Comedian Ralph Harris Dishes Up A Preview of “My Momma Throws Down” Premiere

Photo Credit: Praise 98FM

New York, NY

From the producers of the popular cooking show, Iron Chef America brings us “My Momma Throws Down”. The show is about two mothers going head and head for the title of Queen of Cuisine. The show is hosted by Actor and Comedian, Ralph Harris (Dreamgirls, Last Comic Standing, etc.) where he draws us in minute by minute of this competition with a bit of comic relief to add more entertainment. Tonight’s judges include actresses Malinda Williams, Nicole Ari Parker, and Vanessa A. Williams of the past beloved tv show series, Soul Food.

Photo Credit: Rolling Out

I got the opportunity to chat with Ralph Harris a bit about the the show and what we can look forward to this season.

Isaiah Kelsey: What qualifies you to host this cooking show?

RH: I’m an amateur (home kitchen) chef and I enjoy cooking when I have a chance. Sometime road food can get boring so, I can’t wait to have some off time to cook a meal from a recipe I’ve found somewhere or something I picked up from a tv show.

As a food lover, I can appreciate the care that the “mommas” put into their cooking and I do my best to help the audience taste the food through the screen.

IK: How does this show differ from so many other cooking competitions? 

RH: “My Momma Throws Down” celebrates the love that these mothers put into their food. It’s not about who has perfect knife skills or the craziest flavor combinations, but about the pride that the moms take in creating delicious food for their families.

Other cooking shows tend to have a bunch of very experienced chefs, who have had major time in front of a camera, but these mom’s don’t try to be anything but themselves.

IK: How can other “mommas” become apart of this show as well as audience members? 

RH: Interested “mommas” should check out TVOne.TV for casting updates for the next season. There’s also a page on facebook that was created for the show [ ] , and any questions regarding the show, typically get answered in a day or so.

IK: What does your “momma” cook best? 

RH: My mom used to make the baddest sweet potato pie in Philly [Philadelphia, PA]. Then after years of trying to figure out how to get four grown kids out her house, she just stopped like Forrest Gump. Now, my siblings and I are always checking on her to make sure she’s eating.

I think she has a private food stash somewhere!

IK: Where is this show filmed? 

RH:We shot the show in Atlanta, at Turner Studios.

Check out “My Momma Throws Down” tonight on the  TVOne Channel at 8pm EST. Check your cable provider for additional times and channels. Follow Ralph Harris on Twitter @RalphHarris to chat with him about the show!

Momma Let’s Get Cooking!
Isaiah Kelsey

Insider: SWV’s Album Listening Party, “I Missed Us”


Fifteen years ago, the popular R&B Group, SWV [Sisters With Voices] made hit after hit including Weak, Rain, & You’re The One becoming one of the most successful R&B groups in the 90’s. In 1998, the band members Cheryl “Coko” Gamble, Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, and Leanne “LeeLee” Lyons decided to branch out into their own solo careers.

During their hiatus, they have all pursued several different career paths which included solo albums, reality tv shows, published books, and attended universities. All three band mates are now married with children with a new outlook on life and ready to record another album entitled, I Missed Us.

As I awaited in the penthouse of Jungle Studios with several other journalists, their newly released songs which included their latest single, Cosign filled the room from the speakers. Adjacent from the grand piano were Nuvo Sponsors, who made great drinks while we waited. They were then announced and the ladies of SWV entered the room with so much energy!

It was an intimate setting that allowed us to have full monologue with them and Taj who exuded the most energy challenged the stiff journalists to dance with the music, which I found hilarious. After several songs played, they opened the floor for questions.

When asked what their inspiration was to get back into the studio and how was it working together again. Coko replied, “I came up with the album name, I Missed Us because we missed making music, missed each other and fans.” Taj chimed in stating, “It was a lot of fun but hard work, we hope you love it.” Leelee also noted, “We want to bring R&B back because the soul of it has been lost.” Collectively they wanted to keep their songs classic to when they last made music, rather than evolve to the today’s music. Their goal is contain their older fans as well as gain a new fan base.

Another question was asked if there were any collaborations on the album, Taj noted, “One artist Brianna Perry rapped on their tracks. Otherwise, some artists were invited but didn’t believe that the group would be successful.”

I was able ask to couple questions as follows;

IK: In preparation for the new album, were there any specific diets or nutrition plans that you all had to stick to:

Taj: “We trained as if we were training for a marathon to drop weight. The blogs dogged us after the video, but it also motivated us to keep pushing and gives us great stamina.

