Chef Samone Lett is the owner of Atlanta’s Wishful Concepts Catering & Personal Chef Services. She’s an APPCA member and I’m captivated by her tweets. Always looking to feature our fabulous members, I reached out to Samone to ask if she’d be interested in telling her story. It’s a fascinating one, as you’ll read below. We have such remarkable members!

It is hard to recount my journey from a homeless young woman following culinary school  to a successful chef. So, I’ll start from my beginning. As a small girl in Brooklyn, New York, I used to watch celebrities like Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, and Jamie Oliver on the Food Network and prayed to God to give me a chance to be on this show as a contestant. Never in my wildest imagination did I see myself as a big chef hosting my own show on television. It’s still an aspiration!

But by God’s grace, my hard work and struggle has paid off and today I am a successful chef.

 

I was passionate about cooking as a small child. My father and grandmother taught me how to cook when I was nine, and I continued in the military, when at age 18 I enlisted into the U.S. Army as a Food Specialist and eventually was stationed in Germany. There I was exposed to kitchen management, food service, and cooking for large quantities of people. I later studied the intricacies of this profession at a culinary school. I studied Hospitality Management & Tourism and also graduated from Le Cordon Bleu with a degree in Culinary Arts. After graduating culinary school I took my chef bag began to aggressively pursue personal and private chef jobs. I had a set back in 2004, a year after my graduation, when I ended up homeless. My previous marriage, clients, and business fell apart and I was in a season of instability. I later wrote about it in my spiritual memoir, Lily In The Valley, published in 2007. After remarrying in 2010 the road to rebuilding Wishful Concepts Catering began and I was inspired to focus on my passion for culinary arts full-time.

I also worked in some restaurants in Orlando, but never felt satisfied as I had no direct interaction with guests. I could not know what they thought about the food I made for them. This was why I started my own catering business. I was hooked to the idea of becoming a personal chef given to me by Chef Candy. I relished the idea of running private events.

I worked under a few chefs for some time in Orlando. Wedding planner Michelle loved my work and mentored me to learn the finer details of this business. I learned how to set up a buffet and other plate events from her and still use her ideas in running my own company.

Salient highlights of my career

  • Our company focuses on customer experience and provides friendly services.
  • Besides being a chef, I have a passion to help other women in finding their identity and direction.
  • I have written five self-help books. Lily in the Valley is my autobiography.
  • I have worked hard to find a place in this male-dominated industry. Being a female chef, I also faced lots of discrimination.
  • My company has won Best Wedding award six times in a row from The Knot and have two Couples Choice awards from the Wedding Wire.
  • We are supplying food to the crew on the sets of movies.

My experiences as a contestant on Food Network

Food Network is the most popular channel among food lovers. I always admired this show and the judges who evaluated the dishes made by the contestants. I applied to become a contestant by sending my latest pictures. I was thrilled to pieces when I got an invitation in two weeks’ time. I underwent a tough interview process and was finally selected to be a contestant on Cooks vs. Cons, which aired in August 2017. This is a show where ordinary cooks are pitted against professional chefs with their identities concealed until the show has been completed and it is time to declare the winner.

The name of my episode was Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf. Contestants had to prepare a meatloaf in just 30 minutes, although it takes nearly 45 minutes for this job. It was a highly intense and stressful event where I knew my actions were being filmed and telecast live as I prepared a dish. There were no retakes or time to rectify mistakes and I had to get it right in whatever time I got. It was really tough to keep smiling and listening to the remarks of the men behind the cameras while preparing my dish. Cooking under the pressure of a time limit and in front of the judges was really very tough.

Not being able to stay in touch with family and friends for a long time was also a hard experience for me. But, the nerve wracking experience as a contestant on Cooks vs. Cons helped me in my preparation for the next show, Food Network Star. It was a once in a lifetime experience. It was definitely amazing to meet Chef Carla Hall, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, and food author and TV host Daphne Oz! I had loads of fun and received love and warmth from the staff and the crew members of this show. They liked me so much that I was again called by Food Network to participate in Food Network Star. I could not believe my luck when I received the call from the channel for this show. I was on Season 14, which aired in Spring 2018. I thank my stars for finally getting recognition for my work as a chef.

