Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Santana
This Traveling Chef Uses Comfort Food To Connect Cultures
Santana Burriss is from Charlotte, North Carolina by way of Atlanta. The New York-based traveling chef has been cooking professionally for five years.
We spoke with him via email about his career and how he brings cultures together through food.
Travel Noire: How did you get your start in the culinary industry?
Santana: Back in Atlanta, I left corporate America and started bartending as a way to stay up on food trends, pick chefs’ brains, and to also gain a clientele from people who would come to the bar. Two years into bartending, I found out about this prestigious culinary school called the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Less than a year later, I stopped everything I was doing and moved to New York to attend school. That is what gave me my first push towards a professional culinary career.
TN: How would you describe yourself as a chef?
Santana: From working with different cuisines, cultures, and traveling, I found a way to infuse the comfort food that I grew up on with other cultures’ comfort food. No matter what culture you explore, you find that comfort food is what really connects friends and family.
I present food in an intimate setting while introducing you to new flavors and ingredients from across the earth. When asked to describe the type of food I cook, I respond by saying “contemporary comfort food.”
TN: Tell us about traveling to Mexico to cook?
Santana: Cooking in Mexico was dope. I went with the Black Girls Travel Therapy group and provided food for the ladies throughout the week. The travel therapist, who also served as the organizer of the group, and I got there one day before everyone else to get the vibe of the land. It allowed me to get some inspiration for food and cocktails.
TN: How easy or hard was it for you to gather ingredients in a foreign place?
Santana: Getting to Mexico a day early made it extremely easy to get ingredients. I was able to scout out the local grocery stores and markets to see what was available. I grocery shopped for the majority of the food that day, and throughout the week I was able to take quick trips to pick up other ingredients.
TN: What type of clientele do you typically work with?
Santana: I work mostly with Black professionals, travel groups, entrepreneurs and people who operate in the art space.
TN: Do you have a signature dish or cocktail? If so, what is it?
Santana: A signature dish I have is “Soul Rolls.” In Mexico, I prepared soul rolls with chicken that was braised in Mexican spices, onions, peppers, avocado, and pepper jack cheese. It was a burst of good flavor and texture. I also do variations of shrimp and grits.
My signature cocktails are punches and sangrias. In Mexico, I got a hold of fresh guava. I made this extremely sexy punch that had tequila, lime, pineapple juice, jalapeño, and guava. It was out of this world!
TN: Where can our readers find you online?