It's always so refreshing and inspiring when you can witness a friend's dreams turn into their reality! All of the hard work, preparation, restless nights and dedication taken to perfect a craft and finally seeing it pay off in such an immense way is something that should be truly honored....
Ceaira Jackson, a recent graduate of L'Ecole Culinaire, is the Executive Chef of SOHO Restaurant & Lounge in the heart of The Grove area in St. Louis. SOHO is one of the newest establishments in this area that has quickly created a massive buzz in the community. SOHO is very New York esque from it's lofty style building decor matched with neutral color schemes but plastered on the wall is everything that is "So St. Louis." SOHO is where the beautiful people are from their gorgeous staff (with exceptional customer service) to the crowd on Friday and Saturday nights. From their "finger licking" Southern inspired menu with a twist, exclusive private party rooms, rooftop patio and not to mention one of St. Louis' newest "IT" places to party, one can see why this is THEE place to be.
The KaShonna Files sat down with an exclusive interview with Ms. Jackson about her new position and let's not forget to mention.... to EAT!
TKF: How did you get your passion for cooking?
CJ: I knew I’ve always enjoyed cooking ever since I was a child. I grew up with 3 sisters and a single mother and I felt as though she needed help. I became really good at cooking and it eventually became a passion and my family would always praise the meals I put together. It did not occur to me until later in life after not succeeding how I wanted to in college and so I decided to pick up a “trade” and do something that I loved.
TKF: What did going to L’Ecole teach you about cooking that you did not already know?
CJ: L’Ecole taught me proper cooking procedures and the fundamentals of cooking which is very important. It is also about what you do outside of school and what you learn on your own that really perfects your craft.
TKF: How did becoming the Executive Chef at SOHO come about and how involved were you in this new business venture?
CJ: My cousin is the owner and he wanted me to be a part of his vision which is an opportunity that I do not take for granted and am very thankful for. It is a rare opportunity for someone who has only been out of culinary school for less than a year. I was and am very involved as far as the menu is concerned, I was there from the beginning planning and
TKF: Speaking of the menu, it is very Southern inspired and when one thinks about Southern cuisine, a plethora of dishes come to mind. How did you decide what to put on the menu?
CJ: The decision of what to put on the menu came about when I thought about food that people cook at home such as short ribs, pork chops and salmon and we also wanted to cater to everyone. We considered “down home cooking” and we did not try to do anything too extravagant that people were not familiar with (although the plating and the preparation of the food is a tad bit different.)
TKF: Southern food is definitely known for its flavorful and seasoned dishes, how did this play into your cooking preparation and the “Health Care Initiative?”
CJ: Our cooking technique is a tad bit different from what one would do at home, because “soul food” is heavily cooked, we wanted to have intense ingredients but with a lighter flare. As far as the “Health Initiative,” we have seafood dishes, lighter salad options and substitutions on our menu so for instance, instead of pork bacon, you could get turkey bacon. We try to make sure we please everyone as far as their eating habits are concerned.
TKF: What inspires you to create and plate the dishes the way you do?
CJ: I look at food as an art with the plate being the picture frame and the food as the art work that goes on it. Not only should food taste good, but I think the presentation should be just as beautiful.
TKF: Who is your favorite Chef?
CJ: Cat Cora, she is inspiring as a Chef as well as the first female Iron Chef. It is very refreshing to women who want to go as far as she has gone in her career.
TKF: What is next on your agenda to accomplish?
CJ: Honestly, I have not told anyone this so it will be an “exclusive” to your blog, but I want to start my own personal dish line :-)
Make sure you stop by and enjoy Ceaira's amazing food...
SOHO Restaurant & Lounge
4229 Manchester Ave.