Tag Archives: Chef interview

October 2018 Chef of the Month Morghan Medlock

We are so excited to introduce our October 2018 Chef of the Month, Chef Morghan Medlock! Chef Morghan is one of a kind – she went from playing basketball to whipping up masterpieces in the kitchen. Chef Morghan has all aspects of the meal perfected from breakfast to dessert. Read below to find out more fun facts about our October Chef of the Month and her new found love of cooking.

1. Where were you born?

Pasadena, California

2. Where do you work and where are you based?

I am self employed personal chef and food blogger.

3. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

My favorite kitchen tool when creating mater piece dishes is my Chef’s knife that was gifted to me upon graduation of culinary school.

4. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

My sharpest sense out of all my senses is taste.

5. What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?

The advice I’d offer aspiring chefs is that if their heart and soul is not on the kitchen then please get out of it. Food is emotional and takes everything you have to produce a delicious dish.

6. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

One tip every chef should know and perfect is the ability to adjust on the fly. Stuff happens in the kitchen at any given moment and as a chef your job is to be able to transform mistakes into masterpieces.

7. What does good food mean to you?

Good food to me means a dish that takes my soul on a ride as I fork around the plate. Or a dish that triggers a memory or inspires me to create.

8. What features are important to you when selecting your chef outfit?

The features important to me when selecting a chef outfit are color, fit and style all of which should tell someone who I am without me having to utter a word.

9. Favorite ingredient to work with?

Favorite ingredient to work with is an egg because you can literally put it in or on almost anything and call it brunch if you want. Not to mention it’s a hell of a binding agent. when baking.

10. Favorite City to dine out in?

Favorite City to dine out in is Houston, Texas.

11. Best Dish you have ever made?

The best dish I have ever made was a braised squid ink pasta.

12. What you like to eat most often on your days off?

I like to eat all things brunch on my days off.

13. Person you would most like to cook for?

The person I would most like to cook for is Gordon Ramsay.

14. What made you decide to become a chef?

I decided to become a chef because it is the only thing that makes me feel alive as I did when I played basketball (my first career). It’s the only other way for me to entertain a crowd, inspire people, and tell my story like I did with basketball. And lastly so my kid would never have to grow up in a drive thru at a fast food spot.

Connect with our October Chef of the Month:

Instagram: @chefmorghan

Facebook: Morghan Medlock


Gridiron Grill-Off 2018 Chef Spotlight: Chef Rey De La Osa

If you are a true Floridian, you have a huge appreciation for Publix! Chef Rey De La Osa is the Resident Chef for Publix Aprons in Plantation, FL. Check out his culinary journey and what he has to say about participating in Gridiron Grill-Off Wine, Food & Music Festival for his third year in a row!

I joined Publix in 1999 to work in customer service. While attending Johnson & Wales University, I worked at The Four Seasons Hotel in Miami. In 2008, I transferred to the Prepared Foods Department at Publix Greenwise Market in Boca Raton to pursue his culinary career. I began working at the Apron’s Cooking School in 2010 to share his culinary passion with others.  I am now the Resident Chef in our Plantation location. Together with the Apron’s staff, we want students to “learn to have fun in the kitchen!”

1. Who inspired you to become a Chef?

I’d say my mom inspired me as she can put a great meal together with just about any ingredients she had laying around. I also watched a lot of Food Network when I was younger back when it was just starting.

2. What nationalities or trends inspire your cuisine?

Having my Latin background, it’s my biggest influence however I like different ethnic foods. I love creating recipes that fuse 2 or more ethnicities.

3. What is one of your favorite ingredients and why?

I love garlic!!!! Obviously it’s very versatile but I find a way to put some garlic in anything. No one can disagree with some roasted garlic spread on a nice piece of bread!

4. Why did you decide to participate in the Gridiron Grill-Off on November 11?

This would be my 3rd year, participating. Personally, I believe in the great causes it helps support. The event is very well organized for the chefs and guests.

5. What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s Gridiron Grill-Off Food, Wine and Music Festival?

Where to begin? I look forward to working with Mark Duper once again. I’m really excited that it’s now a multi-day event with the concert series. The BBQ pit master competition is going to be really cool for guests to check out and taste some great food. Lastly the corn hole competition is a must!!

6. Any recommendations for those planning to attend the Gridiron Grill-Off for the first time?

Bring an appetite and plan on staying the entire day as there is lots to do. Make sure you download the Gridiron Grill off app and vote for your favorite! (It’ll be ours)


Find Chef Rey at the Gridiron Grill-Off!

Connect with the Gridiron Grill-Off!

Get Your Tickets!

Instagram: @gridirongrilloff

Facebook: Gridiron Grill-Off Food, Wine & Music Festival

Twitter: @GridironGriller

Follow Chef Rey on Instagram: @el_chef_rey

September 2018 Chef of the Month Penelope Wong


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We are thrilled to introduce our September Chef of the Month, Chef Penelope Wong! Since childhood, Chef Penelope has spent her life in the kitchen, from working at her family’s restaurant to being the Executive Chef at Glenmoor Country Club in Colorado. She displays her passion for food in her dishes and in her diligent work towards learning something new every day. Chef Penelope will soon be exploring new goals in the world of cuisine! Read below to find out more about Chef Penelope Wong!

