This post was originally published on Defender Network

By Laura Onyeneho

KeAndre’ Jordan is one of Houston’s most influential Black food connoisseurs. You may have seen his posts showcasing Black-owned brunch, wine and dine, and mom-and-pop spots and events in the city. Foodies know him as My Southern Brand on social media.

Whether you are looking for the best seafood, fried chicken, desserts, loaded French fries, or wing joint, Jordan is your go-to guy.

With more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, the former oil and gas engineer and Eutaw, Ala. native discovered his passion for food and helping others by elevating Black restaurants through his marketing and branding strategy.

The essence of Jordan’s brand was inspired by his southern roots and Christian values, and he carries that experience with all his followers. His brand launched in 2019 has seen exponential growth through his consistency and appreciation for Houston’s Black culture, history and food.

The Defender spoke with Jordan about his journey as an influencer and what he has learned about the local food industry through his various partnerships with Black restaurants.

KeAndre’ Jordan, founder of My Southern Brand

Defender: Tell us about yourself and how you ended up in Houston.

KeAndre’ Jordan: I’m from the great state of Alabama. I moved down here in June 2014 after graduating from Alabama A&M with a degree in civil engineering. I came to Houston to work for Chevron as a health environment and safety specialist. In 2015, the company went through layoffs because the oil and gas industry tanked. So within five to six years, I had five to six jobs. I had to figure out something to do. I had always wanted to own a business and do something to put a positive light on the Black community.

Defender: Is that where your motto “Engineering My Way through Life” came from? What does that mean?

Jordan: I did pretty much that. I was navigating through life trying to figure out what I was put on this earth to do. In the Black community, we are told to go to school, but we weren’t taught about the racism and systemic oppression in corporate America. I fell victim to that. I lost my job, so it caused me more abandonment issues that I already had while experiencing so many deaths in the last decade. I became depressed. I’m in Houston, how am I going to pay my bills? Would I have to move back to Alabama? So I tried to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Defender: Where were you in your career at that point?

Jordan: Still navigating. I was in a GroupMe chat for young Black Houston professionals in 2015. Everyone who had moved to Houston was on this platform. There was this guy [on the platform] who said I should start a food blog at the time because I eat crawfish a lot and encouraged me to talk about my experiences. So, in August 2018, I had just got laid off of my fourth job and I started My Southern Brand on Square Space. I started blogging about all restaurants I went to and this lady asked why I couldn’t just focus on Black-owned establishments. At that moment I shifted all of my focus on that niche because there was a need to have our own stuff.

Defender: How were you able to build up the brand to such a large scale?

Jordan: Around March 2019, I converted my personal Instagram page to the food platform y’all see today. My followership kept growing. People didn’t realize how much we needed a page like mine to be more on a local level to show the different Black-owned restaurants that we have in Houston besides all of the popular ones we know. When you come to my page you’re going to find some restaurants you’ve never heard of. 

Defender: How has your work impacted Black restaurants?

Jordan: I’m glad we had the chance to get the negatives out of the way. There were times I just wanted to stop doing this, but the good days do outweigh the bad. People come up to me and say “Thank you.” It really warms my heart. They appreciate the work I do because without it they wouldn’t know where to eat. I remember posting Gumbo Jeaux’s for their third [promotional] month. I had asked them how their weekend went. They showed me a picture of how packed their restaurant was. The owner called me to thank me because he could finally understand what I was doing. It’s amazing to put these amazing individuals and entities on a platform to show what we do here as far as Black culture, and things we do outside of just food.

Defender: How do you feel about where you are in your life and career now?

Jordan: I’m getting comfortable because I’m learning our people. I’m from Alabama. I’ve seen Black folk and dealt with Black folk all my life, but I didn’t know how important it is to get our house in order. I’m noticing that there is something new, whether it’s a major company reaching out to me to do a brand deal. I’m figuring out the things I do like and don’t like and what works.

Defender: Where do you hope to see your brand years from now?

Jordan: I hope to see my brand in big lights, big publications, commercials, and major festivals. I see My Southern Brand as being bigger than just Houston, but it will also have the spirit of the city in it.

Laura Onyeneho covers the city’s education system as it relates to Black children for the Defender Network as a Report For America Corps member. Email her at laura@defendernetwork.com