IK: Do you ladies share a personal trainer or do you have separate trainers?

LeeLee & Taj: Taj is our trainer….My husband, the football player gets us all in shape and we’re not mad about it.”

IK: While in New York, are there any specific restaurants or food that you must have?

Coko: “We’re simple girls, they love Chipotle’s and I love KFC, love wing dings” lol

SWV is now working on a reality show that is about their everyday lives and in preparation for the album. You can expect to see SWV performing at this summer’s Essence Festival in New Orléans, LA. As far as their tour dates, they are still being scheduled but not completed as of yet.

These ladies were so cool, hilarious, and like most of us hope are completely “down-to-earth” which made me like them so much more. The album has yet to receive a release date but as a fan myself the music is creative, great groove music and a couple of party anthems alike. Look out for SWV’s new album, “I Missed Us” coming soon. Check out their latest video!

For Updates On SWV, Follow them on Twitter;

Coko: @Only1Coko

LeeLee: @LeLeeLyons

Taj: @TajGeorge

– Isaiah [@Urban_Foodie14]

Beyond The Apron: Rising Chef Vaughn Crenshaw

I recently spoke with my old colleague, Vaughn Crenshaw from Johnson & Wales University and he mentioned that he would be on Chopped, so of course I was excited for him. I decided to write about his story because not only do I believe in him but, to know him is to know his story.

Vaughn Crenshaw grew up in the city of Paterson, NJ, which others may consider “the hood,” he called it home. At the age of 9, culinary arts first sparked his interest when he saw Emeril Lagasse on Emeril Live. He thought “Who’s this BAM Guy! I want to do that.” So Vaughn decided that this might be something he might want to do as a career and something to make his family proud.

His family was surprised that he would be interested in cooking, since he experienced such a traumatic accident at the age of 4. Vaughn and his brother was in the kitchen one evening while his mother was frying chicken, one thing led to another and the pan flipped over on the two of them. Seventy percent of Vaughn’s body was third degree burned, it was miracle that they survived, according to the doctors whom didn’t think they would make it. The scars are very much visible and serves as a constant reminder from where he was then and where he’s going now.

At the age of 13, Vaughn’s mother kicked him out the house, leaving him to fend for himself on the streets of Paterson. He found an abandoned car where he laid his head nightly and would go to his friends for food and moral support. One evening while Vaughn was at his friend’s house, their mother had a fresh fish and he wanted an opportunity to cook a bit. From his memory of Emeril Live, he remembered how Emeril coated the fish with cornmeal but at that house they only had grits. So Vaughn got creative and coated the fish with grits, fried it, and came out with a great dish.

After months of living on the streets, he got in contact with his God parents who lived just across town in Hackensack, NJ where life was a lot better. Once Vaughn moved to this area it was a complete culture shock for him, especially once he was exposed to open biracial relationships. With Vaughn being socially deprived in his mind, it was almost unheard of.

As Vaughn adjusted at Hackensack High School, his friend suggested for him to join the football team. He was reluctant at first, but decided to try it. Vaughn ended up excelling in the game which seemed great but the power behind the tackle was built up anger from his past. In his mind it was a way to re-channel his negative energy and he also learned about teamwork.

Graduation was near and Vaughn received six full-ride football scholarships to several universities but in Vaughn’s mind he still wanted to cook. Unfortunately, those universities didn’t offer any culinary programs so he was bit stuck until Johnson & Wales University came to his high school. The college recruiter spoke about the university’s high culinary accolades and mentioned Emeril attended the university which immediately caught Vaughn’s attention. His grades weren’t greatest and his SATs weren’t the highest but, luckily for him at the time the university didn’t require SAT scores. Eventually, he applied, got accepted, and received financial aid from the state.

Once he started at Johnson & Wales, he hit the ground running with much passion. Vaughn moved forward to get his associate’s degree in Culinary Arts but then decided that he would stay at the university for another two years to receive his bachelor’s degree in Food Service Management. He learned a lot and made many great friends. Luckily for Vaughn, before graduation he had a job lined up back in Hackensack at Stony Hill Inn, where he worked at during breaks.

Vaughn returned to Stony Hill Inn, as the Asst. Banquet Chef making a lot more money than your average post grad. As a 22-year-old, he blew his money quickly on bottles, shopping, clothes, etc. Like most things it all came to an end when Vaughn was laid off during the economic recession, like many others. He was unemployed for about six months, until he got a Head Chef position at a local soul food spot, Jacksonville in Paterson. Vaughn didn’t stay there too long because of the indifferent relationship that he had with the restaurant owner.