1. Where were you born? Denver, Colorado

Where do you work and where are you based? I am currently the Executive Chef at Glenmoor Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, CO.  I’ve been here for 20 years and have been the Executive Chef for the last 14 years.  I will be finishing up my tenure here in September of 2018 to pursue other goals.

2. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

I’m very old fashioned.  While I love my tweezers and my chef spoons, when it comes to kitchen tools I’m pretty simple, my favorite knife is my Messermeister Oliva santoku knife and a well-seasoned sauté pan that’s great for getting a perfect sear on a beautiful fish fillet as well as finishing a pan sauce in. I don’t even own a gnocchi board; whenever I make gnocchi (which is quite often), I use the back of a fork to shape them!

3. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

Hmmmmm…that’s a toss up between smell and taste.  I’ve got an extremely keen palette for layering of flavors and can easily pin point missing layers. And most times I can easily detect which items are being prepped by the aromas wafting through the kitchens and throughout the clubhouse.

4. What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?

 Never stop learning.  The greatest thing about this industry is that there is ALWAYS something to learn.  Whether you’ve been classically trained, or you grew up in restaurants your whole life, there is something new to learn every single day in the kitchen.  Humility is the gateway to knowledge. I come in to my kitchen everyday with the hopes of learning something new, whether it be from one of my dishwashers regarding cuisine from their childhood or from one of my fellow managers in how they dealt with a difficult situation.

5. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

If there’s ever just a little something missing and you can’t place your finger on it, add a splash of vinegar. It’ll brighten all the flavors you’ve already infused into the dish and add another layer.

6. What does good food mean to you?

Good food is everything.  Good food is nostalgia and integrity to me.  My integrity as a chef is because of the flavors of my childhood.  Most of my childhood memories center around food, and most of it involved my large family and close friends.  If you think about it, have you ever had a bad memory in which good food was involved?  Bad memories and good food simply cannot coexist.

7. What features are important to you when selecting your chef outfit?

Especially as a woman, comfort and durability are key.  I’ve purchased chef coats in the past that were cut ‘for a woman’s shape’ only to find out they were tailored to help accentuate a woman’s shape rather than to fit a woman’s shape.  When I’m in the kitchen all day prepping for service, prepping for large events, getting through service, going through inventories on order days and breaking down boxes on delivery days, I could really care less that my chef’s coat accentuated my womanly shape.  A woman’s chef coat and pants should fit her body with comfort and provide ease of movement that comes with being a working chef.

8. Favorite ingredient to work with?

Kaffir Lime

9. Favorite City to dine out in?


10. Best Dish you have ever made?

Yum Kai Dao – Thai fried eggs.  This was one of my father’s favorite dishes to eat. Although maybe not the best dish I’ve ever made; but one of the tastiest.  Most people have a misperception about chefs being difficult to please.  But this is one of my favorite dishes to cook and eat.  It’s rice and eggs.  It doesn’t take much more than that to satisfy chefs.

11. What you like to eat most often on your days off?

Noodles.  I’m a sucker for noodles.  Chinese hand pulled noodles. Thai noodles. Pho noodles. Pasta noodles. Dumplings (technically still a noodle, just flattened and stuffed with something!)

12. Person you would most like to cook for?

My mother.  She passed when I was 16; and although many childhood memories include dishes that she taught me how to make, I never had the opportunity to cook a meal for her when I finally took on this profession as a career.

13. What made you decide to become a chef?

The passion for food is in my blood.  As a child, I was always more interested in what was going on in the kitchen rather than running around with my cousins and playing.  I was always wanting to learn in the kitchen and when I was finally allowed to help in the kitchen with the matriarchs in my family during Sunday dinners, I remember how proud I was of myself to finally earn the privilege of being included in this weekly ritual.  When I turned 12, I would go to my family’s restaurant to help out on the weekends, and rather than staying in the front of the house to help seat people or ring people up, I ended up in the kitchen everyday helping my father and grandfather with prep and eventually getting through services.

Connect with Our September Chef of the Month:

Instagram: @penelopewong


July 2018 Chef of the Month Andres Sen Sang

We are so excited to introduce our July Chef of the Month, Chef Andres Sen Sang!  He is a recent winner of Chef Showdown 8 with his signature Quinoa Latina and Chili 35 dish. If you do not find him in the kitchen as the Executive Chef for Suyo, a GastoFusion restuarant in the Bronx, you can find him with his family or working on his own business ventures – Eighty6Brand. Read below to find out more about Chef Andres!

1. Where were you born?

I was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador. After High School, I came to the states with my father and brother to visit. My father asked me if I wanted to go back home or stay in the states and I chose to stay. It was one of the best decisions I made in my life!

