By Taroue Brooks
What inspired you to become a chef?
My grandmother is my inspiration. She instilled this passion for food in me. She introduced me to and taught me all about the foundational things about cooking. It’s something that has such with me my entire life. It’s truly my first love. I never thought I’d become a chef. I went to business school and have a very successful career. However, I never loved any of that work like the way I love exploring the world of food. I became a chef 6 years ago on a whim. I decided to take my private creations in the kitchen, wrap it in some branding, and go public. It worked surprisingly well. That’s how I stumbled upon becoming a chef. Since then I’ve cooked for some notable celebs and VIPs like Aaron Judge from NY Yankees, Beal from the Washington Wizards, Big K.R.I.T., etc. It’s been so awesome to see where this has taken me.
Tell us about your training/experience.
I am not traditionally trained. I am a self-taught chef. I work really hard at challenging myself in the kitchen. YouTube has become my best friend. I practice techniques, I research new challenging recipes, and I also really read about flavor pairings which is one of my strengths. One of my favorite things to do is travel. I’ve been to 23 countries and in every country I’ve been to I make sure to create a unique culinary experience – whether that’s volunteering in a kitchen, taking a cooking class, or trying out a fine dining experience. I think because of this, it leads me to explore flavors in techniques in an unfiltered way. I create flavor combinations that otherwise would probably be unorthodox or unheard of.
Tell us about your new line of seasonings.
The Naked Spice collection consists of three all-organic spice blends that are pivotal to my culinary experience. They are essential in my cabinet and I believe they should be in everyone else’s as well. They are the creole, coffee rub, and adobo seasonings. These spices are bold in flavor. As soon as you get them you can smell the difference between these blends and their more commercial competition. When curating the recipes and sourcing my ingredients, I really focused on making sure they were of quality. I didn’t want to cut corners and costs. I wanted a quality product line to be the introduction of this brand. And speaking of the brand, I always get questions about the branding. I wanted it to be provocative. I wanted it to stand out. The brand name comes from the idea that I am stripping down all these fillers and artificial BS out and giving you raw, “naked” spices.
What is the WOW factor that you embody?
I believe the wow factor of me is being extremely well-balanced. Being well-balanced affords me to do a lot of things well and which means I can compete in a lot of different areas. Instead of being super-well skilled in one area, I can afford to be agile and pivot quickly and do things others can’t as quickly.
How do you manage the stiff competition in such a competitive industry?
I think it boils down to the following:
1. Having a great product that truly speaks for itself.
2. Great AUTHENTIC branding and marketing.
3. I am a data scientist for my day job so really understanding how to use data to drive your business forward is key.4. Excellent customer service.
What tips do you have for Christmas Dinner?
1. Get rid of the bird and go for a great piece of lamb or really nice fish like a sea bass as the main protein.
2. Focus on making your side dishes exceptional – these are key to a successful dinner.
3. Make sure you have the Naked Spice Collection seasonings on deck! They’ll elevate your dishes without a doubt!
Where would you like to see your business in the next five years?
This is just the start. I hope to expand the line with more spice blends, marinades, oils, and salad dressings. I’m also working on a cookbook as well and it will complement this branded ecosystem as well. I hope to have a national brand. I want to see my brand on the shelves at WholeFoods and beyond at some point. I want to build a culinary lifestyle brand.