“I’m all about cooking with soul, hyping sustainability, and going on adventures to explore good food & culture.”
I'm a third generation chef, cookbook author, sustainable food advocate and proud alumnus of The Culinary Institute of America. After spending most of my life on the East Coast—Raleigh, New York, Boston—I moved to LA in 2014. I've built a life for myself in Downtown Los Angeles where I’m the Executive Chef / Co-Owner of Preux & Proper and South City Fried Chicken, Chefs Collaborative LA Locals Leader, JBF Smart Catch Leader and member of Seafood Watch's Blue Ribbon Task Force.
I believe that chefs have a great responsibility to the people we feed and the environment from which we source our food. Sustainability has been the guiding light throughout my career. It's given my life's work great purpose and continues to keep me challenged. It's allowed me to continue learning from great chefs, professors, scientists, farmers and fisherman, while working with world class organizations.
My restaurants and cooking have received acknowledgment and acclaim from many great food institutions, including Michelin, James Beard Foundation, Zagat, Eater and American Culinary Federation. I’ve thrown down on Food Network competitions, hosted cooking segments on networks from Hallmark to Viceland, and been featured on several Travel Channel programs. I’ve been fortunate to cook for some of my idols, including Jane Goodall, Mary J Blige and Susan Sarandon. My journey as a chef has been one hell of a ride–but my humble beginnings are what keep me grounded.
CHECK OUT MY MOST RECENT SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE ADVENTURE IN CHILE
We’re projected to increase our global population by 2-2.5 billion people in the next 25-30 years. That’s a lot of new mouths to feed, and we already struggle with the fight against hunger. Fortunately, science and innovation are being applied to meet the demand for more food. Alternative solutions are shaping a better global food system. Food that is healthy, scalable, and sustainable. When I heard that these principles were being applied to a small salmon farm in Chile, I just HAD to visit. My expectations were exceeded and I cannot wait to share with y’all the super inspiring aspects of aquaculture’s recent advancements, including an algae based feed that is changing the game.
the come up
“My Life has always been a love story about food and cooking.”
My passion for food began early on, and roots from a childhood spent cooking alongside—and eating with—my Pops. In fact, as far back as my memory goes, food has been the most exciting thing in my life. As a child, I would wake up at midnight and sneak out of my bedroom so I could greet my Pops as he came home from work. At age thirteen, I began working at my folks' restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Bud & Eb’s). My folks’ joint was an American Bar & Grill known for it’s funky Southern spread, spanning cuisines from the Carolinas all the way down to Texas, with a big pit-stop in New Orleans. This was where I learned to cook the classics, like Crawfish Étouffée, Barbecued Pork, Red Beans & Rice, Cuban Sandwiches, Smoked Andouille Plates, Fried Fish, Tortilla Soup, Cajun Crab Cakes, Pop's Burgers, Mommy's Apple Crisp and so much more. The only frills were on the toothpicks. It was down-home cooking; true grit American food. Food that I still love to cook, eat and serve to this day.
Check out some of my dishes at Preux & Proper...
“I love honoring the iconic plates I GREW UP COOKing in my pop’s kitchen while also creating extra fancy southern eats.”
Projects & adventures
I recently went to DC to meet with members of the 116th Congress to advocate for the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), a law that calls for sustainably managed fisheries that support the health of U.S. oceans coastal economies. One of the highlights was meeting with Congressman Jared Huffman, Chairman of the House National Resources Subcommittee on Water, Ocean and Wildlife.
Read More Via My CulEpi Interview →
Frying chicken in Brooklyn with one of the most flavorful MC's was a true rock star moment for me. We smoked, we drank, we laughed and we ate. A lot. Laila Ali was *more* than a legend to kick it with. Back on that Hip-Hop note, I had to wear my vintage Coogi sweater to pay homage to the greatest MC of all time, BK's one and only, the late and great Notorious B.I.G.
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It was an absolute honor and thrill to compete in this year's Cochon 555. My crew and I had a blast breaking down a 350 pound Berkshire hog sourced from local raisers–Peads & Barnetts. Cochon events support their charity Piggy Bank, which betters the future of food by endorsing safer, more enlightened farming practices through the sharing of genetics, livestock, and info.
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I decided to throw a Big Lebowski themed brunch at Preux & Proper in honor of the film's recent 20 year anniversary—which also landed on Halloween weekend! Achievers came in from all around the City of Angles to abide and channel their inner Dude. I was in my full Dude garb and of course, Kass was my Walter. Check out the menu (designed by Alix Marson) and some photos, man.
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My business partner Joshua is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and as you know, I was cookin' Crawfish Étouffée in my Daddy's kitchen at age 13... so NOLA W&F was on the bucket list for sure! We headed down with a bully crew, ate 5 meals a day for 5 days straight, woke up to frozen daiquiris, went to bed with bellies full of gator, and smoked beef hearts with hickory on the Mississippi.
