- Where did you grow up?
I was born in New Brunswick, NJ, but I moved to Maryland after my grandmother passed away in 3rd grade. During my first year of college, I moved to Florida and lived there for 9 years. Once I got married, I moved with my husband to wherever the military stationed him. I was in Iceland for 2 years, followed by Germany for 4 years, and now I’m based in Idaho.
- Where do you work?
I do corporate events and catering in Idaho. I also drive a food truck called “Brown Shuga Soul Food” and teach culinary skills at a high school. During the holidays, I help out at the Boise Rescue Mission.
- What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?
Knives and mandolines. With a mandoline, you can make nice, uniform slices of carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. Having good knives and tools makes you way more effective in the kitchen. You have less accidents with sharp knives because you aren’t trying so hard to make the cut.
- What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?
Sense of taste – not everyone tastes their food as they cook, but they should. Sense of touch as well. I have what I call “hot hands” – I can pick things up that other people can’t.
- What advice would you offer aspiring chefs?
Lighten up. You will make mistakes, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Your training will always get you out of a pinch, so remember your training.
- What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?
Knife skills – know what knife to use for what job. Also, know how to make your “mother sauces”: your Consommé, Brown Sauce, and White Sauce.
- What does good food mean to you?
Food that doesn’t have to be expensive. Plain, down-home, country cooking!
- What trends do you see emerging in the near future?
Locally grown foods are big. A lot more microgreens are being used. Breweries and wineries are popping up everywhere. Sous-vide is becoming popular – the method of sealing your food in an airtight plastic bag and placing it in a water bath to cook.
- What features are important to you when selecting a Chef Coat (any particular fabric, style, sleeve length, pockets)?
I like the poly/cotton blend, as well as mesh vents under the arms or on the back. I always wear long sleeves to protect my arms, and I have to have a pocket on the front of the coat.
- What is your go-to chef outfit? Do you prefer coats, tees, pants, shorts, aprons, hats, etc.?
Long sleeve chef coat, cargo pants, baseball cap, and tennis shoes. I always color-coordinate my shoes and hat.
- Favorite ingredient to work with?
Grits. I am a Southern girl at heart – I grew up eating grits with all my meals. I’m trying to get people in Idaho to embrace grits!
- Favorite city to dine out in?
Portland, OR – this is where food trucks started. Great restaurants there. I have to go to Voodoo Donuts every time before I leave.
- Best dish you have ever made?
Shrimp and grits, with collard greens.
- Place you eat most often on your days off?
I don’t dine out much. I cook a lot at home. I tend to be very critical of other peoples’ food. My favorite restaurant is Tucanos Brazilian Grill.
- Person you would most like to cook for?
President Obama, Bobby Flay, and Giada De Laurentiis.
- What made you decide to become a chef?
I’ve always had a passion for cooking. I started out baking custom cakes for military balls and decided to open my own bakery when I outgrew my kitchen. At first I just walked around with a basket of muffins, going to stores and seeing if my muffins would sell before opening my own restaurant. This was what I called a “muffin run”. I finally started my food truck in 2011 and love it. My favorite thing is seeing peoples’ reactions after taking their first bite.
- What is new on your DVR?
I don’t have a DVR, but I watch a lot of Netflix. I love The Great Food Truck Race, The Great British Bake Off, as well as Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, The Voice, and American Idol.
Stay Tuned for more from Yvonne, including recipes and tips! Congratulations to our Chef of the Month!