The chef’s kiss is an expression used to illustrate perfection. It’s one of the most recognizable gestures, and Chef Lisa Brooks has become one of the most recognizable people on social media. A loving mom who approaches cooking the way she approaches life, with passion and focus. I was fortunate enough to sit with Chef Brooks recently as we had a candid conversation surrounding food and her brand. Enjoy!
Who or what would you cite as your introduction and/or inspiration to cooking?
My family matriarchs were my inspiration and introduction to cooking. We would have big Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house every Sunday. There was such a feeling of abundance and love and belonging and it all centered around food. To feed someone was to show them love. That’s my goal every time I prepare a dish.
When you look at the current landscape of social media, specifically your rise, when did you decide to take this route and did you foresee making this kind of impact?
I decided just a few months ago to start making cooking videos on TikTok. I had no idea I would gain 100k followers in just a few months! I just wanted to share my passion and I guess people could feel that and connected with it.
Your son, Brey, has been your biggest supporter and promoter, and rightfully so. Talk about how much that mother/son bond helps you add that love to your cooking and share maybe a funny food story with you two.
My son and I are very close. He is by far my single greatest achievement in life. In everything I do, I want to make him proud. The fact that he thinks I’m dope is my most satisfying endorsement. Obviously, he lived with me for 20 years of his life and never learned to cook a lick! It wasn’t until he was on his own in New York that he asked me to teach him how to cook. He would FaceTime me in the grocery store and in the kitchen to get my guidance. Finally, while quarantined together for the first 3 months of the pandemic, he finally got his second chance to really get in the kitchen and learn by my side. He said learning to cook was the final “infinity stone” he needed to conquer the world!
“When you receive love for being your authentic self, it is an absolute joy”
In this era, everything is about branding and becoming a brand. Do you view yourself as such and how does that influence the way you create?
I’ve always been associated with the company that I began 10 years ago as a second career, Heart & Soul Personal Chef Service. Last year, I decided it was important for me to establish myself as an expert in my field and that I needed to work on my personal branding as just Chef Lisa. I knew social media was going to be key to establishing myself in this way. I started a YouTube channel with full-length cooking videos, posted tips and techniques on Facebook, and of course uploaded lots of food porn on Instagram. But I really didn’t get much traction until TikTok. I think the combination of teaching, cooking, music, food pics all packaged up in bite-sized 59-second clips was the right formula for me and it just took off. My first “viral video” was my Jamaican beef patties video and we were literally in shock as the views just kept spiraling up throughout the day!
Oh shit this is going viral on Tik Tok! My Jamaican Beef Patty video! Check it out and let me know what you think! Omg!! Let me know what you other dishes you guys would like me to try! ?? #ChefLife #Jamaica pic.twitter.com/1fTlxvLE4t
— Chef Lisa Brooks (@ChefLisaBrooks) October 13, 2020
What’s your absolute favorite dish to prepare vs your favorite to eat and talk about the difference?
I love to prepare low-country coastal dishes, like my specialty Shrimp & Grits. Those are foods I can just cook from the heart and share a story behind every dish. That’s part of the experience. My guests get my life on a plate.
I love to eat foods that are outside of my own culture like sushi, ceviche, pernil, tagine, birria, masala. The difference is I want to learn what is considered the “soul food” of those cultures. I want to get to know their lives on a plate.
How do you see yourself affecting women who may be looking to learn how to cook, or looking for that push to create their own content as well?
My hope is to be used mightily in influencing women to pursue their passion, whatever it may be. To help them overcome fear and societal expectations and simply walk in the direction of what they love. I mentor a lot of young black female chefs and my goal is always to help them cultivate not only their culinary talent but also their inner best selves. I teach them to use their gifts to access opportunities, use their integrity and character to maintain long-term success, and balance it all so they create peace and joy in their lives.
The dishes you prepare mixed with your incredible personality have easily made for some of my favorite moments this year. What are your short and long-term aspirations with and outside of cooking?
First of all – Thank you! When you receive love for being your authentic self it is an absolute joy. One of my short-term goals in all of this was to travel the country selling out my elite pop-up dining experiences. Now that I have the following to support that dream, my team of chefs and I are going on tour in late Spring of 2021 -tour bus, t-shirts and all. We’re gonna roll out like rock stars and give our fans a chance to have carefully curated intimate dining experiences with me in their own cities. Beyond 2021 will be cookbooks, coaching products for those aspiring to be personal chefs and maybe a TV show!
This one here is kind of a twist on the marry/kill game. I’ll give you 3 sides and you tell me which you’re eating fresh, eating as leftovers, or giving away: Mac and cheese, rice/peas, cabbage.
This is hard! Cabbage – fresh, Mac & cheese leftovers and giving away rice/peas.