Photo courtesy of the Four Seasons Dubai
Lifestyle 11 September 2017
Ever wondered what it's like to be a celebrity chef catering to the uber rich and famous? I caught up with some of the world's most decorated celebrity chefs to ask them about working with celebrities, some of their top tips for aspiring culinary chefs as well as tips for cooking more at home.
These celebrity chefs have some serious culinary chops—just ask the female celebrities they've worked for – including Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, and Hilary Swank. These world-famous celebrity chefs have perfected the art of culinary genius – and working with very rare ingredients like 24kt gold leaf and diamonds (Yes, diamonds!).
Chef Alexia Grant
Chef Alexia Grant
Known for her savory selections like shrimp & grits shooters, jambalaya croquettes, and calypso chicken, Chef Alexia Grant is the epitome of feminine beauty and is tireless in her efforts to mentor young girls. Apart from mentoring young 11 and 12th graders, she's lending her services to charitable endeavors like the hashtag movement #TakeCareofNewark where with the help of local activists the New Jersey native worked to feed over 700 less fortunate members of Newark's population. Today she works as Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and La La Anthony's personal chef. In addition, she founded her own catering company, Eat Me Up Cuisine, in October 2014.
Cuisine/Technique you're known for: I'm known for vegan and vegetarian food as well as meal plans and lifestyle dietary adjusting.
Celebs I have cooked for: I've worked a number of athletes and celebrities including Ne-Yo, Angela Simmons, Malcolm Jenkins, La La Anthony and Sanya Richards-Ross.
Best things about working for the rich: The best thing about working for people of affluence is what you learn! There is so much to be gained by being a fly on the wall. I've learned about finance, business, public relations, fine wine, other cultures and just how to be an all around adaptable person. Those have been some major life lessons.
Worst things about working for the rich: The worst thing is when your friends and family don't understand the boundaries of what you do. As a chef that's just what I am… a CHEF. Unfortunately, when you work for celebrities your friends and family tend to think you're a celebrity also. It can put a strain on your relationships and sometimes alter who you can be around or not.
Chef Alexia Grant with 4-time Olympic gold medallist, Sanya Richards-Ross.
Best piece of advice for aspiring chefs: To any aspiring chef, if you don't love it, don't do it. This is a profession of passion. In order to excel in this field, you have to have a burning desire to push through when things get hard. This isn't an industry to enter wanting fame and glory. There are definitely ways to accomplish that in this field but if that's you're only mission, you will crash and burn because its the fire within us as chefs that have people gravitate towards your food. You are what you serve, take pride in that. Pride, Passion, Professionalism. These are the 3 major keys to success.
My personal favorite food: My favorite personal food is tacos! I love tacos. In fact, if I had a food truck, tacos would be a staple!
The most in-demand universal appetizer: I would have to say… as boring as it may be..salad. Most people would say things like wings or nachos but those are just American things. In all the places I've eaten, almost every culture will start you off with some sort of salad native to that region. Hopefully the health curve is in full effect and America can catch on!
Tips for cooking more at home: To all my ladies wanting to cook more at home... my first and most important piece of advice is keep it simple!! There are tons of recipes for 30 minute meals or meals with 10 ingredients or less. Start there, get comfortable in the kitchen and with following instructions. After you've mastered a few of those then you can break into the more difficult recipes.
Chef Jack Lee
Chef Jack Lee
As former Banquet Chef of the legendary and esteemed Hotel Bel Air, in Beverly Hills, California, Chef Jack Lee boasts a stunning reputation as personal chef to celebrities and Hollywood's cognoscenti. Through his catering company, Chinoise Cuisine, he has catered to the Oscars and Oprah's wedding of the Century. He prides himself on incorporating high quality proteins, super healthy carbs, organic vegetables, amazing sauces with bold flavors that enrapture the tongue, coupled with garnishes that include 24kt gold leaf. I call it food architecture - and the sexier the better – his sculpting abilities are second to none.