2. Where do you work and where are you based?

I am currently the Executive Chef at Suyo GastroFusion in the Bronx. It’s a New Restaurant and Bar in the Bronx serving Peruvian and Asian infused dishes. We just released the Bar menu and will be releasing the Dinner menu in a few weeks. We are bringing progressive/ modern cuisine to the Bronx. Now you don’t have to go to the city to get that kind of dining experience. The Bronx is where it’s at right now, we are really up and coming.

3. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

My favorite tool in the kitchen is my knife that I got while I was at The International Culinary Center. I decorated the end of the knife with yellow, blue and red tape to represent my Ecuadorian flag. I’m proud of where I came from.

4. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

I would have to say my sight and touch – these two go together for me. I use my sight to take in my surroundings. I look at colors, shapes and sizes and then I also feel the texture of things. I combine these things to create my dishes. This is why they go hand in hand.

5. What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?

My advice for aspiring chefs would be to keep grinding. You have to keep motivating yourself daily. Always be consistent in your work and always maintain a good work ethic. Make connections with people everywhere you go, networking is a powerful thing in this industry. Stay humble and grateful for all the opportunities you get. Don’t ever be afraid to fail, it actually turns out to be a great lesson for next time.

6. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

I would say to always listen and pay attention to details. Always make sure that your kitchen is organized. Your stations should be prepped and set for success. A successful Chef once told me, “always be proactive not reactive.” That has really stuck with me.

7. What does good food meant to you?

Good food to me means that it was cooked with love and passion. Good food is that type of food that you always remember exactly where you were, who you were with and how delicious and satisfying the food was. It becomes more than just good food, it becomes a memorable dining experience.

8. What features are important to you when selecting your chef outfit?

Bronx Chefs are all about swag. You don’t necessarily have to be professional all the time, but you should always look clean. I’m all about a fitted hat, ripped jeans and sneakers. It should be comfortable and allow me to move. It’s a new generation out here and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

9. Favorite ingredient to work with?

Salt and pepper. Sometimes these two ingredients are all you need… oh and love. Salt, pepper and love.

10. Favorite City to dine out in?

I would have to say my hometown of Guayaquil. I mean, there is nothing more satisfying that food from your home town. It’s delicious and nostalgic.

11. Best Dish you have ever made?

Sesame crusted Salmon with Sesame Edamame Mash and Jicama tossed in Ginger Carrot Miso Dressing.

12. What you like to eat most often on your days off?

Days off, what are those?!?! Just kidding… On the rare occasion that I get a day off I like to have a nice piece of steak with a baked potato and a beer.

13. Person you would most like to cook for?

I would most like to cook for my parents. They are back in Ecuador and I have not had the honor of cooking for them as of yet. I hope to make it happen soon.

14. What made you decide to become a chef?

First of all, I never in my life imagined that I was going to be a Chef. I got my first job in this industry in the bakery at Virgil’s BBQ in NYC. I took the job because I was young and needed money. I slowly realized that I actually liked what I was doing. I worked my way up from that position. As I worked my way up, my passion for cooking grew. It just came so natural. I guess it was my “calling” as people put it. I couldn’t have made this all happen without support from my wife, family and friends. I truly love what I do and I love the journey I’ve taken to get here.

Connect with Our July Chef of the Month:

Instagram: @chef_andy_one

Facebook: Andres Sen Sang


June 2018 Chef of the Month Julie Herrera-Lemler


YBC-Pic 2018 3
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We are excited to introduce you to our June Chef of the Month, Chef Julie Herrera-Lemler! She is an prize-winning baker as well as a jack of all trades! If she is not baking, you can find her teaching baking classes, public speaking or even officiating weddings! Read below for more on our June Chef of the Month and her tips and tricks to having a successful career in baking!

1. Where were you born? 

I was born in San Jose, CA.

 2. Where do you work and where are you based?

I am the owner of You Betcha Cupcake! In Rochester, MN

 3. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

I have a couple favorite kitchen tools. I love Several different sized cookie scoops.  These are essential for measuring just the right amount of batter for different sized cupcakes. I also need baking tips for creating different frosting looks to accompany the perfect garnish. Finally, I must have my multi kitchen timer – because a busy girl has a million things going at once.  Mine has four timers on it – all with different alarm tones.

 4. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

My eyes. Everyone eats with their eyes first. Details and neatness matters. If you have a beautiful dish – that is the very first impression of what’s to come.

  5. What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?

I have a couple of things. Volunteer in a kitchen whenever you can. Get the experience of working in different kitchens with different people. Another tip is to find yourself a mentor.  A good mentor (or two) will guide you on the right path.

 6. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

Be organized. Set everything up prior to your start and you won’t have to run around looking for things.

  7. What does good food meant to you?

Good food makes everyone happy. Everyone has to eat but I means something when you take the time, make it right and it turns out good/great!

 8. What features are important to you when selecting your chef outfit? 

Color and comfort are most important.

 9. Favorite ingredient to work with? 

Berries. Berries are not only delicious but they are beautiful in any dish. The color of berries is like no other.

