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Chef Alexa

“Being a Chef”….bleh strongly dislike this question, feels so formal. I just love being able to share what I can do with people who truly enjoy it. I have such respect for the kitchen because it can be so rewarding to create something delicious. Not everyone is capable of really taking control in their kitchen. They feel lost and defeated. I understand the desire to have my skill set, so I genuinely love being able to share it somehow. Whether it’s teaching someone how to make something, or simply making them something to eat. The reward from this act supersedes most good feelings for me.

Chef Alexa

Professional Bread Baker & Chef

What is one thing you would tell your younger self if given the chance? “I would tell that girl that it is ok to not know what you’re good at, and to keep trying out different things. It’ll pay off in the end, so don’t be discouraged.”

Chef Alexa is known to may people as the “Bread Queen”, and it’s because all of her bread looks and taste like works of art.  This Chatt Tech alum is not only a bread aficionado though, she is well rounded in the kitchen and has a passion for the culinary world. Like many chefs before her this passion started at home, “My mom went to Le Cordon Bleu, when we lived in Paris, so I think it’s always been in me.”  Something else that was instilled in Alexa early was her love of all types of cuisine, “My parents worked for the State Dept. for the first 15 years of my life, so we traveled a lot. Later on I went to high school in Monroe, GA.”  She’s eventually put roots down in Ga and has made it her home with her fiancé Mitch Verlander, daughter, chickens, dogs, and cat. Most recently she left her position as baker at a breakfast establishment in Roswell, Ga called Gracious Plenty.  Alexa like many people right now is working from home, but she is selling her delicious bread while doing it.  

Being a chef in 2020 is like no other time in the industry, because there is no road map and each day looks different.  This doesn’t stop Chef Alexa though and she also has noticed the change in people’s attitudes towards the culinary industry lately, “At this point, I think people are GRATEFUL for my profession and my skill. This crisis has allowed a renewed appreciation of the service industry. Take it away, and you miss having it around.”  A skill that many people around her helped build, “It’s hard to narrow down since multiple chefs have influenced me on this journey, through different areas of my personal growth. I will say Chef Jasmin Willis was most influential, for trusting me and allowing me to fly.”  Being influenced like this is why Alexa is now a great teacher herself in and out of the kitchen and why she is fearless in her craft.  “A couple years ago I quit a job that I had worked at for several years. It took so much guts to quit that job. I’m glad I did because it allowed me to be where I am now.”  Thanks to this decision she now has the tools to adapt to the current culinary environment and also help others on their journeys.  

Another way she helps is by dismantling misconceptions about being a chef, “Oooooh one of my favorites is that everyone assumes you eat pretentious foods all the time. I think most chefs always appreciate the humble things they had growing up. I love ordering Chinese Food, and frozen pizza is still a food I would consume. I mean, we’re regular people who’ve taken a chance to try to eat new things but we never forget what we love.”   We might be regular people, but there is nothing regular about Chef Alexa’s passion and skills.  This comes across easily when you converse with her about food and see how she will go out of her way to help anyone who needs it. With no specific adventure lined up next, Alexa is taking this next journey in her life with an open mind and heart, “All doors are open at the moment.”  She has even mentioned that since her bread is such high demand that she might start a bread company soon, so stay on the lookout for that. Whatever she decides we know that people will flock and tastebuds will be gracious for her work.

Follow On The Following Platforms

IG – balexabalexa

Facebook – Alexa Izzet

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Vodka Chicken Cacciatore

This meal is completely inspired by my followers on social media.  I gave them a chance to create a meal with me by selecting the ingredients and I would make a cooking video and recipe up off of their choices.  They choose Chicken, Broccoli, Sautéed, Composed Dish, and Vodka.  With those choices I wanted to make something we could all make at home and also make it feel a little familiar.  So this is a take on the classic dish Chicken Cacciatore, just with some small twists along the way.

Emeril's Chicken Cacciatore Recipe | CDKitchen

Chicken Cacciatore is a classic dish that relies heavily on the flavors stewing together.  I wanted to take the elements from that recipe and create one that comes together a little faster, but doesn’t skimp on the flavors at all.  We are using the vodka in this dish to deglaze the pan and also using chicken breast instead of dark meat so that we can cook a little faster, but we won’t dry it out because we are cooking low and slow.  After trying this recipe you will take a shot, but also save that vodka for other things in the kitchen. 