Today, business is good and I’m currently focusing on personal chef services as we just moved to Atlanta. No matter what I’ve endured on my journey as a chef and business owner, my faith has consistently provided the resources and people I needed. I share my story from a perspective of showing others that anyone can fulfill their purpose in the midst of challenges and obstacles.

 

Salad with poinsettia2

Looking for a break from all of the holiday indulgences that too often temp us to overdo with tempting rich foods and sweets? Both you and your clients are probably trying to balance the inevitable splurges at parties with some exercise and nutritious meals, as well as strategies for keeping the holiday fare healthier. After all, as much fun as this time of year is, it’s also very stressful. The best thing you can do for yourself and your clients is to fuel right so that the celebrations are welcome and enjoyed.

We’ve put together a dozen links to sites that have great suggestions for enjoying a healthy diet during this period–and we have a great Holiday Kale Salad from our own Candy Wallace, APPCA’s executive director.

Let’s start with the links.

And here’s Candy’s gorgeous salad.

As she says, a colorful holiday kale salad using seasonal fruits, nuts with or without roast poultry can satisfy your hunger without adding to your waistline during these days of temptation. It’s is a seasonal holiday salad that my family and friends look forward to each holiday.

One thing to remember about kale is that it can be tough and even slightly bitter if simply torn and tossed into a salad bowl, but can easily be transformed into a more tender and even sweeter green by handling or massaging it with acidity such as fresh lemon juice.

There is no trick to it, just remove the ribs and stems and place the torn kale into a bowl. Add fresh lemon juice and “massage” with your hands or repeatedly turn with tongs for 3 to 5 minutes. This will soften the kale and reduce the volume by about ½. The end result is worth the extra step.

Just add the delicious fresh ingredients you selected for your salad and set in the refrigerator for up to half an hour before serving.

 

Candy's Kale Salad2

All Hail Holiday Kale Salad
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

1 Honeycrisp apple – peeled and sliced into matchstick cuts
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ lemon – juiced for massaging the kale
1/2 lemon – juiced to pour over apple slices to keep from turning brown
¼ head red cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot – shredded or thin sliced
½ cup dried pitted tart Montmorency cherries (available at Trader Joe’s)
½ cup jumbo raisin medley (available at Trader Joe’s)
½ cup toasted walnuts, rough chopped
½ cup salted peanuts
Shredded roast chicken or turkey (2 cups if the salad is an entree, 1 cup if it’s a side)

Traditional Slaw Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup white wine, champagne or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ tsp salt

Directions

Peel and slice apple, combine with lemon juice to keep from discoloring. Set aside.

Shred cabbage and carrot on box grater or slice into thin strips. Add to kale.

Add dried cherries, jumbo raisins, chopped toasted walnuts and salted peanuts to kale.

Add sliced apples and pomegranate seeds.

Add roast poultry.

Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. Use just enough to coat the salad. As an alternative you can also use a citrus vinaigrette.

How are you keeping it healthy over the holidays? What’s your go-to recipe for a healthy holiday-time meal?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

eprewitt

So many chef stories begin with childhood anecdotes of cooking with grandparents or just being born with a passion for food. For Silver Plum Personal Chef’s Elizabeth Prewitt, preparing food started simply as a post-college bargain with her parents. After graduating from Auburn University with an industrial design degree, she moved back to the family home in New Orleans. The deal was that they would buy the food if she would cook it–not necessarily because she had proven skills, but because they were working hard at their consulting business and didn’t get home till late. They needed someone to make dinner.

You could call that her first personal chef gig.

Smoked Trout & Endive Puree Canape

Smoked Trout & Endive Puree Canape

Prewitt was self taught, with the help of her parents’ subscriptions to Cooking Light and Cooks Illustrated (“I have no idea why they had these subscriptions,” she joked.). She muddled along with those and chefs from Food Network. Until Hurricane Katrina hit. Then she and her parents headed a bit north to Kentucky where her sister lived in Louisville. And it was then that she decided to attend culinary school at Louisville’s Sullivan University, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2007 with a specialty in baking and pastry arts.