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Stone Cold Steve Austin has a new reality show airing on USA and I got to head up to the famous Sable Ranch to teach him and Rob Riggle how to fry whole chickens out of a 55 gallon oil drum. It was a true grit cowboy moment for me. I took my youngin' Angel, who helps run South City Fried Chicken. He's been cooking for me for years and is a HUGE fan of Stone Cold. Def one for the books.
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I always have a blast cooking with homie Josh Scherer (follow him @mythicalchefjosh) who is the resident chef of youtube sensation Rhett & Link's Good Mythical Morning. It turns out one of his coworkers had never eaten a burger in her entire life, so we teamed up to prepare a classic shack burger with grassfed beef and my Pop's Russian dressing. We ate most of it.
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Kass and I went down to Louisville to collaborate with Maker's Mark on crafting a single barrel of Preux & Proper "Private Select" bourbon. We had to drink a WHOLE LOT of bourbon to pull this off. It sure was tough, but hard work pays off, and when it was finally finished, our whiskey came out great! We still have some to pour, and I age our house green hot sauce in the barrel.
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Building and operating a Gypsy Hotel for 120 esteemed guests in Black Rock City was badass. Cooking pancakes and dancing with Susan Sarandon was legendary. This was the last CRAZY soul searching endeavor I embarked upon before buckling down with Preux & Proper. From sand storms to steel sculptures to art cars, the playa clarified my journey and solidified my path as a chef.
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My homie chef Ryan Trimm (Sweet Grass, Next Door, Sunrise Memphis) flew us to Memphis to cook at his annual Special Olympics fundraiser. It was probably the coolest thing I've ever done. Kass came with me and her Mama Michelle drove into town from Asheville, NC to help us cook at the event! Shout outs to Dougan, the whole crew at Sweet Grass, Central BBQ and Wild Bill's.
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I first began my work with Chefs Collaborative close to a decade ago. We're a national (non-profit) network of like-minded chefs who work together to promote and educate the princicples of sustainability. We also celebrate those doing it right! We fight "the good food fight" via seminars, symposiums, summits, op-eds and food & wine events year round, all across the county.
Join The Movement →
JBF Impact recently planted a flag in LA, and I am SO thrilled to be working with them via Smart Catch—an educational seafood program with the purpose of increasing the sustainability of the seafood supply chain. As a Smart Catch Leader, my restaurant Preux & Proper works with JBF to preserve marine life, assure stable fishing stocks and promote sustainably farmed options.
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In 2012, Seafood Watch began selecting members for the Blue Ribbon Task Force—a mission driven collective of chefs committed to sharing challenges and ideas about seafood sustainability. Our duty is to work closely with Seafood Watch in an "on the ground" capacity to insure a future with healthy oceans. I think of the BRTF as the Navy SEALs of the sustainable seafood movement.
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Recently, I gathered with America's best chefs in Portland, Oregon, along with colleagues from Monterey Bay Aquairum and a veteran of Capitol Hill to draft the Portland Pact—a piece of legislation calling for sustainably managed fisheries that support our businesses as well as the health of our oceans and the health of U.S. coastal economies. It's a BIG DEAL!
Sign The Pact →
Anthony Bourdain left us too early, but he also left us with a wealth of cultural and culinary inspiration. His documentary Wasted! being proof. I had the honor of MC'ing an official screening, moderating a panel discussion featuring chefs Nyesha Arrington, Minh Phan, Neil Fraser and Michael Cimarusti, and hosting a food and cocktail event inspired by the films message.
Watch the Film →
The Good Food 100 Restaurants™ is an annual list and rating of U.S. restaurants designed to educate eaters and celebrate restaurants–fast casual to fine dining to food service–for being transparent with their purchasing practices, and using their purchasing power to honor and support every link in the food chain. Preux & Proper took the assesssment and we encourage you to do so as well.
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Strapt Apron's founder Emily Bell has a great sense of style and taste, as well as a huge heart. Through her collection "Designs For A Cause," she works with top chefs from across the country to design dope aprons while supporting great causes (chefs choice). We recently collaborated on this rugged camo-navy-khaki piece. 20% of Proceeds will benefit my FAM at Chefs Collaborative.
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I recently fell in love with THRIVE® culinary oil, an algae innovation that's sustainable and healthy. It's neutral in taste, making it great for vinaigrettes and may, and has a smoke point of 485°F which is perfect for searing and pan frying. AND, It's health benefits are through the charts, with the highest levels of monounsaturated fats and 75% less saturated fat than olive oil and avocado oil.
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The burger was always a staple in my family's restaurant, and something my pop’s took great pride in. It's something to this day that we can talk about for hours. The burger—a global icon of American cuisine. I couldn't imagine a more fitting first cookbook to create, nor a more qualified co-author than my dear friend and burger afficionado Richard Chudy.
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I've been a huge fan of Hedley & Bennet Aprons since the days of rocking my biscuit dough blemished black denim Lincoln. H&B was one of the first establishments I visited when I moved to Los Angeles, and since then, they've become wildly successful! I love all my peeps over at the Apron Squad headquarters, and it was super dope to model such a sleek garment for them.
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