Chef Tiana Gee is a young, talented chef who was recently named one of Bon Appétit’s new hosts. This is a huge deal and an attempt for the popular food channel to bring more diverse voices and inclusivity to its platform. May she prosper!
A Recipe Inspired by Chef Tiana Gee
Tiana, a former chef at Harlem’s Red Rooster, is also featured in Marcus Samuelsson’s new cookbook, The Rise: Black Cooks and The Soul of American Food. Her Filipina heritage inspired a Chicken and Shrimp Tamarind Broth with Rice Noodles.
The dish used some ingredients, such as tamarind, white miso paste, and rice noodles, that I had not worked with before. They added new flavor profiles and textures to a traditional chicken noodle soup, making it a bit sweeter, nuttier, and more complex. My first attempt at a 4 minute egg resulted in a hardboiled one, but I will be working to perfect that technique. All in all, it was a good bowl of soup, especially with the rainy weather we’ve been experiencing.
The Interview with Chef Tiana Gee
I sat down with Chef Tiana Gee to talk about her culinary journey, what it was like being mentored by Chef Marcus at his Harlem restaurant Red Rooster, and her Youtube channel Cookin’ with Tee.
Sharila Stewart [SS]: Alright! Hi Tiana, how are you?
Chef Tiana Gee [TG]: Great, how’s it going?
SS: Good, thank you so much for agreeing to be on the blog. I’m just excited to have you here. Having someone who’s my age, who’s doing it big and being featured in a book by a culinary giant is really exciting. So thank you again.
TG: No thank you! I’m really excited that you are doing this actually. This is amazing. I am excited that people are responding to this book so well.
On Her Journey as a Chef
SS: It is definitely exciting! I just wanted to start off by asking you when did you start cooking? When did you know you wanted to be a chef? Did you go to culinary school, did you start off in restaurant kitchens? How did you get where you are?
TG: I started cooking when I was younger, like before school. I knew that I loved cooking. But in school I started taking food classes and then professionally I started working in restaurants. I did go to culinary school. I got a scholarship through this program called C-CAP [Careers Through Culinary Arts Program]. And then from there I ended up going to work at restaurants. So I got my skillset from cooking at home, cooking at school, and then working in restaurants a little bit. I’ve been cooking professionally for maybe like six years now?
Her Youtube Channel, Cookin’ with Tee
SS: Okay, so you have some years under your belt! That’s really exciting. Not only are you into restaurant cooking, but you also have your own Youtube channel, Cookin’ with Tee. You show us how to bring restaurant cooking into our home kitchens. Can you talk a little about why you decided to start your channel? What tips would you give to home cooks on how to improve our skills?
TG: I started Cookin’ with Tee because it has always been my dream to have my own cooking show. It’s been like a childhood dream of mine to be a celebrity chef and have a cooking show. Cookin’ with Tee is really just my outlet for getting that started. It’s like really the beginning and the foundation of it. And for home cooks, I would suggest just trying things. Trying different cuisines and exploring different flavors and getting your palate really going. That’s important to learn the flavors. Just eat! That’s how you really learn, by eating. [Laughs]
SS: [Laughs] Yes! I will eat! You’re featured in Marcus Samuelsson’s cookbook The Rise, which is all about highlighting different Black chefs. But before we get into that, I was watching your Youtube video where you cooked through the recipe that is inspired by you. A chicken and shrimp tamarind broth with rice noodles. You mentioned something about adding a pinch of salt, but you said, “Not a regular pinch of salt, a chef’s pinch.” Talk a little bit more about seasoning.
TG: Yeah, I feel like salt is a scary thing when it comes to cooking, especially if you are not a seasoned chef and have not been cooking a long time. People are scared of salt because we’ve all had salty food right?
SS: Yes, exactly.
TG: You don’t want to make it too salty and you don’t want to make it under salty. You just want to find that right balance. I think that I say chef’s pinch because I’ve worked in restaurants and I know how much salt things usually take. When I go for that pinch, people are like, “That’s not a pinch. That was like an excessive amount of salt.” But really, that’s like what I mean by a chef’s pinch of salt.