After moving through several positions in different restaurants, eventually Vaughn learned much about himself,  experienced many learning curves and was provided with tools of knowledge on how to become a successful Executive Chef. After cooking for celebrities such Rap Legends, MC Lyte, Ice Tea, and Queen Latifah to name a few, Vaughn thought it would be time to take it to TV. So he decided to apply for Chopped on Food Network and after several weeks he was called by the selection committee to be on the show.

Check out Vaughn tonight on Food Network’s Chopped! At 10pm. See some of his culinary creations!

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Chef Vaughn Crenshaw is now the Executive Chef at Seafood Gourmet in Maywood, NJ. When he’s not working he enjoys coaching Track & Field at his former high school as well as giving back to the Charities of Paterson. For more information about my friend, Vaughn follow him @ChefCrenshaw.


– Isaiah

Beyond The Apron: Catchin’ Up with Thiago Silva

One morning when I was reading the New York Post, I saw the article “Taking The Cake” with Thiago Silva painted across the page with his cake creations. It completely caught my eye and I was intrigued to learn about this up and coming pastry chef. I was able to set an interview and tasting with him at Catch Restaurant in West Village.

As I arrived that sunny afternoon, I was intrigued of the dimensions of this tri-level  seafood restaurant. Thiago took me on a short tour of the restaurant, the first level has a broad dining room set for private dinner parties as well as regular dining patrons. As we traveled to the second level, I amazed of the sight the wide-range open kitchen, which allows guests to view the food being prepared and lastly the top-level was a lounge served for after-work drinks and special VIP parties. Recently, Rapper Nas hosted his 38th Birthday there with celebrity friends such as Jay-Z and Common.


The Beginning

Thiago discovered his passion at the age of 13, when his mother decided to take a cake decorating class and she brought him along to translate for her. While in class, the instructor would give direction to his mother and he would translate for her but after a while he literally took it into his own hands. He realized he was actually pretty good at cake decorating, so he continued going to classes with his mother and she eventually enrolled him into the class as a student.

Since then he began making cakes at home. His family was no stranger to the cooking, his father was also a cook, who worked tremendously hard and mother was a housekeeper with part-time catering business. Thiago was motivated and intrigued by his parents’ demeanor and passion towards culinary arts and decided that he would do the same.

Later, Thiago attended Long Island City High School in Queens, NY which offered a culinary arts program for students. He wanted to learn more about culinary arts, rather than pastry at the time. As he went through high school he competed in culinary competitions, but towards graduation he didn’t receive many scholarships because his grades weren’t the highest. His teacher and mentor, Richard Grossman offered to assist him in getting some job opportunities and Thiago was appreciative but stressed that he was looking for a “savory position”. After several phone calls, Olives Restaurant had a position available but it was in the bakery as a Pastry Cook. Thiago was indecisive about taking the position, because of the early hours of 5am that most bakers come into work and the extensive mass production. He was looking for a more complex job but decided to give it a try.

Hitting The Ground…Baking!

After he began working with Exec. Pastry Chef Alfred Stephens, he quickly changed his mind about the world of baking. Thiago enjoyed working with the chef and learned that it was a big difference between working in bakery and in a restaurant. He says ” It’s not just a piece of cake on the plate but so many more elements.” The job was challenge for him and he enjoyed being challenged daily.

Once he realized that he wanted to become a Pastry Chef, he also wanted to attend a culinary school like most aspiring chefs and bakers. His mentor and chef Alfred, convinced him that if he stayed working under his mentorship that he would teach him everything he needed to know. So Thiago contemplated for a bit and decided to stay at Olives with Chef Alfred for three years. After time had past, he did just that and credits his mentor for the skills and techniques he’s attained today.

What’s The Catch?

After Olives, Thiago assisted in opening Abe & Arthur Restaurant as a pastry cook. The restaurant is owned by The EMM Group, who was recently named  “The New Kings of New York Nightlife”, who specializes in restaurant and nightlife operations, event production, marketing, promotions and lifestyle management. Thiago was in great company and after two years of hard work and dedication, he is now the Executive Pastry Chef at Catch Restaurant.