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Chef Amethyst

Honestly I have a few influential chefs in my life. Of course the women in my family and also the women (friends and family) who’ve been in my life. Chef Kiera Moritz- Johnson was the first woman I worked for who showed me that you can be extremely successful, run and expand your businesses, take care of your team and guests, and still have a family and social life, so she is a big influence. Chef Natasha Fast is another woman who proves every day that despite how hard this industry is, we can continue to push through and break boundaries. Then of course chefs Therese Nelson, BJ Dennis, Charlotte Jenkins, JJ Johnson, Edouardo Jordan, Mashama Bailey, David Thomas  etc. People who have shown that foods of the diasporas have stories that deserve to be told and shared and that it’s okay to be unapologetically who we are. More recently, my twitter tribe of chefs and culinarians have inspired me in ways that would take me a long time to list out.

Chef Amethyst

America’s Test Kitchen Intern / Owner – The Geechee Gordita

One or your proudest moments in your career so far, “I was one of the youngest and only women of color to be promoted into a managerial position for a very large restaurant corporation.”

Chef Amethyst falls into the category that is actually the majority and not the minority, a chef that didn’t attend culinary school.  Contrary to popular belief the school diploma doesn’t make you a chef, and having one does not magically grant you skills or success.  This idea is grounded in what she feels being a chef means to her as well, “Being a chef means a lot of things to me. It means you sacrificed and put the work in to be more than knowledgeable in not only handling food and dishes, but also dealing with staff and guests. It’s a title of respect that is earned and given once you have proven you are capable of running a successful team and business. Chefs are cooks at heart who are passionate about what they do.”  Chef Amethyst has earned her title by putting in the work the last 10 years and getting to point where now she does freelance work for the number 1 instructional cooking show in the US (America’s Test Kitchen), as well as run her own business (The Geechee Gordita).  

Working her way up the culinary ladder in the kitchen wasn’t easy, but luckily she was heavily influenced by strong women in her childhood that planted seeds for her success.  “I wouldn’t say one person got me into cooking but I am defiantly influenced by my grandmother and great-grandmothers cooking. Growing up in the Low-country I was always around good food. When I got to college, I never expected to be in the food industry but once I started I didn’t want to get out of it.”  This determination she inherited, and dedication to her craft also has shaped the way she views the culinary field and how others view her too. “I honestly haven’t met anyone that doesn’t take being a chef seriously. That may come from my age and just how chefs are viewed now because of the media. Many people want to be a chef, but most people see the glory and not the grime you have to go through to be successful. “

Having her specific perspective and taking the route that she took to become the chef she is today, her advice she gives to future chefs of the world is to “Put in the work.”  “Truthfully, it’s a lot harder than what you’ve been told about it. Listen to those who’ve been doing this, absorb everything. Cook and research constantly. This is not a career field for people who are selfish. Invest in good shoes!”  Which goes hand in hand with some of the biggest misconceptions she believes happens in the culinary world today as well. “Don’t think that you have to go to culinary school or have some sort of specific route of training to be a chef. A lot of people would argue this, but I’d argue that many of the greatest chefs of our time never went to the CIA or schools like it and have been just as impactful to our culture than those who have.”  This is so important to understand, because some of the greats who have shaped the culinary field did not attend school.  Luckily for us Chef Amethyst has the skills, talent, and a work ethic to continue shaping this field.  This go with the flow Chef has some pop up events called “Sweetgrass and Sage” coming up soon as well as getting her Masters in Gastronomy.  Good thing she relaxes by taking social media breaks, playing with her dogs, and pedicures because she needs it with the workload she carries.  

Follow On The Following Platforms

http://geecheegordita.com/

IG – thizzg

Twitter – ExcuseMyFly

Facebook – geecheegordita

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Jerk Seasoning

Jerk seasoning is found everywhere, but they are not created equally. You have to find one that really connects with you and tastes amazing. I make my own seasoning because I like to add in notes of sweetness to mine that harmonize with my spice level and I like to use it on many different proteins. Take my seasoning as a blueprint and make it the way that you like, but always remember that you can control the recipe and get the flavors that you want in the end.

