CULINARY ARTIST CHEF SHELLY HARRIS TALKS BALANCING RUNNING A BUSINESS WITH MOTHERHOOD, HER FAVOURITE RECIPE AND MORE.
Shelly Harris – also known as Chef Shelly is 25-year-old Culinary Artist from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her passion for cooking was birthed at a tender age when she would watch her mother and grandmother cook together – alongside the rest of the family during holidays. However, it was her aunt Alisa Randolph who helped mould the artistic side to her passion, particularly when she was left having to care and cook for her aunt while she was undergoing chemotherapy. It was then she knew Culinary Art was something she wanted to pursue. Her drive continued to excel ever since, setting herself challenges and catering for her community with the aim of building her own empire.
We caught up with Shelly to discuss the future of her business, her favourite dishes to make and much more:
When did you officially launch your business? And what type of things did you do to prepare for the launch?
“It’s only been a year since I launched the business. It took a lot to prepare and I’m still nowhere near where I know I want to be. I’ve had to educate myself on ways to promote my brand, learn how to associate with successors and a whole lot more! I joined Le Cordon Bleu’s Summer School classes in 2008, then finished at Los Angeles Trade Technical College by 2013. It takes hard work & dedication, but it’s quite a well thought out learning process. I get a lot of support especially from my mom, and so as long as I stay true to my passion & talents, I believe I have the tools I need to succeed.”
What services do you currently offer through your company?
“We provide entertainment, food, and are open to catering for a range of different events and ceremonies. I have been a part of many within the community, including parties and I also provide families with home cooked meals. I’ve learned a lot from celebrity chefs in downtown LA, and it’s encouraged me to continue to do so. They’ve helped me understand that there’s no right or wrong way to go about fulfilling my aspirations and dreams, and so in addition I prep healthy meals by order – I love it!.”
What do you love most about what you do?
“I love the different cuisines and styles of cooking. The taste, the plating, all the way to decor. It’s easier to learn being around such dishes, and inspiring Chefs from around the world. Culinary Art is very interesting and intruding for me so I will always continue mastering it.”
Do you have favourite dish to make or a famous chef Shelly recipe?
“I love to make pasta’s and different types of southern foods/ American foods. I loooove Thai food as well. But my favourite recipe has to be my scrumptious Shrimp Stew, which is always a parties’ delight! It’s a simple delicious Louisiana recipe I’ve been using for years. I learned from my mother and grandma greatly!
Are there any Chefs or other Culinary Artists you look up to?
“Yes, I’ve always looked up to Chef Emeril Lagasse, Racheal Ray, and Duff Goldman. They’ve all played a significant part of my life and I’ve met a few in college right before I got my Culinary Arts Certification. I’ve also met some at the LA Food & Wine anniversary events which is hosted every year. It’s almost like a college reunion when our team gathers up for booths to set-up, and helps with demos.
I look up to them because I want to be in their position someday. Owning a business, building a foundation, mastering skills and travelling. They have knowledge, experience, and lessons they always love to share. Cooking is my passion, and there are so many different ways to express its art and emotion – being in the kitchen is one of them!”
How do you balance being a mother and your business? A lot of young women often feel like they have to choose between being a mum or pursuing their career – What made you go against the odds and strive as hard as you do?
“That’s a great question. I’m constantly empowering young women like myself to still pursue their dream because it’s FOR their child too. Without being dedicated to a goal, I feel you’ll lose hope and drift into an unhappy space in life. Being able to obtain the two, or three could financially, physically, and emotionally help you! I’m lucky to have the opportunity to go against those odds while balancing out my career and motherhood, because my son has pushed me to.
My advice to other young mothers on how to balance being a mom and working would be to keep grinding, and to not give up. No matter how hard it may get, your child looks up to you and is relying on your strength. Don’t also be afraid to ask for help from family members, good friends and all those who support your ambition if possible.”
Have there ever been times where you felt like giving up and just settling for what you’ve already been able to accomplish?
“There has been times where I’ve felt that I could do better, but that takes time. That’s what might hold me back a little sometimes – the uncertainty of my next move or gig. It’s in those moments that I’m driven to keep reading, and to continue to educate myself on ways to perfect my craft more and more – that way I’ll always be prepped for any challenge that comes my way, or whatever it is I decide to take on. I can’t lose hope, so I just throw myself into the art so that I won’t ever doubt myself in the future.”