 10. Favorite City to dine out in? 

My own! Rochester, MN has many new places and has become quite the culinary town in the last couple of years.

 11. Best Dish you have ever made? 

Key Lime PIE Cupcakes. They are my prize winning cupcakes. It is made with a homemade pie crust at the bottom, a key lime cake, key lime cream cheese and butter frosting and a fresh raspberry on top.

 12. What you like to eat most often on your days off? 

Anything Asian!

 13. Person you would most like to cook for? 

My father. He passed away before seeing me thrive in my elements of baking. Before he passed, he told me he liked my cooking.  That has stuck with me to this day.  Although he enjoyed my cooking, I know he would have enjoyed my sweet treats.

 14. What made you decide to become a chef?

My passion started with a bake sale for charity. I held it two years in a row and by the end of the second year; I discovered that I really had a passion for creating beautiful small treats.

Connect with Our June Chef of the Month:

Website: http://www.youbetchacupcake.com/

Instagram: @youbetchacupcake

Facebook: You Betcha Cupcake

Twitter: @YouBetchaCupcak

May 2018 Chef of the Month Will Staten

Meet Chef Will Staten, we’re happy to

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 introduce him as our May 2018 Chef of the Month! Chef Staten is the founder and head chef of Ragin’ Cajun Cookin’, Dubs’ Rubs Spice Line and Dubs’ Po’ Boy Shop. You can find him in Las Vegas cooking or working on special projects. Read below to find out more about Chef Will Staten!

 1. Where were you born? 

I was born in Maine, but due to my parents both being in the military, we traveled the United States and the world living in various cities, states and countries.

 2. Where do you work and where are you based? 

I own and operate Ragin’ Cajun Cookin’, which is a private chef, catering & restaurant consulting business. We are currently finishing up the outfitting of a food truck as well as creating a restaurant/service industry hospitality group to go along with a site location for 2 cafes and grab-n-go’s.

3. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

My favorite kitchen tool for creating dishes has got to be my spoons from Chef Spoons. They allow me to precisely place each ingredient where needed, plus they give me the ability to mix perfectly and taste test as I cook.

 4. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

My sharpest sense would probably have to be my ears and nose (yes 2). My reasoning is because you should be able to actually hear when food is done, as well as smell when something is good or bad. I know when fried chicken is done by the sound it makes (or stops making), much like I know when gumbo is finished or ruined, by the smell it gives off.

 5. What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?

The advice I’d give young chefs would be the advice that was given to me as a teenager and throughout college while earning my degrees. Enjoy it to the fullest and learn as much as you can. When you feel you know everything about the business, it’s time for you to walk away because you no longer can offer anyone anything due to being closed-minded.

 6. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

With my expertise being in the Cajun-Creole realm, I would personally have to say every chef should know how to make a roux. Not just one type, but multiple types since they cover many different dishes and cuisines.

 7. What does good food mean to you?

Good food means that people are smiling, their mouths are full, and their bellies are content. Good food is the feeling of always wanting more, yet knowing when to stop as to not get tired of the cuisine or style of cooking.

 8. What features are important to you when selecting your chef outfit? 

The features I look for most when selecting my chef outfits are those that represent my personality, my character, my interests and my culinary view. I like contrasting colors because it represents my understanding of the Yin-Yang concept, the give and take of the culinary world and life.

 9. Favorite ingredient to work with? 

My favorite ingredient to work with has got to be garlic. There’s so many ways to incorporate it and have different effects on the dish and the palate. From fried garlic and black garlic, to garlic paste and garlic infused oils, the possibilities are endless.

 10. Favorite City to dine out in? 

From living in many places and doing business and vacations across the globe, I’ve got to say that my hometown of Las Vegas is my favorite dine-out city. I have friends in many restaurants and because we are now the “Culinary Capital of the World”, how could I NOT pick Vegas?!

 11. Best Dish you have ever made? 

Judging by my belief, my daughter’s, my wife’s, friends or clients, there is a different answer for each. In my personal opinion, I would have to say my Jambalaya. It’s what everyone knows me for in every city I travel to.

 12. What you like to eat most often on your days off? 

On my days off I think I’m like every other chef. I like to eat steak, bacon cheeseburgers and tacos. Simple stuff that takes no time and little cleanup (if done right).

 13. Person you would most like to cook for? 

I’ve cooked for many world renowned chefs in the past, but I would say I would love to cook for Paul Prudhomme and Justin Wilson (if they were still alive) or Leah Chase, as they represent the style of cooking that I have adopted through years of tradition, learning and experiences.

 14. What made you decide to become a chef?

I actually stumbled on to becoming a chef because of the redundant and crappy meals my parents would always make. I got my first job at 15 years old and started experimenting with the ingredients we had at the restaurant where I worked. Because the choice was mine to create something new or stick with the regular menu items, I never got bored of what I got to eat. Being creative lead me to many different careers within culinary and even the martial arts world, which in turn was a mirror image of culinary.

