the same questions over and over. They might hide. But that crew made my kids feel loved. They were so patient and loving and kind. Any fears I had quickly went away. When the kids asked the same questions again and again, they answered each time like it was the first time they had asked,” she said.
Filming went well.
“We love laughter,” she said of her family. “It was a big ol’ comedy show.”
The Brundidge’s have Louisiana roots. The couple fell in love in New Orleans. And Sheletta Brundidge lived in Lake Charles from 2000 - 2004 while employed at KPLC-TV as assignments editor.
It was only natural then, that Shawn Brundidge cooked up Catfish Acadian, fried cabbage, beignets and crawfish for Zimmern and his crew. They also served up cracklins from Don’s Specialty Meats in Scott, La. and boudin from an area Market Basket store.
Shawn enjoys cooking up Louisiana fare so the children can eat the foods that tie them to family here. He doesn’t make boudin, though.
“And there’s no boudin in Minnesota,” said Sheletta.
So they have Market Basket boudin brought up. Brundidge became a fan of it when she lived in Lake Charles with her aunt, Rosalie Lewis.
“We mention Market Basket in the show. Andrew Zimmern can be seen eating boudin and he’s saying how delicious it is,” she said.
For his part, Shawn Brundidge cooked his offerings for the show twice. The first day he cooked everything so the foods could be photographed and filmed. The second day he cooked it again so everyone could be filmed simply enjoying the meal.
There’s lots of talk about Louisiana on the episode, said Sheletta.
“We moved up here for more opportunities for the kids. But we still want them to know about the land their family came from. A lot of that involves food,” she said.
All three children were diagnosed with autism when the family was living in Houston.
“There were not many opportunities for them there. I wanted aggressive therapy for them,” said Sheletta.
Sheletta saw the episode featuring her family for the first time Friday morning.
‘I cried,” she said
But they were happy tears.
Brundidge is a self-professed woman of joy. Her favorite verse in the Bible is Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
“I wake up every day and say. ‘The joy of the Lord is my strength.’ I bring the joy, He brings me the strength.”
The family motto is “Happiness is a choice.”
It wasn’t always that way.
Brundidge admits when she learned that her youngest son Daniel was diagnosed with autism, joining already diagnosed Brandon, 8, and Cameron, 7, she was despondent.
She asked God why He was punishing her.
“He said, ‘I’m not punishing you. I’m giving you a position,’” she said.
Her attitude changed. She’s full of joy now. She’s quick to laugh and make others laugh. She helps herself and enjoys helping others, too.
About the show, Brundidge said, “It’s gonna put a smile on your face. I want it to give people hope, especially parents with special needs kids.”