After serving ten years in the U.S. Navy as a Personal and Private Chef, Chef Jacoby Ponder established FireSyde Chef & Co. in 2010. Ponder created FireSyde Chef to provide quality personal and private chef services to Hampton Roads, Virginia. He has received his extensive culinary arts and business management training at The Culinary Arts Institute of Virginia and ECPI University – graduating with both an Associates and Bachelors as a Private & Personal Chef.
With over a decade of experience in culinary arts, hospitality and business management, Ponder has acquired culinary skills to work in upscale environments. Ponder provides five-star meals for Admirals, foreign dignitaries, senior government executives, movie stars and celebrities alike. He has prepared dishes for names such as President George H. W. Bush, Bruce Willis, Vivica A. Fox, as well as reality television personalities on TLC’s “The SisterHood.” Ponder was a finalist on the Food Network hit show “Chopped”, where he placed as runner-up in the grueling Military Salute episode (Season 15, Episode 8) and now an uncontested win in September 2015 on Food Network’s latest and toughest hit series “CUTTHROAT KITCHEN.”
He is also very involved in his community and has been apart of the Virginia Beach Farmers Market (Featured Chef for Healthy Cooking and Wellness), Norfolk Public Schools (Chefs Move to School), Eat Fresh Buy Local (Featured Chef to Promote Buy Local Initiatives) and VA Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Cooking Matters).
Congratulations Chef Ponder on being our Chef of the Month for February!
Birthplace: Monroe, Ga.
Where do you work and where are you based?
I work for myself (Private and Personal Chef) for the Hampton Roads Area of Va.
I am also the owner of Norfolk Kitchen Lab in Norfolk Va. that just opened. Nestled in the heart of the River View Community ( Norfolk), the Norfolk Kitchen Lab is your new place to experience food excellence and Chefs at their absolute best. With 3 engagement platforms, all culinary enthusiasts can live out their kitchen aspirations in the following ways:
– By renting a standard fully equipped kitchen for food prep,
– By becoming a student of private cooking classes and learning the finer points in regards to nutrition and healthy eating, and
– By attending a monthly 7 course “Chefs round table” meal to enjoy a display of unmatched skills of the Chefs & Staff.
With several ways to interact and entertain (not to mention the sole use of fresh produce grown in 4 neighboring greenhouses), the Norfolk Kitchen Lab stands to be the newest and most prolific addition to the downtown area.
What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?
My favorite Kitchen tool is my knife! I love creating dishes from fresh and local grown ingredients.
What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?
My sense of smell!
What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?
Don’t be afraid to take chances, and be adaptable to change.
What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?
Be forever humble and also be a student of the Craft.
What does good food mean to you?
Good food to me means a dish that is well thought out and smells good! Also taste even better, to make one reminisce.
What trends do you see emerging in the near future?
Most certainly a trend is a marriage of fresh locally grown ingredients, I see the industry moving to an “Eat Fresh Buy Local” theme.
What features are important to you when selecting a Chef Coat? (Particular fabric, style, sleeve length, pockets)
Features like button styles, and fabric type like light fabrics that are flexible. Something that is urban and looks fashionable.
What is your go-to chef outfit? Do you prefer coats, tees, pants, shorts, aprons, hats, etc.?
My go-to-outfit that I prefer would definitely be tees, pants and hats. I prefer Chef Jackets whenever I’m in a management capacity.
Favorite ingredient to work with?
My favorite ingredient(s) to work with are fresh herbs and spices. I feel that they dictate the flavor profile of the dish which is very important.
Favorite City to eat out in?
My favorite city to eat out in would have to be between San Francisco or San Diego, anywhere in the bay area!
Best Dish you have ever made?
The best dish I have ever made would have to be my famous Herb Crusted Salmon.
Place you eat most often on your days off?
I love to eat at this one place in Norfolk Va. – Todd Jurich Bistro…… They have the best truffle fries ever!
Person you would most like to cook for?
I would love to cook for …..Umm…I don’t know. I’ve already cooked for the President so, I’ll have to think more on this question….
What is new on your DVR?
The latest episode of Food Network show Chopped!