Connect with Our May Chef of the Month:

Website: https://www.ragincajuncookin.com/

Instagram: @theblackbeltchef

Facebook: Ragin’ Cajun Cookin’

Twitter: @ragincajuncookn

December 2016 Chef of the Month Rod Knight

chef-rod-jump-with-hat2Can you believe 2016 is coming to a close already? We are extremely excited to showcase our last Chef of the Month for the year: Chef Rod Knight!

We guarantee this is one Chef of the Month you don’t want to miss! Chef Rod went above and beyond and his step-by-step recipes are incredible. Read more about his life and chef career below and make sure to check back next week for his first recipe!

1. Birthplace: Danbury, Connecticut

2. Where do you work and where are you based?

I work at a French brasserie called Thursdays on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

3. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

My favorite kitchen tool is the vacuum chamber machine. It allows me to literally marinate or pickle something within seconds. It significantly cuts down a lot of time and the amount of waste. Plus, once you vacuum an item it increases the shelf life exponentially.

4. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

Interesting, I think that my sense of touch is my sharpest sense. I have never cut myself more than a nick and I think that has to do with my sense of touch.

5. What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?

I would say stay curious and focus intently on the details. Good dishes are a combination of very small parts that are put together well. Make sure you are aware of how you communicate. How you communicate is a very important part of being a chef because how you speak and what you say translates to everyone you work with and it will literally better the team.

6. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

Keep your pans hot. You aren’t going to get far without hot pans.

7. What does good food mean to you?

Good food to me is something that is exciting to share with others. It also takes into account health and nutrition. I believe you can’t untwine the two. What we are eating and how we are eating but it has to be good for you. Also, good food is fresh with fresh ingredients. I guess to sum it up good food is passion on a plate.

8. What trends do you see emerging in the near future?

There’s been a lot of talk about no tipping. All of the servers’ wages and all of the food prices would get raised to cover the no tipping paradigm. Personally, I think if companies do raise the minimum wage, they will expect more from the employees.

I see a lot more with digital cloud services for cooks training and communication. I think we are going to see a breakdown of titles and positions and see more of the cooks and prep cooks taking on more responsibility which would allow the chefs on duty to administer more effectively. With everything online we are learning faster and quicker and the guys on my team who are in school ask me questions that stump me all the time. On a broader level, this will lead to a lot more creativity to make the things.

9. What features are important to you when selecting a Chef Coat? (particular fabric, style, sleeve length, pockets)

I definitely go with a short sleeve. I like to go with styles that breathe easy. I do like a more traditional style but with a modern fresh approach. I am slim, so I prefer a slimmer fit. I don’t like button ups. The coats I have now have material like Nike dry fit that wicks away moisture and are light weight.

10. What is your go-to chef outfit? Do you prefer coats, tees, pants, shorts, aprons, hats, etc?

For my go-to workwear, I usually wear a cargo style black pant. I typically wear one of my white chef coats. Sometimes I will wear a cap but I always wear crocs.

11. Favorite ingredient to work with?

This is hard, my favorite ingredient I like to work with is Dijon mustard.  I specifically like to pair it with maple, mustard, and Cajun to make a really good marinade that is a little spicy. For a quick fix, I like to have pan seared salmon and splatter mustard on there and bread crumbs. Or red wine vinaigrette adding Dijon. I find it to be a very versatile condiment. But of course, you can’t live without eggs.

12. Best Dish you have ever made?

Okay, so this is fun. I came across this recipe maybe a year ago. I came across a website that had Berbere, an Ethiopian spice. Last year I really got into spices. This one is really cool, so I tried it out. It is smoky, spicy and red in color. It is extensive work to toast it and to process it. It has a very eastern flavor, I guess they have been using it for centuries. So I went to the fish market and got Bronzino. I was having some people over for dinner so I did a dry rub and got a really nice roast on the fish, it was almost magical. I served it with lemon roasted tomatoes. It was very exotic, with Chile peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, and a little bit of nutmeg.

13. Place you eat most often on your days off?

There is a sushi place in Pompano Beach. It is called 9 Face Sushi and they knock it out of the ballpark. Always fresh, the service is amazing. I like to sit outside and enjoy the view.

14. Person you would most like to cook for?

You know what, I’d like to cook for Stan Lee.

15. What made you decide to become a chef?

I am an only child. My mom is a chemical engineer. I would get out of school and go home. I would watch 3 shows on Food Network. These shows got me into and gave me permission to get my hands dirty. I would have food made, I can’t imagine it was good at the time. So I started doing things in elementary school.

But I applied and got into a Connecticut vocational technical school in the culinary department when I was in high school. I started learning techniques. My junior year, Johnson and Wales got accreditation and I got an associate’s degree in culinary. It took burning a lot of things and figuring out where I went wrong and teaching it to the next person. To sum it up, I became a chef because of curiosity and a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am creative. Being a chef, I found a happy place to be and express my creativity every day.

16. What is new on your DVR?

On my DVR is Preacher, The Walking Dead, and The Flash. Those are my top three shows that I make time to watch.

Once again thank you to Chef Rod Knight and don’t forget to stay tuned for his recipes that will be featured throughout the month.


