It would be fair to say Asata and I go way back...back to the days when we were 20 somethings running around the set at Florida A and M University. I'll save the old college stories for another day and just say that..my girl can cook. I remember going to her apartment in college and her having a big pot on the stove. "Whatcha makin', "I asked. " She replied, "Homemade fish stock." I mean ... who makes homemade anything in college? My idea of homemade was poppin' open a bag of boil in bag rice..But I digress, without further adieu, my girl, Asata Reid.
Chef Asata is a culinary instructor, chef, journalist, mama and world traveler who teaches people how to make foods that fit their lifestyle with her Atlanta-based company Life Chef. Her focus is creating dishes that are healthful, fast, affordable and delicious.
How long have you been a chef? What was your journey like?
I've been a chef for a decade. I've always loved food and in my sophomore year in college I considered transferring to a culinary school, but I went ahead and graduated from Florida A&M University w/ my BA in Journalism. About two years later, I went to the International School of Culinary Arts at the Art Institute, Atlanta for my professional culinary training. Meanwhile I started up the traditional career ladder for chefs in those days working jobs from dishwasher to garde mange, saute, grill and eventually tournade and Sous Chef. I stopped there. I don't think i want to Exec Chef a restaurant until I'm ready to co-own one! LOL. During those years as a restaurant chef I also worked in catering, asa private chef and also was freelance writing.
Eventually I developed a journalistic "beat": food and wellness, and began speaking with a lot of doctors, patients, families of patients and non-traditional and traditional wellness workers. One common theme from all of them in maintaining and rebuilding good health was a healthy diet. And as a chef, I think I have a more intimate understanding of food that the lay person so writing about food in this way was interesting to me.
Still, the idea for Life Chef, wasn't born until one day I walked into a newly opened Walmart in my neighborhood and saw these endless lines of obese parents and obese kids and their shopping carts LADEN with pre-packaged convenience foods, sodas and frozen treats. THAT'S when it occured to me that you can tell people to eat 5-9 servings a day every day of their life, unless you SHOW them how to do it in a way that's cheap, easy, quick and delicious, they're not going to do it. No one has time to cook, much less LEARN something new and laborious. And THAT'S when Life Chef was born. I know how to make healthful, delicious, cheap and easy foods that focus on fresh produce and whole grains and minimize saturated fats and meat products. Life Chef is about making food that fits your lifestyle, because diets don't work, and no matter what your eating habits are like now, there's always room for improvement. If you food fits your lifestyle you're more likely to make healthy choices over the long haul, and lifestyle changes are how life-saving changes are made.
What inpires you?
Food itself inspires me. It's a very sensuous medium that addresses sight, smell, taste, texture. Food is never stagnant because it's a result of the seasons, the preparation, or even unpredictable elements like humidity or drought. Food is like art in that it's perceived differently by everyone: what the cook intends isnt' always what the diner experiences! LOL. But food is also a basic human need, along with shelter and love. It's a way for humans to come together for shared bonding experiences, breaking bread, calling for peace, or just asking "How was your day today?" The kitchen is the heart of the home, and the dining table is the common ground of the family regardless of how many generations are seated there. Whatever is going on in your life, to me, food can make it better, if only for few moments. I get asked about my "style" of cooking and it's really a blend of international inspiration of "soul food" all over the world, foods that mothers have been making for families for centuries, but with the application of information provided by modern scientific research into nutrition, and bit of social concsiousness about sourcing ingredients and supporting local economies by shopping locally. And I always remind people, "I'm from the south, so if it doesn't taste good, it ain't food. I don't care how good it is FOR you." LOL.
What is your vision for your business?
I would love for it to expand, but keep the same essence: teaching people no matter how you eat right now today, that you CAN make good, healthy, wholesome food fit your lifestyle. My goal is to put video short up on the web, land a regular television series that works in the kitchen AND out in the world where food is grown, prepared and purchased by regular folks like us. I see cook books as well, especially because the demand has really grown, and I'd love to keep doing demos and classes -- especially for children and adults concerned with The Big Four: hypertension, diabetes, cancer and obesity.
In ten years you will be:
Still cookin', honey. Til they light the fire under my pyre I'll still be cookin', and heck even then it'll be a barbeque!
Where we can catch you next?
Visit www.lifechef.net for a list of this month's classes, demos and appearances as well as the recipes from those classes. >