“I’ve always loved the arts and creative expression,” Prewitt explained. “Cooking is a way for me to be creative three times a day. I like doing things I’m good at and the more I cooked and baked the better I got. And, it’s a way to help people.”

During this time, she’d had a long-distance relationship with the man who would become her husband. He lived in Chicago, so eventually Prewitt moved there to be with him. She’d already done the restaurant shift thing, having worked at New Orleans’ famed Commander’s Palace and Louisville’s Proof on Main. “I had worked in enough restaurants to know I didn’t want to do that,” she recalled.

Quinoa Salad with Almonds, Lime, & Cilantro

Quinoa Salad with Almonds, Lime, & Cilantro

So, instead she took jobs that would give her steady daytime hours that would allow her to spend evenings and weekends with her husband. She worked for awhile with a jewelry designer, then as a receptionist at an architecture firm. But when the recession hit and she got laid off, she did some research on Sullivan University’s website and learned “that personal cheffing was a thing.” The university offered a degree in this but Prewitt thought, “shoot, I could do that.” She found APPCA through Sullivan, became a member, and launched her business in 2010.

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Today, it’s thriving, thanks to a lot of word of mouth and a dynamic website filled with her beautiful food photography. She focuses on higher-end clientele, emphasizing high quality and customization. “I want to give my clients the experience of fine dining on their schedule in their home,” she said. She specializes in bi-weekly and monthly service and special events. “And I’ve been very successful doing that. I just stick with my strength.”

Prewitt also has a food and travel blog, onehundredeggs.com, which features recipes and her travel stories.

Cardamom Citrus Cake with Mango Jam and White Pepper Crunch

Cardamom Citrus Cake with Mango Jam and White Pepper Crunch

One thing that Prewitt feels has given her an advantage in her business–which is currently running a waiting list–is the fact that she’s a trained pastry chef and baker. “I definitely think it gives me an edge, especially for dinner parties. I can make an amazing dessert for a client that works with the savory meal I’ve created.”

Prewitt is sharing with us a simple holiday treat she makes for friends every year.

Crispy Chocolate-Mint Guys
From Elizabeth Prewitt, Silver Plum Personal Chef

Makes about 50
 
These could not be simpler.  They’re a fantastic way to use up any leftover melted chocolate, if you ever have any.  Take care when adding the peppermint oil, as one drop too much can make them taste unbearably minty.

10 ounces good-quality chocolate (not chocolate chips)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (not extract)
2 cups (about 4 ounces) puffed rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies), or a little more if needed

chocolate-guys-7

Chop the chocolate into 1/2 inch pieces, leaving about a third in larger 1 inch pieces (which will help temper the chocolate).  Place all the chocolate in a medium to large microwave-safe bowl.

chocolate-guys-10

Heat the chocolate in the microwave on high for 45 seconds.  Remove and stir (it will not be very melty yet).  Continue microwaving in 10 to 15 second increments, stirring after each one, until the chocolate is mostlymelted, but a few large lumps remain (this is important to help the chocolate temper properly; do not fully melt it in the microwave).

When chocolate is heated enough, remove from microwave and stir gently until all lumps melt.  This may take a minute or two.  It’s okay if all the chocolate doesn’t melt, just remove those lumps after stirring.

Stir in the peppermint oil in 1/16 teaspoon increments (it’s easiest to add such a small amount with a dropper or pipette), tasting after each addition, until chocolate has a noticeably minty flavor.  Add the oil until you’re okay with the flavor.  Note: peppermint oil is potent, and adding too much can make these taste unbearably minty, but you do want it to be a little too minty right now — just a little —to account for all the cereal you’re going to add.  (If you accidentally add too much oil, melt some more chocolate and stir it in.  Solved.)

chocolate-guys-12

Add the cereal and stir until fully coated, using extra cereal if necessary.  Spoon out onto a wax-paper-lined sheet tray in bite-sized mounds, a shy tablespoon or so per mound.

chocolate-guys-14

Let sit briefly, about 15 minutes.  If properly tempered, the chocolate will begin to firm up.  If not, place in refrigerator until set.  Even if they don’t look perfect, they’ll still taste the same.

chocolate-guys-15

 

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Prewitt

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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