Interview with Chef Claudette Thurmond

Below is our contest winner, Claudette Thurmond’s entry on why she thought she deserved to win, followed by her interview. By winning this contest, she won a check for $500 from ChefUniforms.com. The three runners up, Jose Luis Usquiano, Amanda Hartigan, and Aimee Bacon all gained over 600 votes during the contest voting period. Though they did not reach the 1,000 vote mark, ChefUniforms.com decided they wanted to still give these contestants a prize, so they were each sent a $100 ChefUniforms.com gift card! Read on to find out a little more about our winner:

Claudette Thurmond

1247 Votes

Why I deserve to win Cash for the Holidays:

My name is Claudette, and in September of 2011, I opened my Custom Cake Business. On top of my regular clientele, I take advantage of every opportunity to donate cakes to my church, True Life Church in Universal City, TX. I also am a volunteer for Birthday Cakes 4 Free, San Antonio Chapter. They are a non-profit organization that reaches out to professional bakers to provide birthday cakes to children who, due to no fault of their own, would not normally receive a birthday cake. Most recently, I donated over $500 in baked goods to Austin Bakes for Bastrop. On October 1, 2011, this organization held one of the largest bake sales I personally had ever seen and raised over $12,000. The proceeds of this bake sale then went to The Austin Community Foundation Central Texas Wildfire Fund. I constantly use profits from my cake orders to buy supplies for my donated cakes. With the holidays coming up, I anticipate the need for my donations will be increased and the $500.00 would be a greater help than you could imagine. I have been blessed with a talent that I have never taken a class for. I am also blessed with the want to serve and bless others. Winning this contest would provide me with the means to make an even greater impact on the community as every penny would be used to provide the less fortunate with an unexpected treat. And Chef Uniforms, you could be the BIGGEST part of this, by selecting me as the winner. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

The Interview

1.       How does it feel to win Cash for the Holidays?

It feels so amazing, especially when I think about how many families I will be able to touch during the holidays!

2.       How did you go about getting all of your votes? What did you do that helped the most (Facebook, Emails, etc)?

I work part time at a bank, where I shared my entry page with co workers as they shared with their co workers too. My husband is active duty Air Force currently deployed, and he shared with his co workers, friends and family to vote for me. And I shared the link to the contest in my Claudette’s Creations Facebook page and enticed people to vote and share. I made a little contest of my own by creating a raffle to win a gift certificate to Claudette’s Creations by voting and sharing. I would raffle it off when I hit a certain number of votes.

3.       Why did you want to become a chef?

It was never planned. I made my sister’s wedding cake; it came out nice and figured, hey, I can do this. I love the gift God has given me.

4.       What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most?

I love the double button up baker’s coat. Short sleeved especially, because it gets so hot in Texas.

5.       Do you enjoy dining out in your free time?

I love to dine out. That is one of my favorite past times I share with my best friend. Great food, great company, great conversations…

6.       Do you see any changes in food trends?

I see a lot more health conscious options offered.

7.       What are your future plans for your business?

I currently operate out if my home, however, I plan to one day have a store front for my cake shop, sell cake supplies, and teach cake decorating classes.

8.       Is there any one thing you would have done differently in starting your culinary career?

I would have to say no, things have gone pretty smoothly.

Congratulations again, Claudette, and thanks again to all who participated in our contest!

Culinary Professional Winner: Kimber Hoang

Kimber Hoang

Magenta Restaurant


867 Votes

Kimber is one of two winners of our ChefUniforms.com contest. Below you can find her contest entry essay, the recipe she submitted, and our interview Q&A. Bon Appétit!


Why I deserve to go to the NRA:

Hello! I’m very happy to say I will be celebrating my 13th year anniversary of my restaurant, Magenta, this June 18. Without any former culinary education, or much in my pocket to start with, I have created my high end fusion restaurant in a very small town of Corvallis, Oregon. Food is my passion and is an art to me, and is due to eating very well at home. I had to do what I had to do to build my little dream. Never have built a wall nor done any dry wall stuff before, I have figured a way to make my little tiny restaurant in a mall across from OSU campus looked “as if they were sitting in Paris”, as many of our customers have said. Nine years later, I was fortunate enough to have found a building in downtown of Corvallis of my very own. It is now quite the “amazing building”, and most from my own sweat and time. And, this last August, I just made a purchase of another building downtown. I am creative and very original. I don’t like to copy other’s recipes, as I think it is more fun to create my own and i can have another excuse to pat myself on the back :). Since Magenta restaurant opened, I have made it to several front pages of the newspapers, sunset magazine, opened several more other restaurants in town. I am known in town as the sauce gal! I am all about sauce! Flavor is a huge thing for me. It can look pretty, but if it doesn’t taste flavorful, it isn’t going to do it for me. I also hold my very own courses on cooking, “Feel the Flavors”. This teaches people to use all of their senses while cooking, and using the last is their tongue, and only if they have to.
Now, I ask myself this question too, “Why do I deserve to go to the NRA?” My whole heart and soul is in the restaurant industry, I have so much more to tell as I am very proud of all the things I have created and done in the past 13 years. You will have a person you can share and be proud of going to the NRA!

