History, Legacy and Inspiration in South Carolina with Chef Works Ambassadors, Kevin Mitchell & Amanda Rios

What happens when you coincidentally introduce a chef to the person that inspired their career? At Chef Works, you take it as an opportunity to build community and connection, and be witness to the incredible story that comes from it.

While Chef Amanda Rios and Chef Kevin Mitchell may not have crossed paths until recently, they have a unique shared story that weaves together history, legacy, and inspiration. Both have personal and professional roots in the South and both of their careers have evolved from the unique origins of Southern food.

The two connected for the first time – by coincidence – on a Chef Works Ambassador onboarding call, where Amanda shared her appreciation for Kevin and gave a little insight on the impact he’s had on her career. Less than a month later, our team ventured back to South Carolina with Amanda to continue the story and take an in-depth look at Kevin’s direct impact on culinary beginnings in the South.

What came from the trip was incredible conversations on the unique origins of Southern food, the importance of knowing and understanding its complicated history, and what carrying on its legacy looks like for both chefs. We asked Chef Amanda to share the experience from her perspective and here’s what she had to say.

Charleston Adventure: A Culinary Journey with Chef Amanda Rios

Recently, I embarked on an unforgettable journey to Charleston, SC, to meet a culinary hero of mine, Chef Kevin Mitchell. This dream became reality thanks to Chef Works, fueled by a simple yet profound belief: “Closed mouthes, donʼt get fed.ˮ I like to take things a bit deeper though, so letʼs get into it. The fact of the matter is that speaking from the heart can unlock doors to incredible opportunities.

My connection to Chef Works began through Chef Nikki Steward, my boss and absolute business mentor, when she introduced our team to Brea. This relationship blossomed, leading to numerous opportunities, from modeling in their catalog to them styling me at the National Restaurant Show, and ultimately, to becoming a Chef Ambassador myself. Reflecting on my journey from a culinary student struggling to afford basic, professional garments to now sitting at the same table as my #IRL hero, Chef Kevin Mitchell, feels surreal.

During our introductory call, amidst my astonishment and a mix of personal casualness, I managed to express how integral Chef Mitchell has been to my culinary identity. I said, “Hi, Iʼm Chef Amanda Rios, and there is no me without Chef Kevin. Iʼm just really trippinʼ right now.ˮ This candid moment paved the way for me to interview him in Charleston, a testament to the power of “giving flowers while folks can still smell ‘em.ˮ

Charleston greeted me with its complex beauty and heavy history. My experiences ranged from a disappointing meal that highlighted the city’s deep- seated racial disparities to the profound conversations and connections made, especially with Chef Kevin and his wife, Rhonda. His warmth, intelligence, and genuine interest in our shared heritage were as inspiring as they were grounding.

The honor, care, and respect he carries for his wife and her work are what love songs are made from.

Our discussions, captured on film, were not just exchanges of ideas but a recognition of our roles in preserving and advancing the rich tapestry of professional Black culinary culture. Chef Kevin, affectionately referred to by his Black students as “Chef” and “Unc,” embodies the mentorship and respect for elders deeply ingrained in our community.

My visit concluded with a reflective solo trip to Gadsen’s Wharf, a place heavy with the echoes of my ancestors’ struggles and resilience. This experience, among others during my visit, filled me with gratitude and pride for every stride made against impossible odd that is American racism. To truly process the lives of enslaved people is impossible.

Reflections – Gratitudes on the Journey

Looking back, this trip was more than just an interview; it was a pilgrimage through my identity, challenges, and the collective history of my people. The disparities, cultural appropriation, and ongoing struggle for recognition and respect in the culinary world only strengthen my resolve to honor, keep, and contribute to our culture.

Thanks to Chef Works for recognizing the importance of this narrative, very specifically to Brea, Aaron, and Lisa Mae. Thank you for seeing, hearing, believing, and amplifying me, my work, my community, and my culture with integrity and honesty. I have so much gratitude to give to Chef Kevin Mitchell for his mentorship and friendship. I am so grateful to Chef Rhonda Mitchell for her grace, support, and the living legacy that she continues through The Drizzled Pear. So many thanks to Black culinarians and the individuals that support us all. This lightweight pilgrimage, with its blend of personal growth, professional curiosity, and cultural exploration, reaffirms my commitment to celebrating our heritage and decolonizing the culinary world.

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