Britt Meets Chef Lovely
Posted on July 09 2018
This week, Britt catches up with celebrity chef and founder, Chef Lovely aka Lovely Jackson. Lovely graduated from the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago with an Associates in Culinary Arts, Bachelor’s in Culinary Management, and a certificate for Professional Baking and Pastry and, after graduating, went on to hold the title of Executive Chef at the age of just twenty two.
She has since partnered with major brands, been on Hell’s Kitchen (Season 6) cooked for well-known celebrities and is proud owner and Executive Chef of Lovely Eats. In this interview, she talks to Britt about her career, the obstacles she has overcome as a female African-American chef and why it is so important to her to give back.
Chef Lovely is my HOMEGIRL. The original #REALNESS QUEEN (aside from myself). In true @brittlovessmoothies fashion, we first met at Bloomingdales in Century City while I was shopping for a blender #smoothiefate. We hit it off instantly and I walked out of there blenderless but I would take her over a Vitamix any day.
If you are wondering… yes, she has a very “lovely” demeanor. I mean, her name is CHEF LOVELY. She is funny and smart and hard working and talented and actively gives back to her community.
Although Lovely lives in Los Angeles, she is a native of Chicago (another #duh moment - I know this a sweeping generalization but SHOUT OUT to the Midwest for breeding another GOOD HUMAN).
She epitomizes #HUSTLE. She works very hard. She has strong opinions. She is loyal. She knows how to have fun but she doesn’t let that get in the way of work. Although our proximity in age makes her seem like a peer she has been a constant source of inspiration for me over the last five or six years of knowing one another because of her FIGHT. She fights the good fight. She is making her LIFE HAPPEN.
She has done everything from starting her own catering business to dabbling in some work in front of the camera on FOOD NETWORK STARS to personally being asked to participate in Michelle Obama’s LET’S MOVE Campaign. Impressive. Yes, I am aware.
More than anything she radiates JOY. She offers a warm embrace. She makes me laugh. And she always leaves me wanting to be a better human. So yes, I recommend paying attention to her. I recommend listening to our entire conversation because it wasn’t impossible for me to transcribe EVERY piece of advice she gives… if I did, you would have a book. And reach out. I know her. She would love a hello.
You have been in the professional chef game for the last 13 years, how have you started to incorporate giving back to the community with your career?
Through my catering company I founded YOUNG GOURMET. It is a culinary education division of my business and our goal is to work with underserved families in the local communities with a focus on health, nutrition, and wellness.
I work really hard. I came to the realization at a very young age that my purpose in life was to give back to kids, and food has just always been a passion of mine.
How did you know that was your purpose?
My mom brought it to my attention around the age of 13. I knew I was supposed to be working with kids. They want to be around me and I have never had to struggle to get a child’s attention. Cooking has been such a big part of my family’s BEING. We always ate as a family. Sundays meant SUNDAY DINNER which meant family. And I was always a part of the process. My mom gave me cook books, she took me to farmers’ markets. So yes, food has always been my passion. It means FAMILY. It means LOVE. Trying new things. TOGETHERNESS.
And why is the work you do at YOUNG GOURMET so important?
When you understand the process that it took to grow a tomato and the understanding behind it. Why it is good. Even if it is one class, you see the change in the kids. They want to eat the fruit. They want to eat the vegetables. I also educate the parents. All of this starts at home so I want to make sure I provide the same tools to the adults as I do the kids.
I know it is a problem, but how big is the hunger problem for kids here in our own city of Los Angeles?
IT IS A HUGE PROBLEM. It’s insane. Just this summer 16 million kids won’t have access to a healthy well-balanced meal because the only healthy meal they are getting is at school. It blows my mind because I can’t wrap my head around not knowing if I will be able to eat today.
UNFORTUNATELY THE PROBLEM IS RIGHT HERE. JUST 9 MILES AWAY. PUT THAT INTO PERSPECTIVE.
Food waste is another huge problem. That is why I am so happy to partner with people like LA Kitchen. They are a zero waste non-profit organization that recovers or purchases fresh produce that would otherwise go to waste. I help turn that produce into gourmet meals and serve it to the LA community.
Amazing. Was there a defining low moment which helped you find this purpose?
We went through a tough period so I know what it feels like to only have beans and leftover bread and worry about not eating. I was 10. We were borrowing money from different family members. My mom was strong and able to keep us uplifted but it took us a couple years to get back. So I know what that fear feels like. And our setback is subconsciously a large reason why I want to help people BOUNCE BACK.
So what’s the solution because a large percentage of the local population falls below the poverty line and eating healthy is expensive?
I think it is up to people like you or me — we all have to ask ourselves if we are using our platforms, whatever they may be, to be a voice for change? Are you using your platforms for EDUCATION? Yes, there are a lot of non-profits out there but what about the action behind them? A lot of people don’t know EBT(Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards are accepted at farmers’ markets.
What is an EBT card?
Food stamps but on a credit card. Which is even sexier. #LOVELYtruth
For me, what I want to do is educate through more cooking demonstrations at farmers’ markets and not-for-profits. And give people as much knowledge as possible… like LET’S MOVE - they called and asked me to be a part of it.
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR…
How difficult is it not only being a female chef in a male dominated world but an African American female chef?
People think all we know how to do is make fried chicken and grits and cornbread.
African American female chefs are looked down upon and I am trying to be an example of how this is false, and change that story and change that narrative and encourage all FEMALE chefs that we can step it up a notch and earn the respect we deserve.
Knowing what is in season is necessary too which goes back to EDUCATION. Google anything. Just go to a farmers’ market. Whatever is selling is in season. When you’re buying in season, it will cost less and taste better. I always tell people you can freeze stuff. DON’T BE AFRAID OF A ZIPLOCK BAG.
What is next? What are you in search of?
I need SPACE to offer more cooking demonstrations. I have partnered with the Youth Policy Institute in their health and wellness department. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we offer FREE cooking demonstrations and encourage — not just the kids — but the whole FAMILY to attend. It’s a hands-on cooking class. It’s a culture class.
WHY DO YOU LOVE SMOOTHIES?
Convenience. It is a way to trick your kids. The fruit will overpower the vegetables. The spinach, kale, flaxseed…
Have the right tools for the right job. I like to be real with people. You don’t necessarily need a Vitamix but I will help guide you to something more affordable. I want people to go home and feel comfortable with recipes. My recipes are a guideline. I teach you how to get there but you get to go home and PIMP IT OUT whichever way YOU WANT TO. #REALNESS.
Why do you believe good role models are so important?
I think no matter what field you are in, you need to be able to take a slice of HUMBLE PIE and admit you don’t know everything. I still have chefs I call to get advice. It is important to be able to sit down and reflect and then ask for help. If you are blessed to have a positive role model, utilize them and then take that and help the next person. Even if they are not in your career field, good role models around you build character and help strengthen you.
What or who inspires you?
My students and my surroundings. I used to not live in the moment because I was always so focused on an end goal. So I think it is important to slow down… even going outside because just BEING is such a special thing.
THINK BIG BUT KNOW THAT SOMETHING BIGGER COULD HAPPEN=LET GO. #REALNESS
Favorite reading material?
Bon Appetite Magazine.
THAT IS BIBLE.