My Recipe:

Chilean Sea Bass & Sautéed Pork in a Hot Dried Pan:

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoon of chopped garlic
1/4 cup of chopped green onions
stir around to get the garlic cooking
add 2 cups ground pork (doesn’t matter if it’s lean or fatty, you’ll just have more fat to dispose)
3 tsp of 3crab brand fish sauce (or any brand, just balance with sugar as the more expensive brands have more sugar content)
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms (any kind, they are all good!)
1/8 cup chopped carrots
1/2 tsp vegetarian base
2 tbsp diced fresh basil
1 tbsp of chopped kaffir lime leaves, or lemongrass if it’s easier to find.
1/4 tsp white pepper or black pepper if you don’t have white.

Cook until pork is greyish in color (doesn’t sound pretty but it’s the color you are looking for.
Now, butterfly your big chunk of Chilean Sea Bass, if you can’t find this bass, any other fatty and flaky fish is fine. When using a thin fish, you will not have to butterfly.
Sprinkle fish with 1 tsp of fish sauce, lightly rub into fish.
Pour pork mixture over one end of the bass, then roll over to the end to form a log.
Wrap banana leaves all over the bass log and cover as much as you can, tying using strips of the leaves.
Bake at 375
Buy a piece of fresh fish so you can have it a little rare!
10 minutes after oven has reached its temperature
Finish with white wine and cream in pan for a quick glaze


The Interview:

1.       How does it feel to win an all-expense paid trip to the 2011 NRA Show?

Very thankful to all my great friends and big fans from of Corvallis and the surrounding cities.

2.       What do you plan on getting out of your trip to the NRA?

Learn about new tools in all aspects towards a perfect restaurant.  (I’m opening another restaurant, yet in a very small space and with an entry of an alley.  I will need to fit everything effectively yet keeping comfortable space)

3.       How did you go about getting all of those votes? What did you do that helped the most (Facebook, Emails, etc)?

Email addresses from customers on file, requesting customers to leave their email addresses in our log book for this competition, Yes Facebook & texting all of my friends with a smartphone.

4.       Why did you want to become a chef?

I truly love eating well!  I enjoy seeing friends enjoying their food!  Yet, becoming a chef was never a lengthy planned deal.  I can tell you the whole story when I talk to you…

5.       What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most?

Women fit most definitely!  And cotton, with some blends OK.  We’ve been told, many times, we are very stylish in the kitchen!  Thanks to you guys!

6.       Do you enjoy dining out in your free time?

Any moment I can as it is very much my true passion!  I don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars when it comes to eating well…and I only drink well!

7.       Do you ever get menu ideas from your competitors?

Of course!  I have to see what others are doing in the very near areas so I know NOT to do the same thing as they!  And if I find that once my style or recipe is being used by someone else around, I will immediately change it!  I get ideas on using products, I will be the person creating the rest!

8.       Do you see any changes in food trends?

No, for at least the last 13 years!  It has been modern with a touch of history for this long.  However, the “organic” and “local” thing… is now more prominent!  And of course mending style for allergies that didn’t surface until this decade!

9.       Is there any one thing you would have done differently in starting your culinary career?

Yes, silly thing such as purchasing a business and basically demolished it, using it only for its space!  Yet, I learned a lot too from having no money left, I had to do most things myself, such as building walls!   Cooking related, I enjoyed every moment and wouldn’t know of a better way!

10.   What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into the culinary field?

Organization, know your tools, be the creator, feel from your very own senses.  Get ideas yet Do Not copy others!  Oh, you really can’t be in this field unless you are speedy!

Congratulations again, Kimber, and remember to come see us at the show at Booth #1904!

Culinary Student Winner: Peter S. Del Cotto

Peter S. Del Cotto

Trocaire College Russell J. Salvatore School of Hospitality and Business


383 Votes

Peter is the first of two winners of our ChefUniforms.com contest. Below you can find his contest entry essay, the recipe he submitted, and our interview Q&A. Bon Appétit!

Why I deserve to go to the NRA: 

I deserve to go to the NRA show because I want to improve my skills and serve my community by opening a restaurant in my home town. The NRA show will not only broaden my knowledge base but make me a better person, chef and family man. I have traveled all over the world serving our country and want to give back to those who supported me throughout my life such as the local community, parents, family, friends, fellow colleagues, and certainly not least, my professors. I am currently studying for my degree in Hospitality Management and have a 4.0 GPA. Unfortunately, I am also a victim of corporate downsizing and unemployed. Due to the lifestyle change, the decision was made to totally retrain into a different industry and go into business for myself and my family. The trip to the NRA show allows me to get immersed into the industry and get a restaurant and culinary world view, Not to mention meet the great people of the industry! Please consider my essay for the culinary student award. My family and I would be forever grateful to Chef Uniforms.com and the NRA. As an added bonus, I am submitting a picture of me in one of your handsome embroidered chefs coats while I’m in action in our kitchen at home.
Best regards.
Peter S. Del Cotto

