Road To MasterChef: Gerron’s Nashville Roots Inspired Him To Cook
By Shontel Horne
What does it take to face famed chef Gordon Ramsey week after week as he critiques your culinary skills on national television? Travel Noire spoke with some of the contestants who are up for the challenge on the 9th season of MasterChef to learn more about how they took their skills from their home kitchen to the small screen. Gerron (@john_qoffee) tells Travel Noire how his Nashville upbringing inspired him to take his culinary skills to the next level.
Travel Noire: What inspired you to make cooking more than a hobby for you?
Gerron: Growing up, my mom was a big influence for me. I’ve been in the kitchen ever since I was five-years-old. My mom taught me everything I know. Also, just watching a lot of food shows on the Food Network or watching Gordon Ramsey and Aarón Sanchez throughout the years. Those challenged me and my passion to cook.
Travel Noire: What types of dishes would you make with your mom?
Gerron: My mama showed me the fundamentals like fried chicken, fried fish, salmon cakes. Dishes you would typically see on the African American table. Potato salad, coleslaw, pinto beans, all of those types of traditional dishes are some of the things that my mama taught me to cook. The cooking shows taught me to elevate those dishes, making those dishes more appealing to the eye in a non-traditional style.
Travel Noire: What dish or technique are you known for?
Gerron: I’m really, really good at sauces. It may not be a particular dish, but I can make a sauce that will wow you. I do a lot of hot sauces from scratch.
Travel Noire: How has your heritage inspire how you cook?
Gerron: My southern roots! Most of the dishes that I cook are dishes are spins on dishes that I’ve eaten as a child. My dishes are like southern dishes that I’ve eaten around Nashville and Kentucky or dishes that I grew up making. Dishes at a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Thinking about ways to make those fancier.
Travel Noire: What’s one black-owned restaurant you think everyone should visit in your hometown of Nashville, Tennessee?
Gerron: Slim + Husky’s! Slim + Husky’s is one of my favorites. It’s a pizza place where you can go and get pizza, you can go and get beer. The owners are a couple of graduates from Tennessee State University who opened up a restaurant. They are bringing the heat. They opened up another restaurant and now they have two restaurants in Nashville. It’s hands down one of my favorite places.
Travel Noire: What is one of your favorite food cities to visit?
Gerron: Memphis is a great place to go. The last time I went to Memphis I went to a place called Soul Fish that was amazing. I went to a restaurant called Interstate Barbecue. Memphis is a great place to get barbecue and just to get southern food.
Travel Noire: What advice do you have for someone who wants to take their culinary skills to the next level?
Gerron: My advice for anyone that’s trying to get to the next level is to follow your heart and follow your dreams. It may sound cliché, but I’m a very practical person. If it doesn’t pay the bills, I don’t give it the time of day. My decision to do MasterChef is me following my heart and following my dreams. Also, get in the kitchen! I call my kitchen my laboratory. Get in the lab and practice. Try new things. With cooking, there is no right or wrong answer. It’s trial and error. Try things out. Watch TV, watch the Food Network, watch MasterChef, get ideas to try things, that’s the only way that you’re going to be able to find out what you’re good at and really hone your craft.
Travel Noire: What has your time on MasterChef taught you about yourself?
Gerron: I’ve learned how to take feedback well. Listen to feedback the judges give you and implement that feedback. A lot of times when the judges are telling you something, it’s easy to take what they’re telling you as an insult or to take it the wrong way. Really, they just want you to perform at your best. If you implement what they’re asking you to do, you could come out successful. That can go in anything you do in life. Constructive criticism is a good thing. If you can implement that feedback, you’re going to become a better person all around.