As he continuously worked many hours at Catch Restaurant, he still continued to make cakes at home for special occasions. Just as it began to weigh on him, he was given the opportunity to make a cake for his boss’s father who had a birthday party. Once they saw what he could do, they were highly impressed and encouraged Thiago to make his cakes at work which worked in his favor.

Top Tier

Once he started making cakes at work, he started to receive more challenging cakes such a champagne bottle cake, which requires sugar work. Thiago made the cake and from there the challenges elevated. The EMM Group’s PR company decided that when they book parties, that they would offer Thiago’s cakes as an addition.

The EMM Group is known to have several star-studded events which gave Thiago the opportunity to make cakes for celebrities such as Actress Sofia Vergana [Modern Family], NY Knicks Basketball Star Carmelo Anthony,  Amare Stoudemire and Rapper Fabolous to name a few.


As of recently, Thiago continues to get several bookings from celebrities as well as making cakes for other special occasions. He looks forward to continue growing with the company and is excited for the EMM Group’s newest project, The Bakery which will open up in the fall.

The Tasting

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For more information about Chef Thiago Silva, check out his website,, “Like” his Facebook Fan Page, or you can follow him Twitter, @tagoscakes . To try some of Thiago’s desserts, stop pass Catch Restaurant, located 21 9th Avenue  New York, NY 10014

Photo Credits: Isaiah Kelsey,

Thank You Reading!

– Isaiah [@Urban_Foodie14]

Beyond The Apron with Chef Roble

The highly anticipated show, Chef Roble & Co. premiered on BRAVO last Sunday, December 4th taking over the 10:00p slot, following the The Real Housewives of Atlanta. The premise of this show is about the every day life of Chef Roble as he manages his new catering company with his partner and sister Jasmine. Curve balls are thrown and the kitchen gets hot but Chef Roble’s team has it all under control.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Bravo’s newest reality star, Chef Roble today to chat about the show and his life as of now.

Chef Roble & Co.

Isaiah Kelsey: Like most chefs and restaurant managers we all want to break out of the routine Mon-Fri [& weekends] of working for someone else, how did you go about starting your own business?

Chef Roble: Well, I developed a 5 year plan and did my research on how to start my own business. I saved up about $30,000 and received other sources of financial support, then made it happen!

IK: How long has your catering company been open?

CR: Its been open about 6 months and going strong.

IK: What are the pros and cons of working with your family and friends?

CR: All your employees will fall short at one time or another but I believe its an advantage to work with them because I trust all of them.

IK: Last Sunday, your show had 1.3 million total viewers, which was the most watched show on BRAVO show this year, are you surprised over the success of the show?

CR: I knew it would be well perceived because there was no show like it, not a competition but just a great show. I knew this was a show that I would want to watch as well.

IK: How was it meeting and cooking for actress, Vanessa Williams?

CR: It was amazing meeting and cooking for her family. Vanessa is such an amazing woman and so down-to-earth. Her family is very warm and inviting. Her brother, Chris Williams [actor, Curb Your Enthusiam] was pretty cool as well. I hope to cook for them again.

Chef Roble – The Entrenpenuer

IK: What other ventures are you currently working on as of now?

CR: Outside of my catering company I’m working with Fashion Designer, Marcus Clark to design a food-inspired t-shirt line. I also have a cutlery and pot ware collection in the works. There is so much more I would like to do but as for now Chef Roble & Co. is my primary focus.

IK: What has been your proudest moment thus far?

CR: I’ve always wanted a cooking show but never thought I would have a reality show. When I received the call about the show being picked up I was ecstatic, I am now living in my proudest moment!

Fans Want To Know!

Fan: Do you have any advice to young chefs wanting to start up their own catering business?

CR: My advice is to start out small, don’t invest so much money starting out, and just do a great job with every client. I also recommend that you do your research first and read “Catering: A Guide to Managing a Successful Business Operation“, published by The Culinary Institute of America as a reference. [Chef Roble is an C.I.A. Alum]

Fan: Would you consider being a personal chef, if you haven’t been already?

CR: I have great friends that are personal chefs but wouldn’t be interested because it limits my creativity and I’m constrained to a limited schedule.

Fan: Where is your catering business located and in your future do you plan to expand your business to another location?

CR: My catering company is now located in New York and possibly some time down the line I would be interested in expanding my business to Atlanta.

