Being a chef is something that I’ve always wanted to do from an early age. I would watch my parents, grandmothers and aunties in the kitchen, and I could always see that they enjoyed cooking. I would always help when asked, and I don’t remember it ever feeling like a chore to me. I enjoyed it.
Because it was a career I knew that I eventually wanted, I applied for positions in food and beverage at the Disneyland Resort. I was hired over 15 years ago, and since then, I have always strived to move onto the next level of each next step I was offered because of my passion for cooking.
Now, I get to take that passion and share it with other cast members through “Cultured Palette.” Started by the Florida-site PULSE Business Employee Resource Group (BERG) three years ago, and launched this year at Disneyland Resort by our PULSE BERG, the “Cultured Palette” video series highlights Black chefs from around the parks cooking their authentic and cultural dishes and sharing recipes and stories from their childhood along the way.
I shared two recipes for the “Cultured Palette” series: Chicken and Seafood Gumbo and Tea Cakes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been enjoying my auntie’s gumbo, which she learned how to cook from her mother. Almost every new year, she lets the family know she’s making it for everyone. I can immediately see the big pot with the crab legs sticking out from all the other ingredients.
I learned how to make Tea Cakes from my grammy. It was always something to look forward to when going to her place as a child. It’s definitely the first bite of one that takes me back to the table in her kitchen, where the plate of Tea Cakes would be waiting.
Showcasing my family recipes means more than I realize at this moment. I am grateful to have had the opportunity, and it’s good to showcase something from a different culture that may pique someone’s interest.
I’ve found that if you truly enjoy cooking, the kitchen isn’t a scary place, and all the flavors will naturally come together without even using a recipe. When the opportunity arises to create something from scratch, I engage anyone who seems genuinely interested and share with them the story behind the dish.
One of the most rewarding things about creating and executing a dish is that moment when you watch someone take the first bite, and you can tell they thoroughly enjoyed it. Good food makes people happy.
It’s great that as chefs, we can really celebrate diversity through food all year long here at the Disneyland Resort, and I appreciate the freedom we’re given to experiment with recipes. I’ve even had the opportunity to influence multiple menu items available to guests during our festival season.
Watch Chef Kamilah Robinson, Chef Natalie Willingham and Chef Michaela Gilchrist from the Disneyland Resort in their “Cultured Palette” video and download their recipes.