Image result for jerk seasoning

Jerk is not just a seasoning, it’s a way of life in the Caribbean.  Most importantly in the birthplace of jerk, Jamaica.  Recipes have changed and things have been added and subtracted over the years, but the heart of the recipe always remains.  You should have this deep feeling of love when eating and it should be sweet, tangy, spicy, and herbaceous all in one bite.  My recipe gives you all of these things and more because you will want to make every recipe jerk from now on.

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Who Was A Jerk First?

One of the questions that most people ask till this day is, “Where did jerk come from?” The simple answer is Jamaica, but you might have ventured to other Caribbean Islands and heard different. Some historians believe that the Maroons originated this cuisine so that would explain why other islands in the Caribbean would feel like they own it since the Maroons or escaped African Slaves who branched out into other island nations across the Atlantic. The other question I always here is, “What is Jerk?” The simple answer to this is that it’s a way ingredients are cooked, whether is meats or fruits & vegetables even. The way we season these ingredients and cook them is a jerk method, now in addition you will find jerk sauces, and seasoning because the overall method usually consists of a dry rub and wet rub mixture. These can be interchanged or even just either dry rub, it all goes back to preference.

With that being said if you have never tried jerk anything then it’s time you give your tastebuds a new outlook on life. Jerk chicken is one of the most popular jerk dishes, but now you can pretty much jerk anything (yeah I said it). Making your own version of the seasoning and sauce is very common as well. You should know that 2 of the major ingredients found in the original recipe are allspice & scotch bonnet peppers. Just like all great things in life, variations have arisen and pretty much all people with Caribbean roots have great grandmothers who passed down recipes for the best jerk everything.

Some people find this discouraging or see it as a problem, but in reality it just means you get to try out more and more of this amazing cuisine. Now if you are fortunate enough to visit Jamaica or other Caribbean islands then you will be in for a spectacular treat if you find jerk “huts”. These “huts” are usually in clusters and have some of the best food you’ll ever get to taste! Lucky for you not only has Jamaican music and cultural influence spread across the world, but also the cuisine so you don’t have to fly out to get these amazing meals. Just find your neighborhood Caribbean spot and try something different today, or go to your favorite spot and take a friend to have your regular. For those of you feeling really ambitions just try out some new recipes at home even. I’ll post my jerk seasoning recipe below for those of you who are going to try out some home cooking as well.

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Chef Jae

From my experience, when people ask me what I do, and I tell them I’m a chef, they seem genuinely interested – because let’s be honest, people need to eat. That’s something everyone has in common. So, I think people are generally interested about food, but they might not know the hard work it takes working in the kitchen on a professional level. That’s why I think Chef’s should take that opportunity to educate people and inform them of what actually goes on behind the scenes. Since I specialize in plant-based cuisine, I get a ton of questions about how I make things plant-based and still taste good or the nutritional aspects of it. I’m more than happy to answer people’s questions and help clarify any misconceptions people have of eating plant-based.

Chef Jae

Chef Owner – PLANTATUDE

I would tell my younger self, “It gets better. Hang in there, and your hard work will pay off.”

Chef Jae has accomplished many things in his 9 years of cooking professionally.  You may recognize him from the Food Network’s  “Bakers vs Fakers” (Season 2, Episode 11), but he has also created 2  successful companies (Jae’s Sinful Delights and PLANTATUDE).   PLANTATUDE, his latest plant-based business provides chef services, private cooking lessons, and recipe development services.  Being a plant-based chef isn’t something he takes lightly either, he made sure to have a strong foundation on it “I’ve attended multiple culinary schools specializing in plant-based cuisine. These include PlantLab Culinary Academy (Raw Vegan Cuisine and Desserts) and Rouxbe Culinary School (Plant-based Professional). Additionally, I also received certification for Plant-based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell and also Advanced French Pastry certification from Gastronomicom – Miami.”.  He isn’t stopping there either, because he will be moving to NYC soon to continue his studies in plant-based cuisine.  “I will be attending the Institute of Culinary Education for my diploma in Health Supportive Culinary Arts. I’m always looking to gain knowledge on the subject, and this is a great opportunity for me to get ahead of the game before opening my retail location in Miami.” 

