Travel Noire spoke with Jeffrey ‘L Is For Love’ Brooks and gets a peek into a Black Alaskan restaurant partner and chef. One cannot find Brooks on any social media platform. You can find him at his restaurant, Pike’s Landing, teaching at the local culinary school and at church singing in the men’s choir in Fairbanks, Alaska.
This old school soul exudes love, kindness and a chill a** vibe. Although the restaurant is open, with customers sitting for dinner at their tables, Brooks still takes the time to sit down and talk with us.
Travel Noire: Pikes Landing is a great space. How did this concept come about, especially the unique deck space?
Brooks: I love our place. I’ve loved it from the start. The deck you see now, which is about 13,000 square feet, it used to just be a patch of grass with a piece of cement. It dynamically changes how our property is viewed and received by the public from summer to winter. We have seasons on the property. It’s cool, it has a transition. One of the best things about Fairbanks are the summers.
In the summer, you can walk all over the place. It is so beautiful. Everybody is so friendly and so nice. And you feel real comfortable, real quick. It’s hot out, and you’re seeing the days when it never gets dark. Never. How do you know when it’s time to go to sleep? When your body tells you it’s time to go to sleep, it’s time to go to sleep.
No one knew what to expect that first summer. We were doing about 6500 beforehand. A small menu, a small BBQ pit… It was so much fun. I was able to keep up with 18 wait staff. It went so well, the wait staff started a tip jar for me!
In the winter, things slow down. People sit for a good hour-and-a-half. This year is amazing with the way people are attacking seafood. It is not cheap, not even for us! It’s amazing how much we actually sell. In the winter, they have time to sit. They eat something, go outside and take pictures. Come back in and eat something else. You can see the Northern Lights from our dining room. Those that want to see Alaska, you’re gonna love Alaska at Pikes Landing.
TN: It’s been rumored that you cook somewhere other than at Pikes Landing. Do you still cook Sunday dinners for your church?
Brooks: How’d you know that? (Laughs.) I do. Yes.
TN: How did that start?
JB: I grew up in the church. We all still go there today. Moms was big, she was a Mother of the church. If your Mom participates, you will participate. To some degree. I kind of tip-toed away from church. Did my own thing. I worked myself back and as I worked my way back into the church I found music. I love music. I call myself the best back up singer out there. I don’t like to lead songs, or anything, but I love singing back up and singing in groups. So, we have a men’s group called Men of Glory. I’d pick the songs and we added harmony. So, every 4th Sunday is men’s Sunday. We’d sing and cook. It was really popular. Then, COVID happened so, we protected the pillars of the church. We are getting back to it though.
TN: Jeffery ‘L is for Love’ Brooks? If the L isn’t for Love, does your middle name start with ‘L’?
JB: Yes, it does. It’s Lynn. Anybody that knows me growing up, they don’t call me Jeff. Fellas call me Brooks and all my inner-family, or real family, call me by my middle name. Some of my other mothers, you know, we grew up with multiple Mothers, growing up the way we did. My friend’s Mom’s was one of my Moms. They’d all call me Lynn. ‘What are you doing over there, Lynn?’ I was never Jeffery until that super adulthood, that next chapter in our lives.
TN: Favorite comfort food to make for yourself? Mom’s cooking?
JB: All the time, but I’m a simple guy. I just like a good ol’ American hamburger. Nachos. I call them naaaachos because I think I am going to build it small, but then I pile it all on.
TN: How’d you get started?
JB: Strangest thing, I actually went to school in Chicago. I had a family there. I wanted to be an electrical engineer. I went to school and when I came back, I came back broke. I was broke. Less than broke. I had to get a job. I lived with my mom, a single parent, raised me. I got a job at Sunset Inn. I started as a dishwasher. I just needed an opportunity to make some money. They trained me for about two hours. Then, worked on learning how to do it better. I was there for approximately five months, and I went from never cooked to being in charge of the line. It’s kind of been the same ever since. I watch, pay attention, learn. I now have more of a hands-on aspect. I love it. I love making people happy through things you have to do. Eat and drink.
TN: How has family influenced your food/recipes?
JL: This is probably one of the most interesting things about what I do. My mother and grandmother have passed. My family CAN COOK. Scratch! I don’t think my Grandmother had EVER seen a recipe. She was one of the most amazing women, as a kid growing up, she was in there cooking. Everything from plucking the chicken to cooking the chicken. I was born in Arkansas, so they really, really, really get with the cooking. I never really paid attention to how much she knew, or how well she could cook until I became an adult. As a cook and chef, it was then I realized how good she really was. My Mom was literally a chip off the block. She would always be called on by the church, ‘we need you to make your burnt butter brown cake’ She was just amazing. Again, a scratch cook.
As we got through the holidays in my adult life, we would battle about who would make the best sweet potato pie. Of course, in my mind I thought I did, but you know I would never win. Ya know, because it’s Mom’s. Even though sometimes, I knew mine was better, it never was gonna be better. We’d always have that inner battle, that wasn’t really a battle. Moms always wins.