My Recipe:

Simple Marinara Sauce:

2 #10 (6lb) cans of Hunts Tomato Sauce
2 6 oz Hunts Tomato Paste
1 Large Yellow Onion or Sweet Onion Small Dice
6 Large Cloves Garlic (Minced)
1 Tbsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper                             
2 Tbsp Salt, then salt to taste
2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning or equivalent amounts of basil, thyme, dried parsley and oregano
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 Fresh Basil Leaves (tear into fine pieces)
1/4 Cup Grated Parm/Regg Cheese

Cooking Directions:

In large sauce or stock pot over med heat:
Add olive oil and once heated, add onions and salt, sweat onions for 8 minutes stirring occasionally then add garlic, dried spices and sweat for another two minutes.
When finished, lower heat to med low and add tomato paste, stir frequently until spices and onions are incorporated into the tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Then add tomato sauce and stir to incorporate ingredients.
Add Fresh Basil.
Bring sauce to a simmer slowly, stir occasionally.
Let cook 15 min at reduced heat med low to low
Add cheese and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Note: Please make sure that the heat is not too high or you will ‘scorch’ the sauce. An evil that every Grandma tells you to avoid! However, if it does scorch, do not scrape it off of the bottom of the pan, transfer the remainder of the sauce to another pan/pot and stir on! Leave the scorched pan to soak and have the kids attack it when done with dinner… 🙂

The Interview:

1.        How does it feel to win an all-expense paid trip to the 2011 NRA Show?

Well, I have to admit, pretty darn good! When I received the notification that I won, I was elated beyond belief, I couldn’t wait to post the good news to my family and friends. In addition, to have an all-expense paid trip is a dream of a lifetime that became a reality.

2.        What do you plan on getting out of your trip to the NRA?

After graduating, I am opening my own restaurant. The NRA show has every exhibitor in the industry available to meet with and consult. I am sure I will walk out of the NRA show a well-educated man on the restaurant biz. In addition, I hope to network with other leaders in the industry and utilize their experiences to mold my restaurant.

3.        How did you go about getting all of those votes? What did you do that helped the most (Facebook, Emails, etc.)?

                As part of my degree program, students must take a sales and marketing course. Last semester, we covered the impacts of social media and their use in the hospitality industry. Come to find out, the impacts were huge and through their use, saved many restaurants during the economic downturn. When the contest started, I fired up my laptop and started an event on my Facebook page. I individually messaged the event to my 290 friends and asked them to forward the event to their friends. In addition, I contacted Trocaire College’s web and social media director, Jackie Bryant and asked if she could get the college involved and support me in the contest. Other items that helped were writing a press release and sending it out to the local media and an occasional ‘tweet’ on Twitter.

4.       Why did you want to become a chef?

Having traveled all over the world while serving in the military, I have experienced the tastes and smell of many cultures’ foods. Food tells a certain story about the people and their environment. I want to become a chef because I want to share my experiences in other cuisines besides classical American by highlighting popular dishes of each respective culture.

5.       What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most?

For me, I wear a white, basic, poly-cotton blend, long sleeve chef coat. Some of the reasons for this choice are that the coat is light and breathes well, plus it washes well and I do not have to iron it. 🙂

6.       Do you enjoy dining out in your free time?

Yes, we dine out at least two times a week. It can be anything from the local pizza joint    to casual fine dining at a local independently owned restaurant.

7.       Do you see any changes in food trends?

                Yes, I have been doing a lot of research on upcoming food trends and utilizing the NRA’s website to gather my information. Interestingly, there are many trends that are in high demand such as, tapas, Asian, food trucks, affordable entrees with reduced portion sizes and reduced priced apps during the week.

8.       What are your future plans, once you become a full-fledged professional Chef?

                After working the line in the restaurant, I would like to eventually take the Executive chef’s position with the ability later on to manage the business entirely. If business is good, I may just open another restaurant in another part of the U.S.

9.       Is there any one thing you would have done differently in starting your culinary career?

Start it early in life! The restaurant business is demanding and there are long hours in the kitchen. By starting earlier, not only do you gain the fundamental skills to base your experiences on but also the ability to cope well under pressure and fatigue.

10.   What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into culinary school?

You must ask yourself several questions before even thinking about culinary school:

  1. Do I like people? Am I independent or do I work well with others?
  2. Do I like to work long hours? Weekends? Holidays?
  3. Do I take directions well and have the ability to produce what is asked of me?
  4. Am I doing this for the money or the love of the career?
  5. If I own my restaurant, am I willing to work without getting a paycheck every week?
  6. Can I accept constructive criticism or feedback from fellow co-workers, managers, and customers?

If you answered positively to the questions, you are ready to investigate and follow your culinary dream. If not, look into other aspects of the industry such as, lodging, cruise lines, and air transportation. There is a variety of careers within the hospitality industry to choose from.

Congratulations again, Peter, and remember to come see us at the show at Booth #1904!

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