Before jumping too far ahead to Chef Jae’s future you should understand where he came from.  “When I was younger, my mom sparked my interest for cooking and baking. She would cater events on the weekends as a side gig from her regular job. She would have me do prep work and mise en place at a young age. I learned my knife skills working in her kitchen. My sense of different flavor profiles also developed while helping her out as her kitchen assistant”.  This also gave him his personal definition of what a chef is, “For me, being a Chef means you’re constantly striving for knowledge and creativity in the kitchen. It means being open-minded to all possibilities where it comes to food, including the elevation of plant-based cuisine and how it relates to holistic nutrition. More importantly, being a Chef means putting your heart and soul into the food you make because you’re passionate about your job.”  These are the quality and traits that keep Chef Jae grounded as well as relatable to his peers.  

Being an influential chef himself, always willing to help those who want to learn about plant-based cuisine and more.  Chef Jae himself was influenced by other chefs as he was coming into his own and 2 really stood out on this journey.   “Julia Child and Martin Yan have been influential because they were inspirational to me when I was younger. I enjoyed Julia Child’s approachable version of French cooking and remember creating one of her desserts as a teenager. It was a fried chocolate truffle that I thought was divine. I also enjoyed watching Martin Yan’s cooking show on PBS. He had this infectious personality that was very entertaining and I learned a lot from him on how to cook Cantonese-style cuisine.”  Now he takes what he’s learned and also passes on the knowledge to new chefs.  “My advice to someone who wants to be a chef is to dig deep and make sure that it’s your passion. That will get you far in the industry. Your heart has to be in it. Everything else will follow. I would also advise them to keep their ego in check and remain humble. Let your work speak for itself.”  These words have never been truer, because once you taste Chef Jae’s food his works speaks for itself and it will leave you speechless.  

Follow On The Following Platforms

www.PLANTATUDE.com

Facebook – plantatude

Personal IG – jae_chef_miami / Business IG – plantatude

Twitter – plantatude

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Black Bean Burgers

Lots of people in my life ask me questions about vegan and vegetarian recipes and I try to incorporate them as much as possible. My sister is vegetarian and I’m always trying to help her be a better home cook, but also keep flavor in the forefront. The great thing about black bean burgers is that you can dress them up how you want so you are not put in a box with a 1 note meal. You can add pickled vegetables to it and have a Banh Mi inspired burger or you can just go classic and keep it close to home. The best thing about this recipe is that by using flavored chips as your binder you can also influence the way the actual patty tastes. On top of that if you are like most people, you want to be able to freeze these and not have to make them to order.

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Black bean burgers get a bad reputation for being plain, tasteless, or just dry.  These will not only stay juicy and filled with flavor, but they are anything but plain.  You need a binder to make sure the burger doesn’t fall apart and by using Doritos (Nacho Cheese) chips you can have a punch of flavor from the inside out.  This is just the begging, you can try out different flavors and see which one really speaks to your tastebuds the most.  

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Chef Le’Keith Wright

“What sparked my interest in this vast culinary world would have been when a representative from Johnson & Wales came to my high school. During the demonstration they showed me there was more to cooking than what I’ve just been doing at home cooking simple meals for my little sister, brother, and mother”

Chef Le’Keith

Executive Chef

“I really am nice once they get to know me”

Chef Le’Keith has had his fair share of excitement in his 12 years of cooking professionally.  This comes as no surprise if you have ever been to Santiago’s Bodega on a busy day.  Even before becoming the Executive Chef of this Spanish Tapas style restaurant, he was never having a dull moment having worked at all 3 location all over Florida.  With everything thrown at him each day, Le’Keith is more than prepared because he has a strong culinary foundation to rely on.  Even before attending both Le Cordon Bleu and The Art Institute, he was inspired to go to culinary school by a recruiter from Johnson and Wales.  “A representative came to our high school for a demonstration and showed me there was more to cooking than what I’ve just been doing at home for my little sister and brother or from what my mom taught me.”  

