By Dawn Raven
A local culinary arts firm run by three Black women discuss the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on culinary gigs and how they’re attempting to overcome the impact.
As city and state officials create restrictions on outdoor dining, and enact capacity limits in restaurants and businesses, many food industry workers are wondering what actions to take to save their businesses. Chef Amanda Jackson, is the 34-year-old founder of the growing culinary arts firm in Long Beach, Chef Amanda & Co. The firm is facing obstacles as the pandemic hits harder on America’s chefs and restaurants.
“If it’s not pandemic proof then it’s not stable enough for America these days,” said Jackson.
Throughout the pandemic, the culinary arts firm has been focusing on recipe development, expanding social media content, teaching cooking courses, and hosting small pop-ups.
Chef Amanda & Co.’s firm consists of Sous Chef Aziza Jade Berry, and Food Stylist Chef Rosecleer Marie Johnson. Under Chef Jackson’s direction, the firm has also prepared to make tough decisions on how to serve customers without the risk of COVID infection from clients.
“It doesn’t make me feel good to put the people who have helped me build this dream and put them into these situations with people who don’t want to get tested, self-isolated or stay six-feet apart from us when we come to their house,” said Chef Amanda.
Before the pandemic, the culinary arts firm expanded their business through dinner parties, menu development, restaurant consultation and rehabilitation, restaurant development for businesses, along with cooking classes, demos and tastings. The firm is highly-skilled in food styling, culinary courses, luxury dining and management of services.
“My greatest gift is to be able to create, as long as I can keep creating there is a lot of positivity in this,” said Jackson. “I miss being able to create for people but not at a certain expense.”
With the risks of serving and cooking with customers during a pandemic, Jackson expressed concern over her team’s health and safety, because they may not have insurance and are independent contractors. She says that conversations with her clients have become lengthier about safety and precautions over the pandemic.
“I was willing to take gigs at one point if they [clients] were willing to do the COVID testing and self-isolating prior to the event,” said Jackson. “Even getting them to do that is asking for too much.”
According to the CDC, common symptoms of COVID-19 include a cough or shortness of breath, or at least two of these: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste and smell.
“What do I do with my job as a chef with no taste or smell?” said Jackson. “I came from restaurants, you don’t get sick, you work.”
Even in a non-restaurant environment or client chosen locations, Jackson and her team find ways to make business.
“I am okay with doing pop-ups and being able to cook on my terms where I don’t have to make contact,” said Jackson. “It’s safe for all of us and we still get to enjoy the food.”
Jackson said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, she prefers to do food drop-offs and pickups rather than having to cook inside of a client’s home or venue.
Her most recent pop-up was “Litmas Brunch 2020”, perfect for the weed aficionado’s and for the curious. The meals were cannabis-infused featuring Chef Amanda’s favorite Black American Southern dishes. The delicious cannabis experience was created with mainly canna-butter. Chef Amanda prepared over 50 meals of pecan praline crunch waffle, cheddar bae biscuits, and sauteed tiger shrimp and grits.
She took matters into her own hands to stay safe for this pop-up shop and made it pick-up and reservation only.
Jackson hopes that in the upcoming year she can be more active with more young chefs and local restaurants. She says she wants to help local businesses shave costs down by reconstructing their menus. Before working as a private chef and creating her own firm, Jackson assisted with rehabilitating businesses to help with recipe development and kitchen turnaround.
“One of my next long-term projects for Long Beach businesses is to help turn around some of the blind-spots they may have,” said Jackson.
Jackson will also be teaching a course, “Exploring & Modernizing Black Southern Cuisine” in which she will educate students on Black American food from the South, infused with cannabis, at the City College of San Francisco starting in February 2021. Working alongside Chefs Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey and Miguel Trinidad in the Spring, the course will contribute toward an Associates Degree in Cannabis Studies. The extension course focuses on a decolonized space where tradition, culture, and cannabis come together in the Black American South.
Hello, my name is Dawn Raven. I am a mixed-raced young woman who was born in Chicago, IL. I grew up in Long Beach and studied journalism at Long Beach State. I am an aspiring broadcast journalist and writer. I am currently a Public Relations specialist and marketing director for beauty company, Cammy Nguyen, LLC. I have a specialty in Public Relations, Marketing, Journalism, Advertising, Photography, Video and Brand Development. I am eager to continue to share experiences with readers about the roots that sprout out of the Long Beach community.