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Cakes By Jeff The Chef.

My passion for baking ignited from a very young age. It was from the sweet memories of my beautiful grandmother Evelyn Dean, a strong black woman who moved from Texas to California when she was a young girl. To those wondering where Stockton is, it is about 30 miles south of Sacramento in California. I remember being four years old, playing in her kitchen with whatever kitchen appliances I could get my hands on while waiting to taste the sweet aroma from her warm peanut butter cookies that lingered throughout the house. My grandma loved to cook and bake for her family. I recall my favorite time of the year was during the holidays because I could always count on her to cook her favorites sweet potato pie, seven-up cake, chocolate chip cookies, and her specialty; peanut butter cookies. She taught me how to crack an egg, how to use a flour sifter, and even taught me all about child labor as she taught me how to clean her kitchen while she baked. You can say that spending time with her, and tasting the different pallets from her desserts and savory southern cooking, inculcated a passion for baking and cooking in me.

As a young black man, growing up in Stockton was not always easy, but I made sure I stayed out of trouble. My mom was a single mom and worked multiple jobs to provide for my sister and me. While she was at work, I had to take over the home responsibilities of cooking and cleaning. Taking on that type of responsibility encouraged me to take a home-ec class when I was in middle school to learn more about cooking. You can say that I had fallen right into my grandma’s footstep as I began to bake different types of pies and cookies like she used to. I remember inviting my cousins and friends to my house to try my food in return for their opinions. The more I saw my friends and family supporting my vision, the more I became eager to attend Le Cordon Bleu, an accredited culinary school in San Francisco. Unfortunately, because our household financial instability at the time did not allow for a prestigious school, I opted for something more practical, and I decided to complete a Medical Assisting Program instead. Yet, my love for baking only grew throughout the years, and I never quit dreaming of a bigger picture. I am not sure if it was grit for wanting to do something I loved or a blessing from God, or both, and in the year of two thousand in ten, I finally had an opportunity to attend Le Cordon Bleu just as I always dreamed and man, was it was a game-changer for me!

I was 30 years old, working a full-time job as a Medical Assistant, and driving 100 miles round-trip every night to pursue my passion at Le Cordon Bleu School. I never missed a day of class, as having 100 percent attendance was a must to graduate. Of course, until one day when I forgot my kitchen shoes. I remembered as it was yesterday, right at the beginning of class, the Chef asked us to line-up so that she could check our uniforms, nails, and shoes. Like a drill surgeon from the USMC, she lined us all up across the kitchen with our hands out to check everyone. I had forgotten to pack regular kitchen shoes, so I wore my sneakers. When she looked down at my feet without missing a beat, she dismissed me for the night. Did I mention this program required 100 percent attendance? As you can imagine, I left that night upset and mad at myself for forgetting such an essential item. And all-of-sudden- like a message from God, I thought to myself, rather than going home, buy shoes. Thus, I googled the nearest Walmart and bought another set of shoes that night. I returned to class with the right pair of shoes, and when the Chef looked at me wearing the right pair of shoes, she smiled and said, “I will only mark you tardy you may return to your station.” From that moment on, I was never more sure of my determination. My professor knew my dedication and love for food. I knew then I was there for all the right reasons, to continue to learn and always value my grandma’s recipes.

In the last decade, I have spent my time perfecting the chemistry of my desserts. I have participated in Sugar Showdown , from The Food Network show, where I have showcased some of my favorites, and in the last year have been invited to several other shows. I am grateful to venture into a new endeavor and share my favorite grandma’s recipes with everyone around the United States.

-Chef Jeff

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