After getting taste of making food that people fall in love with there was no stopping him from continuing on the path to become a chef.  At his core he believes that a chef means to “be creative without boundaries, it’s an endless world of knowledge that you can only limit yourself on.  Training someone to love what you do and hopefully they love it as much as you do is the best feeling”.  This also explains his attitude towards anyone who looks down or doesn’t regard chefs with a high esteem in the professional world.  According to Le’Keith “there are few things in this world we need to survive, food that taste great is one of those things which is why chefs are needed”.  This mentality defiantly is solidified when you can walk into a dinning room each night after service and see the guests happy and satisfied with you and your teams hard work. 

This Florida native hasn’t always been in one place through, he actually ventured out onto something many chefs are afraid of, cruise ships.  Now most chefs and cooks will say that the sheer work on cruise ships keeps them away, but for Le’Keith he overcame something much worse to work there.  The worse thing that can happen while floating on a ship is to get sea sick, well imagine working for months with that feeling everyday.  This just shows how determined, or stubborn Le’Keith is when he puts his mind to something and says he will accomplish it.  He expresses this advice to new line cook as well  “listen, take notes, always be willing to help and jump in to learn as much as you can.  Don’t kill yourself over a job that will replace you in a heartbeat”.   As for now you can catch Chef Le’Keith in Florida making delicious food and before the year is out you can learn some techniques from him if you tune into his new cooking show that’s he is bringing to YouTube, “Cooking the Wright Way”.  

Follow On The Following Platforms

Facebook – Le’Keith Wright

Instagram – chefwright21

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Chef Patrick Farrell

I agree Chefs don’t get the same spotlight as other professions, its hard to say it’s not easy to take it personally, after all our job is to cook for others, lord knows we rarely go to the extremes to cook for ourselves!

Patrick Farrell 

Personal Chef / Sous Chef – Flower Child

In the Highly stressful arena of being a chef, it’s important for self care. For me that comes in finding myself in nature, whether it’s a local park, mountains, or back patio. I always try and escape to nature for relief. One of my goals is to always watch the sunset when I am able to.

Patrick Farrell is a Colorado native, but he’s also a Georgia boy at heart.  Born in Colorado Springs, he spent the majority of his life growing up in Georgia.  He even attended culinary school there at The Art Institute of Atlanta. Most of 2019 Chef Patrick resided in Nashville where he was a Private Chef for a high profile client.  This is a big job, because as a Private Chef you don’t just cook a meal for a family and leave.  It means that you are responsible for that family and you meal plan, cook 3 or more meals a day, take care of other employee food needs, and also sometimes clean too.  By the end of 2019 Chef Patrick was called back to the snowy mountains of Colorado, where he now is a Sous Chef by day at Flower Child, and Snowboarder on the weekends.  Transitioning back into restaurants as a Sous Chef was a big change, but he also took his Private Chef knowledge and is transitioning into a Personal Chef.  Becoming a Personal Chef means that he can use his years of experience and bring his flavors to lots of clients and not just one family at a time.  This new path really brings his culinary journey full circle because cooking for his family is what made him fall in love with cooking.

“I fell in Love with cooking with a lack of food experience. I grew up eating a lot of tv dinners, frozen pot pies, hamburger helper, due to being raised by single mother who had me at 17, wasn’t a lot of knowledge of food in my household growing up. Once I got old enough to experiment on my own in high school I fell in love with the flavors of food and the magic of turning raw ingredients into delicious works of art to enjoy, but more importantly share with others!”  This sums up the type of chef that Patrick is, but most importantly the kind of person he is because he is always thinking of ways to help others.  “To me being a chef means knowing how to take fresh ingredients and turning them into something delightful, all while utilizing as much as you can with minimal food waste, managing time to make sure everything comes together harmoniously, and keeping a well organized and clean workstation. All while telling a story to guest without having to say anything at all, or taking others on a journey without leaving the dining room table.”  

