Life story

Chef Lisa Brooks’ life story told through her culinary experience

Chef Lisa Brooks, owner of the personal chef service Heart & Soul, takes care of the meal preparation.

For Lisa Brooks, the most treasured memories involve delicious food and good company.

His business, Heart & Soul Personal Chef Service, was designed to reflect those memories by creating an experience for customers they will never forget. Heart & Soul Personal Chef offers upscale private in-home dining, custom in-home meal preparation, and even candlelit dinners for two. Brooks describes it as the largest black-owned personal chef service in the country with 10 black female chefs.

“There’s a responsibility that comes with that title,” she said. “I’m proud of that, but what it really means to me is that I’m able to create work, meaningful work that pays well, for people who have been vastly underrepresented anywhere else in the world. culinary industry.”

A team of personal chefs is not typical in the industry. Traditionally, private chefs work full-time for a family or household. The idea of ​​a chef coming just once a week to help prepare meals for the rest of the week or help organize an event was unheard of, but it was a business more people could afford.

“Someone had to come and break the mold and that comes from my experience running a business,” Brooks said. “All these years in business, I used to lead a team. Why would I do all this with my own hands? What could I do if there were 20 hands?

“We are with people, helping them celebrate the milestones in their lives. For example, if you have already celebrated your 50th birthday, it is a day. This day will never come again. We carry the weight of the fact that we are forever part of the memory of these people. We create an environment where they can feast, where they can enjoy the guests, where they have nothing to worry about because we take care of everything.

Brooks grew up alongside strong female personalities. Her love for cooking comes from her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. They taught her to prepare food with love and determination and she carries that with her today.

She fell in love with food surrounded by those she loved the most. Every Sunday, his family gathered to share a feast. Cooking has become an expression of love for Brooks. All through college, she invited friends over for Sunday dinner and made sure to include the dishes she knew they liked the most. She never imagined that her passions would one day turn into her own business.

At 40, Brooks had held a position with the same company for 16 years. The work was stressful and unrewarding. She was feeling the effects of the stress both physically and mentally, so she felt compelled to change and follow her true calling. She quit her job and moved back to her hometown of Charlotte where she attended culinary school and started her business.

Brooks’ journey with cooking and the sudden change in her career inspired her to help other young black women. She teaches chefs across the country to be a personal chef. She offers an online course that she hopes will continue to be recognized.

She has been a mentor to many young female chefs and an inspiration to them finding their true purpose. She guides them in defining their skills and offers them opportunities that she believes cannot be found elsewhere.

Most of the young female chefs she mentors have attended CPCC in Charlotte. Some come from difficult backgrounds and never expected to work other than as line cooks after finishing their studies. Brooks took them under his wing and offered them a chance to learn skills they couldn’t get inside the kitchen, such as etiquette, financial and business skills, and professionalism.

“I teach other black female chefs across the country how to start a business, how to function as a personal chef, and how to grow a team, which is unprecedented in the personal chef industry. And it’s revolutionary. I polish them as well-rounded, powerful businesswomen, and encourage them to create their own,” Brooks said.

She encourages them to continue the type of business she created with Heart & Soul. She hopes these young women know their worth and don’t underestimate what they are capable of and the environments they are capable of creating. “The main thing I want to instill in them, as everything else flows from it, is to conduct yourself with a level of integrity and honor that keeps you in the room. Your talent will get you in the room, but your character and your integrity will keep you in the room,” Brooks said.

His skills have not gone unnoticed in the public eye. Brooks was recently featured on the Food Network’s hit series “Chopped.” She was a contestant on the very first episode of Black History Month where all of the contestants and judges were black. She reached the final dessert round with only two contestants remaining. Her opponent, Brian Jupiter, won, but she remains friends with all the chefs she met during filming.

Brooks is grateful for her time on the show and hopes it will bring more success to her business in Charlotte.

“I love sharing my knowledge, I love sharing my story, and I love to cook, so hopefully there will be opportunities on a more national stage, as well as a boon for our business plan in Charlotte, that we are still expanding,” she said.

Brooks has also started her own TikTok page where she posts videos teaching viewers how to cook food. They are simple, but delicious. She wants to encourage viewers not to be intimidated in the kitchen and that it’s okay not to follow a step-by-step recipe.

“I love teaching people the basics of cooking. I think of my son when I do these TikToks, people who don’t cook or no one has taught them how to cook, or they’re just out of college,” Brooks said. “I try to break things down to the basics, like what spices you need in your cabinet, what a well-stocked pantry looks like, or how you make a basic sauce.”

Brooks recently published her first cookbook last year. The book contains 100 recipes that help tell her story growing up in the south and the women who influenced her. Readers can experience her journey in the kitchen on a more personal level and even experience it for themselves. She is proud to have preserved the matriarchal heritage represented by the recipes.

In addition to her new cookbook, Brooks has designed her own line of chef’s coats, a departure from what’s primarily aimed at men and the male body type. She wants to create colorful coats that represent the personality and the body that wears it. Just as cooking is a form of expression for a chef, she thinks the uniform should do the same.

Lowcountry Shrimp & Grits, prepared by Chef Lisa Brooks of Heart & Soul Personal Chef Service.

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