Chef Roble is on the rise and I look forward to his t-shirt line as well as watching him grow like many other young and talented great chefs. To see more of Chef Roble, stay tuned to Chef Roble & Co. Sundays at 10pm on BRAVO. Follow him on Twitter @BleezieTheChef

– Isaiah [@Urban_Foodie14]

Photo Credits: ; ; ;

Choppin’ It Up with Chef Kelvin Fernandez

Chef Kelvin Fernandez

One sunny afternoon, I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview and tasting with Chef Kelvin Fernandez at one of the most exclusive hotels in New York City, The Strand Hotel. Chef Kelvin is best known from Food Network’s Chopped. He has a great story to tell.

The Beginning

Kelvin of Dominican Republic decent, was born and raised in Harlem in a bit of rough neighborhood. For Kelvin, growing up was rough because it was easy to stray away into the wrong crowd but he knew how hard his parents worked to provide a great life for him which kept him focused. At an early age, Kelvin grew an interest in cooking from watching his father who is also chef prepare meals at home, but at the time his father wanted him to enjoy his child hood and possibly choose another career path because he understood how tough this industry was. Kelvin wouldn’t take no for an answer and continued to taste, watch, and grow.

Eventually, he moved to Queens and attended Long Island City High School where he fell in love with his then girlfriend, now best friend Maria Patino who loved to cook. Kelvin at the time was mostly into sports but wanted to spend more with her so he began cooking a lot more. He credits his career to her.

During his junior year of high school, he began taking cooking classes and eventually began competing against other students for scholarships in which he excelled greatly in. The first competition he won was a trip to France which pushed him to continue competing which he later won a $40,000 scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America. Kelvin then realized that this wasn’t just a hobby but something he could make a career out of.

As Kelvin continued to grow and learn so did his palette. He described his self as a “picky eater” then but has matured into trying many different types of food such as frog legs, rattle snake, and kangaroo. He shared a funny story with me from his childhood about his mother stating that “Meat must be cooked through, no pink or you’ll get sick!” Which I found funny because I was raised the same way. Kelvin when ordering steaks now, prefers Medium Rare and often laughs thinking about that story.

As Kelvin’s career progressed, he moved through the ranks pretty quickly by setting goals for his self and taking actions on each of them. He made a goal to become an executive chef at the age of 25 and gained the position three years earlier at 22 at Antipasti in White Plains, NY where they made him the youngest executive chef in New York.

Kelvin was on top of the world, he had the dream job, 100k salary, home and dream car until it was all taken away from him after the restaurant was shut down. He was unemployed for 7 months, in which he described as the toughest time because he is such a productive guy.

He later landed a job at The Strand Hotel and was not offered the executive chef position because of his age. Kelvin took that as a challenge and 8 months later he was promoted to the Executive Chef.  He explains, “It just goes to show that you just have to input a lot of hard work and dedication. I knew that working back into New York City I would have to take a demotion or step down because I was the only young guy applying for Executive Chef positions.”

Chop It Up

He touched base on his loss on Food Network’s Chopped, explaining that at the time he was 25 and was okay loosing against a chef who may have had 20 more years experience than him. He knew that he cooked his heart out and knew that he has 20 more years to gain the same accolades if not better, than his competitor. Kelvin is extremely proud himself that he at least made it to the final round, especially when his first two dishes were shellfish which he is allergic to.

He later expresses that he is such a fan of the show and hopes that Food Network will call him back for the end of the season redemption show, where they allow four chefs to compete again and redeem themselves.

Public Eye

Kelvin is now very much in the public eye, he was recently featured in the Daily News and has been asked to judge local cooking competitions. After 10 years of hard work and dedication, he feels homage is finally being paid and appreciates the loves that he receives from his fans via e-mails, social networks, or in person. Kelvin is most proud because through all of this, he has remained the same person and people love him for it.

Some days are rough for him with daily pressures and demands for a 26 year old Executive Chef, but he understands and is grateful for being placed his position. He created an “Inspiration Wall” in his office which is filled with Thank You notes and letters that makes it all worth it.


Isaiah Kelsey: Do you feel that you are often prejudged because of your age?

Kelvin Fernandez: I feel I have to always prove myself and I believe in that. Before I was hired at The Strand, I applied to many places and many chefs just wouldn’t give me the chance. I’m the type of person who wants my food to speak for itself  because I don’t cook like a 25 year old but more like a 45 year old. I’ve had many great mentors such as Mario Batali, Marcus Samuelsson, and Mark Murphy, whom I learned so much from. I strive well under pressure.

