BLACK Cuisine, Businesses, Professionals, & Organizations, Culinary

CHEF’s HELPING CHEF’s COALITION- Chef Alisia (Rest In Peace)

Chef Alisia started out life wanting to be a musician, studying both the flute and classical recorder from the time she was 8 years old. She studied voice through High School and  later on  majored in Vocal performance at Columbia College. She later left music behind for a career in the fashion industry where she went on to do almost every job from sales, to production assistant, to a stylist at Michelle Cole. Feeling that she really needed to change her career path, Chef Alisia went to work for a friend in his vegetarian restaurant in Santa Monica, CA and there she found her niche! She decided to take advantage of a chance to get a Cal Grant and go to Cal State Long Beach, where she met Chef Romane Britane whose been an inspiration in  her learning to become a REAL chef. She left Long Beach during the LA anarchy and did not finish school. She was two weeks from graduation. She then acquired a position as Executive Chef at Goatfeather’s. Although it was a wonderful opportunity, she quickly learned that she did not know enough nor had the discipline she needed to lead a kitchen. So she quit, moved to Ashville, NC and trained under Chefs Vijay and Catherine Shastri at the windmill European Grill, where she worked with East Indian, Northern Italian and German cuisines. From there, she went on to train at the Movable Feast to work in classical French Cuisine. Here she truly learned the meaning of working with the skills shewas taught to work in an intense atmosphere.

Chef Alisia  finally moved back to South Carolina and decided to go back to school and finish her culinary arts degree, and went to Johnson and Wales University in which she graduated in 2004. She now counsels both culinary professionals/students and also do some menu and recipe writing. Through the Chefs Helping Chefs Coalition, she hope to help many more chefs and professionals connect.

Q&A With Chef Alisia

BS: What does the “Chef Helping Chefs Coalition” entails?

Chef Alisia: The Chefs Helping Chefs Coalition is multi cultural, multi ethic coalition of chefs that have come together together to help create a better industry by helping both the professional chef and the young cooks right out of culinary school to be better trained and better informed. Frankly, this coalition has come together out of frustration that culinary professionals are not getting enough training before going into business for themselves. I feel this does a disservice not just to our industry, but to the American business. I started doing this silently by myself almost 11 years ago just by counseling other cooks and chefs.

BS: What types of cuisines do you specialize in? Which is your favorite?

Chef Alisia: Well, I began professionally by training under a French Belgian chef. I also have training in Southern Italian cuisine and Northern, Southern French cuisine, French Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisines. Recently, I have worked in Vegan and Vegetarian cuisines, but throughout my life and career, I have always done this food. One of the first places I worked in LA at the beginning of my professional career, was a vegetarian restaurant, just cutting vegetables.

BS: Where are some places you’ve trained?

Chef Alisia: I have worked all over the country, including Alaska! The restaurants include A Movable Feast in Ann Arbor, MI, The Windmill European Grill in Ashville , NC, Le Pescadou in NYC, Indigo Coastal Grill in Atlanta, GA, and Asian Nora in Washington DC. I try to stag and get more experience in any city I live in.

BS: You have collaborated in Chef Jeff cookbook entitled “The Pass it Down Cookbook,” is there a chef on your wish list you would love to work with (past or present)?

Chef Alisia: Well, as far as the Pass it Down Cookbook, I just contributed to it and  was proud to do so when Chef Jeff asked. There are a lot of talented chefs I would love to learn from and inspired by daily, but if I have to name names, Chef Michel Richard would be one. Also, Chef Ludo Lefebver and Chef Gordon Ramsey. I like a challenge and to work for a chef that pushes me to learn and be better. These chefs are also passionate about the humble act of feeding people, which is powerful to me!

BS: What projects can we look forward to from you?

Chef Alisia: The CHCC is moving forward with helping chefs and cooks all over the world in need. I plan personally to continue to help counsel chefs about career paths, and mentor them so that they stay in a healthy frame of mind while they learn. We would like to create in every major city in the US (to start) a house where chefs can stay free of charge and live while they stag and work for a year after school. We would help them structure their earnings so that they can start to pay school back as well. Many chefs stay in debt for years because the pay you make is not equal to paying off the student loans! This is also a time of great stress for chefs, so we would provide mentors in the industry that they can talk to when they just need an ear. I am also working on my own cookbook that will be about my experience as  a classically train chef understanding Vegan and Vegetarian Cuisines.

BS: What advice do you have for up and coming chefs?

Chef Alisia: Not all people that can cook well will make a good chef. It’s hard work! Be sure that you are becoming a chef because you love to feed people! Also, just because you get a certificate this does not make you a chef. It takes years of training and knowledge, don’t be afraid of that. I have been in this industry for 23 years and I still learn new things everyday and it’s been a blessing!

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