Lobster Chowmein with Caviar
Cuisine/Technique you're known for: Asian Fusion, California French cuisine, French Vietnamese cuisine. I like the sous vide cooking technique, the braising technique, and slow cooking.
Celebs I have cooked for: Oprah Winfrey, President Donald Trump, Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank, Quincy Jones, Lisa Vanderpump, the Jackson Family, Mark Burnett, and Roma Downey.
Best things about working for the rich: They have a distinct palate and they appreciate refined cuisine. They also appreciate expensive and rare ingredients.
Worst things about working for the rich: It can be super demanding because they want what they want and are very picky. And everything is always last minute.
Best piece of advice for aspiring chefs: I believe every aspiring chef should work hard, do not take short cuts and cook with passion.
My personal favorite food: Meditteranean Bouillabaisse, Braised Short ribs and my $100 egg roll paired with Dom Perignon.
Most in-demand universal appetizer: Crispy Lobster Ravioli with Curried Pumpkin Sauce.
My cooking philosophy: Refinement, balance, personalization, and authenticity.
Tips for cooking more at home: Have fun and cook with all your senses. You eat with your eyes first. Beautiful, refined visual elements like a vibrant garnish or stacking items that you usually wouldn't think to stack can bring in fun and drama.
Chef Gilles Arzur, Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach
Chef Gilles Arzur
As the former Executive Chef of the Four Seasons Beverly Willshire Hotel, Chef Gilles Arzur, is known for his bold, innovative, fusion flavors. During his tenure at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire his team enjoyed serving up specialty dishes for President Barack Obama and The Jackson Five, among other VIPs. I had the opportunity to savour his amazing artistry while visiting Dubai earlier this year – and his skills are superb. It's no wonder as he thrived under the tutelage of his mentor, Paul Bocuse, named the top chef of the 20th Century by the Cullinary Institute of America and hailed as one of the greatest, most significant chefs of all time. As Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai, Gilles Arzur oversees five restaurants and caters to royalty.
Cuisine/Technique you're known for: Being raised in a small oceanside community in Brittany, in the northwest corner of France, and being mentored by Paul Bocuse – (the “pope" of modern French gastronomy), I have to say I would be most known for my Modern French Cuisine.
Celebs I have cooked for: My clientele includes celebrities, high-profile chefs, corporate leaders and heads of state. However, I strongly support and believe in full discretion for all of my clients and for the industry which is why I prefer not to mention my clients by name.
Best things about working for the rich: Not only do you get to create spectacular and personal menus, but you are designing an entire experience. From room décor to fine china – it's about evoking an emotion and setting an ambiance for that particular person or event and each dinner is unique and completely different from the previous one.
Worst things about working for the rich: You often find yourself creating menus based on a presumed diet of a client which can be misleading.
Best piece of advice for aspiring chefs: Work hard, very hard and stay humble no matter what. Keep dreaming and visualizing of what is about to come and where you want to be next.
Your personal favorite food: I love fish in any shape and form. However, when it comes to home cooking, my ultimate favorite food has to be crepes.
Most in-demand universal appetizer: I find that whenever an appetizer featuring raw tuna or mozzarella is listed on the menu, these are the most popular items and will noticeably be picked over the rest.
My cooking philosophy: First of all, I am convinced that you need passion in order to become a talented chef. Passion is what motivates you and inspires you to be great every single day. Secondly, I believe in using locally sourced ingredients - this ensures the highest quality and freshness of the product as well as knowledge of the provenance. Lastly, I feel that it is important to stay true to the location where you are cooking – the food needs to resemble the lifestyle and fit certain expectations. When you are working around the world it is of great significance to adapt your food and cooking methods to suit your surroundings.
Tips for cooking more at home: I would encourage women not to be afraid of exploring new food and recipes. Don't over-complicate things, start with ingredients that are easy to work with and if you are ever unsure about unfamiliar products – ask for professional advice to help get you started.
It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.
Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.
Read with a Purpose
Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.
Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.
When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.
Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.
You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.
Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.
Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.
If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.
Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.