IK: Since you’ve been on Food Network, how has that opportunity changed your career?

KF: After the show was aired, I received a lot of love via Twitter and Facebook, which feels great. I’ve had the opportunity to cook for several celebrities here at The Strand Hotel. I want to further promote this hotel and as well as myself. I work for a great company who appreciates me and is a fan of me, I love it! I’ve done cooking demos at Williams-Sonoma  and Macy’s recently.

IK: What are your next goals in your career?

KF: Right now, its so much that I want to do, I’ve received book offers and everything. I want to say yes to everything but I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too much. My publicist, Trica Jean-Baptiste is working very hard to make sure I’m out there and being exposed to the right avenues. Eventually I would like to have my own book, possibly own my own restaurant, and be an entrepreneur essentially.

IK: How do you give back to the community ?

KF: I love going back to my old high school to talk to the students about how important education is. I’m also working on culinary scholarship as well. I’m just so grateful.

The Tasting

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Chef Kelvin prepared an amazing 5-course tasting. You can see his passion through his presentation, the layers of flavors in his food, and his overall humble demeanor. Chef Kelvin at 26 is doing very well himself and I predict he will go very far.

– Isaiah Kelsey (@urban_foodie14)

A Sweet Inspiration with Ron Ben-Israel

Sweet Genius premiered on Food Network this fall, putting Pastry Chef Ron Ben-Israel in the forefront as the host of this whimsical pastry show. The premise of this show to test the inventive ability and imagination of America‘s Up and Coming Pastry Chefs. Each round the chefs are given an inspiration, surprise ingredients, and a certain amount of time to create a dessert. The rounds consist of making a frozen, baked, and chocolate dessert with the oddest ingredients like cheese puffs, black garlic which pushes the chefs to think widely outside their comfort zone. The winners from each challenge advance to the next round, the winning chef receives a $10,000 cash prize and crowned Sweet Genius.

I was given the opportunity to speak to America’s Sweet Genius and Wedding Cake Extraordinaire, Ron Ben-Israel, check out my behind the scenes interview with him.

The Beginning

Urban Foodie: How did you get into baking and who was your inspiration?

Ron Ben-Israel: My mother as well as family and friends introduced to many desserts in Europe. I developed my first love then.

UF: Did you always to become a pastry chef?

RBI: I attended an art school for drawing and sculpting actually, which later turned into dance. I practiced modern dance for about 15 years but it wasn’t until I traveled to Toronto, Canada where I fell in love with a Chocolatier who introduced me to it. Since then it was no turning back, which at the time I decided to hang up my shoes and retire at the age of 30 to pursue my new found passion full-time.

UF: How did your pastry career begin?

RBI: It began by me interning at several different bake shops, learning from the bottom up. I later met Betty Van Norstrand, known as the “Queen of Decorating”, who specialized in cake decorating and sugar art. She took me under her wing and became my mentor in which I owe many credits to. I was always fascinated by her art and she told me to find my own way of doing things.

SOHO Wedding Cake Boutique

UF: You’re wedding cake boutique is referred as the Manolo Blanc of Wedding Cakes. What do you think makes your boutique stand out from so many others?

RBI: Well at the time I started out, I was the “new kid on the block”. I was rebellious to the standardized techniques of how all cakes were being designed. Techniques such as basket weaves and icing festoons were done to excess,while I wanted to decorate with confectionery lace that matches the bridal dress.

UF: What has been your greatest achievement thus far?

RBI: Every day and every week is an achievement for me. We’re always so busy.

UF: When are you the busiest throughout the year?

RBI:  We work 365 days a year, our busiest wedding season is September through November and April through July. We also do event as well as special occasion cakes that keeps us busy during the meanwhile.

Sweet Genius

UF:  I love your show, it’s very inventive and whimsical, what do you think sets your show apart from shows such as Chopped or Iron Chef?

RBI: Sweet Genius is strictly pastry, no panels of judges, and very inspiring to other pastry chefs.

UF: What do you hope your viewers get out this show?

RBI: I think the premise of this show, is simply for the pastry chefs be inspired to make and do whatever comes from their imagination.

UF: Ron, with my strong pastry background you have inspired me to possibly jump back into the kitchen. If  I were to consider being on the show or any other pastry chefs that might be interested, how would we sign up?

RBI: Be inspired, that would be great! Go to

UF: Thank you for time Ron, its been a pleasure!

