For this Chef spotlight, Food News Today had the opportunity to interview Chef Dequandre Williams who won Chef Battle at Say Cheese Fest in Chicago.
What or who inspired you to become a chef?
When I was in high school, attending John Marshall Harlan Community Academy, on the far the Southside of Chicago, I was one of the chosen few to attend one of the best programs the City of Chicago had to offer, the AAEP program (Advanced Arts Education Program) is where my thirst for culinary arts began to sharpen itself. There, I was introduced to a program that not only helps educate and develop sharp culinary skills and kitchen knowledge, but also gave a fair platform for all students seeking a career in culinary arts, and/or the hospitality industry, scholarships towards the post-secondary education of their choice. It is also where my competitive side was born.
What has been your biggest challenge as a chef?
I can say one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a chef has been keeping the simplicity of a dish. I tend to overthink and overdo it. Which is a good and a bad thing. I love the endless possibilities of a dish going from good to extraordinary by adding or “subtracting” a few ingredients, but sometimes dishes are best left as classics.
Where did you go to culinary school or how did you learn to cook?
In my high school days, I was one of the few recipients of the $25,000 half-tuition scholarship at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I can’t go without saying without the aid of my family from CCAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program) I wouldn’t have even have had the opportunity.
What is your specialty?
Though I am well rounded with regional cuisine, Italian cuisine is my specialty. I love making pasta, pizza dough, antipasto from scratch. it’s a great way for my children and I to bond in the kitchen, and it’s a way I engage my students in teamwork exercises.
What trend do you see for 2019?
The food truck trend has been booming for the last 5-6 years and I believe this trend will still be evolving next year. Even in my past catering orders, I have had some bizarre request for food truck vendors for private functions. Though I don’t own a food truck, my counterparts Chef, Veronica & Angel Peinado of sweet Confections home of the “the taco buggy” owns a food trailer, and just this summer along, the amount of events done with our little red buggy has been absolutely amazing.
What’s your favorite dish?
I love a good classic chicken piccata when its done right.
What’s the strangest thing that we would find in your refrigerator?
If you were to look in my frig, you would find my meat grinder equipment, mixing bowls and black garlic. The kitchen supplies are there to ensure safe temperatures when handling food. and I am a big garlic lover, but black garlic is much sweeter, nuttier, and tastier.
What’s your favorite city to eat at in the world?
Chicago!!! home of the deep dish, cheesiest loaded pizza in America.
What advice do you have for culinary students or aspiring chefs?
One of my favorite quotes that I tend to live by and teach to my students is “ the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” -Lao Tzu this quotes meaning for me is, to take your time reaching your goals, be detailed in every aspect of your dreams, for when you look back at what you have accomplished, you will remember what it took to get there.
If you could cook for anyone, who would that be?
I would love the opportunity to cook for Gordon Ramsay, his passion for cooking and respect for the industry is amazing and I strive every day to be the next Ramsay, and to love food in a way where it’s not just something I do to satisfy my belly, but use it as a vessel to express the creativity I have in the form of Art.