Two things that you will take away from working with Chef Patrick is that he has an amazing work ethic and integrity in and out of the kitchen.  These qualities are not just something he suddenly woke up with, he was influenced by other amazing chefs along the way.  “The most influential Chef to date on my career would be my former executive chef I worked for In Beaver Creek, Co. David Gutowski. He showed me what it took to become more driven, focused, detail oriented, and overall how approach the role as a professional above a title.”  With all that has been put in his path, some would become jaded or pessimistic, but Patrick remains a beacon of light and all around great guy.  Not taking any day for granted and living each moment like it’s the last, you taste this positivity in his cuisine as well.  “I’d say the proudest moment of my career is the current moment of my career, reflecting on where I have come and the people I’ve met memories I’ve made along the way really make me value and appreciate my career path.”  Next time you are in the mile high city make sure to hire Chef Patrick for any culinary needs or stop by his restaurant to just invoke a new satisfaction for your taste buds.  

I think that the biggest miss conception of being a chef that we eat so well. Im lucky to sit down and eat one meal during a work day.

Follow On The Following Platforms

Instagram – P_L_Phunk

Facebook – Patrick Farrell

Email – pfchef@yahoo.com

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ChefLeen

The lady who hired me and then basically forced me to quit 2.5 years later when I was beginning to be her equal. It was my first job at an amazing house and I was so excited and learned so much from her. She was a great chef but left about a month into me working there. In her absence I really grew into my own and when she came back I wanted to run the kitchen together but she was not having that. She reduced my hours and I realized there was no longer opportunity for growth within the job, so I had to leave. It was a tough but important lesson to learn.  In a way she forced me into becoming who I am today.

Chef Kathleen – Chefleen

Star of Real Life Cooking / Private Chef / Chopped Champion

“Black and brown people come in many shades literally and figuratively and it’s about time media reflects that.”

Chef Kathleen, or to most people who know her as simply Chefleen in a force of nature that has just begun to make a stir.  If you’re thinking to yourself that you might know her, it’s because you probably do seeing that she has been making her mark on the food scene for quite some time now.  Being in the the elite class of Chefs that have won “Chopped” on Food Network and also just being featured in the New York Times for her TV show that she also stars in “Real Life Cooking with Chefleen” she is well on her way to becoming a household name.  Before become a Private Chef to the stars and a well known Chef to all, she was just a young girl in Southern California who knew she would go into the culinary field because she simply says “I have always loved to eat”.  

Now as important as loving to eat is when you want to go into the culinary field, you might want to have more up your sleeve when jumping into it and Kathleen realized this early on.  Like most ambitions people Kathleen stacked her deck by getting a degree from UC Berkeley before later going to Le Cordon Bleu in Hollywood.  Not every Chef needs a degree, but all business owners should know how to run their business and being a Private Chef is a business that is like no other.  Don’t take my word for it though just hear her job description for yourself, “I have like a 100 things going on at all times. I maintain my lifestyle by doing meal prep for 5-10 different clients all over New York City, sometimes doing up to three clients a day! The logistics and work load of this is a lot, yet I’m still navigating finding a place in food media. I truly love teaching people how to cook so I do a weekly live stream, Real Life Cooking with Chefleen, a cook-along show where we make a meal from start to finish in under an hour with no tv magic. In addition, I throw events called Lovers & Friends were I bring back the magic of a dinner party and provide people with an elevated experience out of the norm.”  It’s hard to believe that one person can do so many things and stay sane, but with an amazing team beside her she does it all and always leaves space open for new opportunities too.

Not knowing Kathleen personally you might see this path that she’s on as one for fame and fortune, but that’s not the case.  She stays grounded because that’s not how she views being a chef, “Being a chef is about giving and making people happy.  That’s why my main focus is’t really about getting Michelin Stars or needing to be the best chef, but truly about spreading the joy of cooking.  I think the magic in the kitchen is found in the connection people feel to the food and the to each other while eating it.” This philosophy is better understood if you attend one of her “Lovers & Friends” events where the connection to the people around you and the food is like no other.  With all of this on her plate, yoga and working out really help her to keep her life in balance, which is important because if you aren’t 100 percent you can’t give 100 percent.  There is no doubt in my mind that Kathleen will be not only someone revered in the culinary world, but also a staple and example for future Chefs.  There should no surprise that Kathleen has lots coming up, but her path to get there is her own. “Right now I’m really focused on how to create the future I desire but while still finding the adventure in everyday life. I truly believe in living in the moment and making the mundane extraordinary.”

Follow On The Following Platforms

Facebook – Chefleen

Instagram – Chefleen

www.chefleen.com