Working at Red Rooster in Harlem
SS: That make sense. That’s definitely a good tip. Can you talk a little bit more about working in kitchens? You are working at Red Rooster. How has that journey been?
TG: So I’m actually back in Los Angeles right now. I was the sous chef at Red Rooster in Harlem and that was amazing. I learned so much and I loved working in Harlem. Living in Harlem just gave me a different edge in my approach to cooking. An edge to just living in the world. You’ve been in Harlem right?
SS: Yes. I’m from California myself. I live in Jersey City now but Harlem is definitely different. It has a grit to it.
TG: Yes, it has a lot of character. I loved being part of that community because it really is a community. It’s really a vibe. And I loved working at Red Rooster. Red Rooster was an amazing vibe. I actually came back to California when the pandemic hit. So I’ve been back in California ever since. I’ve just been working on media things. Working with some cool media outlets, doing things for my channel, private chefing and things like that. But yeah, Red Rooster just opened back up not that long ago.
SS: Okay, so it’s time to pay a visit. You know, I’ve never actually been to Red Rooster.
TG: Oh, you gotta go!
On How Her Heritage Influences Her Cooking
SS: I’m definitely planning to make my way up there. I’m a little jealous of you being on the West Coast. I haven’t been home since the pandemic. But that’s really exciting that you are working with media outlets and private chefing. I know there are probably different cuisines that your clients are asking you to cook. I wanted to know more about your heritage and how that influences how you cook. In terms of how you define Black food and the role your Filipina heritage plays in that.
TG: Great question! I think being part Filipino and part Black, I grew up eating a lot of food. Any gathering with family and friends was surrounded by food. The foods we were eating were Filipino and soul food. To this day, my favorite foods are Filipino and soul food. I definitely take the flavors from my childhood. Certain things like fish sauce, tamarind, adobo, soy sauce, bay leaves, peppercorn. Those flavors are definitely influences on my cooking. I do put those flavors together. But, you said, what is my version of Black food?
Defining Black Food
SS: Yeah, like how do you define it? It sounds like you’re kind of talking about this interplay of cultures.
TG: Okay, so Black food, you know, I feel like it has been put in a box. Black food is soul food. Black food is southern food. Black food is downtown. Black food is grits. Black food is fried chicken. Black food is biscuits. Black food is macaroni and cheese, collard greens. But that’s just like a box. For me, when I think of soul food, when I think of Black food, it’s food that speaks to the soul and comes from your soul. Food that you grew up eating. Food that makes you happy. Food that like is part of your language. If that makes sense.
SS: Yeah, I get that. It’s like when you sit back from a meal and you just feel fed. Even with the blog, I’m looking into all these Diasporic foods and it’s all just so unique. But I think one thing you have with all these Black cuisines is that kind of enriching, kind of, no matter what may have been going on, you can get around the table. Like you said, family gatherings. Have some good food that just left you satisfied.
TG: Yeah, and even in the cookbook The Rise, I think the narrative is pretty much redefining what it means to be a Black chef and what is Black food. There’s all different kinds of flavor profiles in that cookbook that are coming from all over. They are here in America but have not been shined upon in a sense. I am really looking forward to what the future brings for the Black community and Black flavors and Black food.
Check Out Chef Tiana Gee’s Delicious Food!
Subscribe to Chef Tiana Gee’s Youtube channel and follow her on Instagram at @cheftianagee for more exciting content!
For more interviews, check out my conversations with Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef” Tavel Bristol-Joseph and Harlem restaurateur Russell Jackson.
ANother great interview Sharila! Those noodles sounds absolutely delicious as well as the rest of the food! Will have to check out Chef’s Tee You Tube page! Thanks for sharing x
Thank you! I was excited to work with new ingredients and flavors. Her YouTube is wonderful.
Jaya Avendel says
I just caught up on the final three issues on Bon Appetite from last year. I do so love food writing and learning a bit more about the people who put more than passion into the food they create, so this was a delightfully informative read!
Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I adore food writing as well. Reading about food is almost as good as eating it in my opinion!