It was a pleasure speaking with Ron, he is great guy and down-to-earth as well. He was the middle of making a cake for 550 guests with very specific flowers, as he makes most the cakes his self .

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Photo Credits: Ron Ben-Israel Cakes

Check out Ron Ben-Israel All Over The Web!

Facebook- Ron Ben-Israel Cakes #Like


Twitter: @rbicakes #Follow

Thank You For Reading! Happy Thanksgiving! Look Out For Many More Great Articles & Subscribe!

– Isaiah Follow Me- @Urban_Foodie14

You’re Invited To Rocco’s Dinner Party!

Last night Celebrity Chef, Rocco DiSpirito debuted his new series, “Rocco’s Dinner Party” on the Bravo Network. The concept of the show is there are three chefs who are given the opportunity to cook in Rocco’s loft for a dinner party that he’s throwing for some of his high-clientele friends. There are two rounds, within the first round one chef is eliminated and the remaining two chefs are left to battle it out for $20,000.

In this week’s episode, DiSpirito’s theme was a Speakeasy and both remaining chefs, J.J. Johnson & Geof Johnson collected their ideas, met with celebrity event producer, Jes Gordon for designing their dining room, and  began to battle it out for the prize. DiSpirito’s guest list included Chef Marcus Samuelsson [Top Chef Master, owner of Red Rooster], actor Michael Williams [The Wire], Host Kelly Choi [Eat Out New York], to name a few. After they prepared a 5-course meal for DiSpirito and his guests, it was decided that Executive Sous Chef J.J. Johnson was the winner.

I had an opportunity to speak to “Rocco’s Dinner Party” 1st Winner, J.J. Johnson:

What would you do differently while cooking in this competition?

“I would have definitely cook the grits better, lol. That is what would’ve done.

How has this opportunity changed your life?

“This opportunity gave me the chance to showcase my talents to two outstanding chefs that had 3 stars in the New York Times.”

What do you intend to do with the prize money of $20,000?

“With my winning, I plan to donate some of winning to my father’s AAU [Mountain Basketball] to enter in large program this summer. Secondly, I plan to invest in juice product, Oatmeal Juice. Lastly, the rest will go into my savings account.”

I had a some last words with Celebrity Chef DiSpirito as well:

What gave you the idea to create a show like this?

“I wanted to celebrate why we cook not just how and Bravo was very supportive, then a lot of great brains worked it out.”

Between both chefs, what was the tie breaker?

“The guest reaction to JJ’s oxtails was the knock out punch, then the bread pudding was 8, 9, 10 this fight is over!”

Recap: I trully enjoyed this show because it brings the essence of cooking and enjoyment of entertaining guests into one. I’ve been searching for a new favorite show and I believe I just found it.

Tune in to “Rocco’s Dinner Party” on the Bravo Network, Wednesdays at 10pm

Photos Courtesy to The Bravo Network

An Evening with Dr. Maya Angelou

Barnes & Nobles Union Square hosted a Meet the Author Event with Dr. Maya Angelou. When I heard that she would be in New York, it was no way I was going to miss her. Dr. Angelou, now 81 years old published her second cook book, “Great Food, All Day Long” Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart. She is world-renownly known for her many books, like “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings“, poems like “And Still I Rise“, not to mention the numbers of awards, acknowledgements, and honorary degrees that she EARNED throughout history.

Once I arrived, I purchased her cook book and sat amongst other readers who had done the same as well as brought her other published books. We all sat, cameras ready, sitting at the edge of our seats, anxiously awaiting Dr. Angelou’s arrival. Then she arrived in a wheelchair with an entourage which seemed to be her publicists and other business associates. She was rolled on a platform, took the mic, greeted us, and began to recite an unpublished poem. When she said her first words, she completely captivated the audience and changed the tone/atmosphere of the entire bookstore. Word by word she recited, her dramatic tone was almost chilling. As she continued her poem, I felt so many emotions at the same time, anxiety, excitement, and joy. It was almost like I had become apart of history, as if I was in Washington D.C. witnessing a Dr. King speech.

Once she completed her poem, she welcomed us on stage for a book signing. As I stood in line, I had a bit of anxiety because I was about to meet a “Living Legend”, I was beyond excited and honored. This feeling surpassed the excitement of meeting any celebrity or music mogul. After about 20 minutes, I was called to go next. The moment was here, I reached for her hands, as she reached for mines.

Our conversation was as follows;

Maya: Hello, sugar what is your name?

Isaiah: Hello Dr. Angelou, my name is Isaiah.