What in your opinion is your greatest achievement so far?
“I think it has to be working with one of DTLA’s most successful venues – Vibiana. I catered, prepped, and cooked many, many 5 course meals for thousands of people weekly. I knew that once I met the head Chef I’d love it there, I never got tired and people were really patient with me. It was my first time working in an industrial Kitchen but because I had an awesome staff assist me – I didn’t feel intimidated in any way. I’ve recently been invited to work with the head Chef again!”
Is it hard to get a team together to support you when you’re catering at an event? Do you always bring the same group of chefs with you to help at your events?
“It can be and it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. I have to gather up old friends from college and work around everyone else’s schedule. I’m always around the same group of chefs from school, and I know I’ll always keep them around because of the loyalty. For the events I host on my own – they all come and support me. I haven’t planned a big one yet, but once I do I’ll have a team prepared. I really believe in timing, and God’s timing is always the right time to do things!”
Speaking of college – can you talk a bit about your childhood and experiences growing up?
“I was raised in a single parent home, and growing up my mother taught me to never depend on anyone but myself and to work hard for what I want. She taught me to stay away from those who don’t believe in me, remembering that everyone’s intentions aren’t always sincere and genuine. I’ve always stayed true to myself because of that.
Life was a little challenging for me whilst I was still in school but I learnt a lot. I learnt how to be more responsible, and how to juggle being a college student along with being a parent. I had to make a lot of tough decisions, but all in all they made me who I am today! I couldn’t always get help when I need it, and those tough times were what built me up. I did had friends that did help me during some of my tough times, and through that I realised how powerful it is when people come together.”
What in your opinion is something affecting our generation in a negative way? And what can be done to change that?
“I think a lot of young entrepreneurs if given the chance and financially stable can make a name for themselves, but lot of them aren’t. Our generation is filled with a lot of competition – you’ve got be very creative and really think outside the box these days to make it. A lot of youth people give up on their goals and ambitions even before they start because of the requirements it takes in the long run, and having to live up to the standards set by our society.
I think this generation could use a lot more mentorship, or help from other successors that’ll pass on some of their knowledge into the upcoming young entrepreneurs. Having an education is the stepping stone for most but that’s ultimately up to the individual.”
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone who wants to pursue the same career path as you?
“If you want to pursue a career in Culinary Art, you have to educate yourself on the different cuisines and tastes. Visit different schools, academies or programs that’ll help you learn the basic skills about cooking. In order to certify and before you can call yourself a “chef”, you have to be a cook who’s learning the ‘Basics of Safety and Sanitation’ in the kitchen.
Do not stress over any tests, just make sure you study and you’ll do just fine. Culinary Art is a form of artistic expression and so there isn’t a right or wrong way to present a platter.”
You mentioned about God blessing you with your talent for Culinary Art, and using them to fulfil your purpose. What would so say to those who currently are unsure of what their purpose is on how to find theirs?
“You’ll find true self purpose in what make you happy and by sticking to it. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s positive and it makes you happy! As I mentioned before, my aunt Alisa helped me find mine – I not only cooked for her, but she also took me to “Star Search” auditions, encouraged me to read healthy cookbooks and put me in a magnet program during high school which moulded me tremendously. I soaked in all those experiences, and still use those things till this day to master my craft. As long as you do what you love and make others smile whilst doing it, you’ll be fine. You also have to keep a positive mind-set and that in addition will attract positive people to you.”
Are there any current projects or events you’re working on that people can look out for?
“During the school season this month, I’ll be posting up the upcoming dates for a “Pop up” restaurant I’m looking to do. It’s exciting, and I’m happy to be able to share the talents that God has blessed me and my family with, and expose myself to a bigger audience. My official website will also be launching soon so people can also look out for that – along with a few more surprises and gigs!”
If there’s anything you want people to take away from your story what would it be? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
“I want to be remembered as uplifting, kind, young spirited, and successful by the grace of God. Without him you have nothing! I want to have left a positive impact in people’s lives in any way I could. Everybody loves to eat, everybody loves music, and everybody loves someone who’s genuine and I feel I hold a great role in that. I want to have had a televised show, book, website, restaurants, and all! I’m thankful for the small steps I have taken on this journey because they are leading me to even bigger steps in the future.”
For more on Shelly Harris and to connect, please see below:
Email – Book2Cater.CS@gmail.com