Judges on Star would agree that Chef Malcolm Mitchell’s cooking was on par with the rest of the contestants on the show. However, it was his POV that they wanted to see more of. Curious ourselves, we spoke to Chef Malcolm about his POV and his experience on the show. Here is what he had to say:
FP: How did you get your start with cooking? When did you decide you wanted to be a chef? Did serving in the Navy play a role as you traveled to many countries?
MM: It all started in the house with my mom, learning to cook from her. She’s from Charleston and knows good southern cooking. Going in the Navy took my palate all over the place and definitely played a role in trying different foods. As for how I decided that I wanted to be a chef, I was always throwing house parties and catering small events. One day, a friend said, let’s open a restaurant. I got a little nervous- I knew how to throw a party, but did I know how to cook professionally? That’s when I decided to go and get formal training.
FP: Name some of your favorite chefs and why.
MM: I’m not saying this ‘cause I was on his team, but Bobby Flay is one. I’ve always liked that guy and his cool, laid back personality with a little swag. He’s a great chef and personality, not too “gimmicky” about his POV. Too many chefs are about their personality, not “chefy enough.” I also like Morimoto and his Asian flair, how he uses fish from Japan in creative ways.
FP: Oh, the dreaded POV. We remember hearing a lot about that when you were on Star. Speaking of, tell us about your experience on the show. What was the entire process like from casting to filming? What was it like to compete with the other chefs?
MM: The whole process was exciting, especially after seeing that show for so long and then being right in the thick of it. There was a little anxiety at first, I have to say. I think my food was there, but it didn’t really show my personality. I just set my mind to concentrate on the food.
Another highlight was meeting the celebrities, the coaches, Paula Deen, and others. Having one on one conversations with them was something! Oh, and meeting crazy Alton Brown. That dude is just funny, super witty.
I have to say, though, that in Episode 8, I totally whooped Michelle’s butt with my food!
FP: We definitely enjoyed some of your dishes especially the jerk chicken. You should challenge Michelle to a cook off!
Speaking of food, when you are home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself? If you go out to eat, name some favorite places where you like to eat. What are some of your guilty pleasures (if any)? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
MM: Like most chefs, I don’t really cook for myself. When I do, it’s simple things like grilled chicken, salad and pasta. When I cook for myself, I use about 5 ingredients, that’s it. I’m always cooking for others. I’ve been in Richmond, VA for a bit, let’s think about what places I can shout out around here. One place is Juleps, they do modern southern. Their shrimp and grits and roasted duck with blueberry demi-glace are both great. They mix things up.
I love Haagen-Dazs, especially the Butter Pecan. I’m kind of an ice cream snob. I don’t like the cheap stuff, but I won’t tell you what that is.
FP: Can’t really go wrong with Haagen Dazs as we could go for some ice cream right now! Moving on, how did you come up with the concept Brain Food, the school lunch program?
MM: I was doing a lot of speaking engagements at schools while I was in the DC area. I became the Executive Chef at two DC schools in ’04-’05, where there were a lot of privileged kids. At the same time, I did speaking engagements to underprivileged kids in Wards 8 and 9. I started thinking, “Why should some school food programs be better than others?” Food is universal; get a great meal and your mind works better. My goal was to do a school lunch program to provide healthy options, even a summer program. I got a 5 school pilot program but then the schools got shut down when Michelle Rhee took over as Chancellor so the program couldn’t start. I took the program to private schools because they didn’t have the same bureaucracy that the public schools faced. I did it for three years in Prince George’s County. The goal was to get kids to start eating healthy with a nice presentation of fruits and vegetables, no sodas and none of those crazy old cafeteria ladies. I wanted to help the movement. It was before Michelle Obama and I did it without grants, just pitching programs to schools. I did it for 3 years but it was hard to maintain with the economy and other things. I still stay involved by helping with Recess by the River, KIPP Academy and I adopted 2 schools to teach healthy cooking.
FP: That’s fantastic. Half of Foodie Pleasure is an educator for her “day job” so that work is particularly meaningful. Let’s switch things up a bit. Name 3 individuals you would want to invite over for dinner and what you would prepare for them.
MM: Obama, Anthony Bourdain… and let’s make a mash-up, Howard Stern. What would I make for these guys? A burger, we’d do burgers and brews. Not just any burger, though, eclectic burgers- turkey and southwestern with chipotle mayo. I’d say Portobello, too, but they’d throw it back at me! It would be more about the conversation. I’d broach politics and religion, all those things you’re not supposed to talk about.
FP: We’d love to be at that dinner party!
Parties aside, any tips for novice chefs?
MM: Learn the basics and the techniques. Go out and do your own style. Culinary school teaches you the technique and if it tastes good, it can be done. Play with the flavors and do your own thing.
FP: In three words, how would your friends describe you?
MM: Edgy, funny, determined, charismatic… yes, that’s 4!
FP: Where will we see Chef Malcolm in 10 years?
MM: Hopefully with at least 5 restaurants and my own TV show… just making people fall in love with food like I did!
FP: Chef Malcolm, thanks so much for sharing your POV with us. We admire your commitment to healthy eating in schools and desire to make good, quality food without all the gimmicks. We’ll “get chefy” with you anytime!