If you’re looking for a chef to keep up with, Chef Jesse Jones is your guy. The private chef—and owner of Chef Jesse Concepts—has become a bit of a fixture on local TV, from cooking demos on WPIX 11 to a recent stop at News 12, and was just named one of the Star Ledger’s Inside Jersey Top Chefs of 2014. Chef Jesse gave Jersey Bites the scoop on how he got started, where he likes to eat, and more.
JERSEY BITES: What is your earliest food memory?
CHEF JESSE: My earliest food memories are of my grandmother cooking southern food. Being in the kitchen with her and learning started my love for cooking.
When did you realize you wanted to make cooking a career? Was there an “a-ha” moment?
I started as a dishwasher and was always fascinated by food. My a-ha moment came when a chef asked me to be a third cook on his team and I jumped at the opportunity.
Any interesting stories about where and with whom you started cooking professionally?
I started in food service and learned a lot from Walter Krupna. He was a chef before entering the food service world and he taught me everything and opened doors for me.
What is your cooking style?
What is the greatest /neatest opportunity that has come from cooking?
Interacting with all the celebrities I cook for.
What is the most memorable meal you’ve had, what did you eat, and where was it?
Southern fried chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese at the now closed Mrs. Stewart’s Southern Cuisine in Newark.
It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
What is the best advice you have to share with young folks interested in becoming chefs?
Listen, work hard, try to train with as many chefs as you can and travel to experience different cuisines.
If you could choose to be any food item, what would it be?
Peach. I just love them and I make a mean peach cobbler.
What is the one “staple” food you always have in your cupboard at home?
I have three: thyme and garlic and shallots.
What is your beverage of choice?
Grey Goose and cranberry and southern sweet tea.
What is your favorite comfort food?
Mac and cheese.
What New Jersey restaurant do you enjoy dining at?
South Orange, Toro Loco.
If you could have dinner with any three people, living, deceased or fictional, who would they be and why?
President Obama, Paul Bocuse, and Diana Ross. Being an African American chef, President Obama teaches me I can do anything I set my mind to. I love French cooking and would love to cook for and meet with Paul Bocuse. Diana Ross was the first Motown female star to be a role model. I love her music.
Are you working on any upcoming projects our readers would be interested in learning about?
I’m working on a cookbook to be out by 2015 and a couple of food products to be announced.
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.