Maya: the prophet. What a great name, you must love the Lord.

Isaiah: I absolutely love the Lord, he’s an AMAZING God.

Maya: Yes he is.

Isaiah: Dr. Angelou, what are your favorite restaurants in New York City?

Maya: I love Mesa Grill by Bobby Flay. I also love Sugar Bar, owned the by the singers Ashford & Simpson.

Isaiah: Any favorite foods?

Maya: I love all foods. In my cook book I talk about making great food, small portions but more often. I decided to make great food full of flavor and eat small portions through out the day. That’s my secret to my 35-pound weight loss.

Isaiah: Thank you for your time.

Maya: Your welcome… be blessed!

This moment with Dr. Maya Angelou I will never forget in life. It was a pleasure to meet her, she was very refreshing. I hope to have at least half the impact she have given to this world. I look forward to seeing her speak again.

Thank You Dr. Maya Angelou!

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Beyond The Apron with Chopped Champion Chef Shehu Fitzgerald

After the great win on Wednesday night on Food Network’s Chopped TV Show, Chef Shehu became an overnight celebrity chef and as he described as a “social media tidal wave” of several tweets, messages, friend requests, that he received. I was able to catch some of his time after the lunch rush in the 2 West Restaurant of the Ritz Carlton Battery Park, adjacent to the Statue of Liberty. As we began the interview, I had no idea of the passionate journey that Shehu had partaken into getting to where he is now.

The Making of Chef Shehu

What was your first job?

I worked at a local bar & grill in Staten Island, where I started as a dish washer and by the time I left I was working as a line cook before attending Johnson & Wales University.

What is your educational background?

I attended Johnson & Wales University, where I received my A.S. in Culinary Arts. I thought to continue at the university to receive my B.S. in Entrepreneurship, but after 6 months, I decided that I wanted to continue working. After a couple years, I decided to continue my education at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, CA where I learned about food and wine pairing. Two years later, I traveled to England where I studied at Birmingham College of Food and received my NVQ3 in Baking & Pastry Arts. When I returned to the U.S. I took a Photography 101 class at one the CUNY colleges in New York, where I learned the inner-workings of food photography.

As you said on the show, that you’re mother is a Pastry Chef, did you grow up with a strong culinary influence?

My mother is self-taught culinarian and I knew at a young age that I wanted to become a chef, which made her happy. With having children at a young age, she still had to bring good money home, so she worked for the city but at home she catered parties where she allowed me to assist her in prepping food for these events.

Once I graduated from college and began working at The Essex House, she returned to school to receive a degree in baking and pastry arts. Since then, she was hired as a Pastry Chef and have been doing it ever since.

You also shared on the show about traveling to almost every country, tell me about your journey.

I traveled to every continent except for the Artic Circle and South America. I stepped on every continent even if it was just a little while, for example I had lunch in Africa then sailed back over to Spain because they were so close. I traveled to all these countries within four years. Within the first year, I traveled to England where I went to school.

What gave you the courage to embark on this world-wide expedition?

I was my dating my wife, then girlfriend for awhile. We came to a point where things were great, I wanted to move to San Francisco and she was moving to England. We decided that we would move to England together and we’ve been rolling ever since. I promised myself that year, that no matter how much money I saved up that I would pack up and go. So when it was time to go to England, after I payed for my traveling expenses I didn’t have much but I had already had a job set up for myself.

After working in England for a year, I returned to New York to work the busy season during the summer time at my previous job, where I stacked most of my money. I was subjected to working the overnight shift but I didn’t mind, because during the day was when I took my photography classes. I worked so many hours between two jobs, within 5 months I earned about $20,000 by the end of the year.

We spent the money within about 2-3 months, through our expedition up the Peninsula, scuba diving, traveling through the jungle, celebrating the Thai New Year, dining in Thailand, and spent a couple weeks in New Zealand. Just when I got a job there, I just ran out of the money I saved in New York.

In these economic times, most people would find it very risky to just “pick up and go”. If you had to do it over now in these times, would you?

My theory is if you wait for people, you’ll always be waiting on them. It usually never happens and that’s my reason why I travel by myself at times. I always think at least I went and enjoyed myself regardless of who was with me. But to answer your question yes I would do it again. If you don’t take risks, you don’t get big returns!

Do you speak any other languages?

I speak partial French from working in a French restaurant, my wife is actually fluent, and now teaching my 3-year old daughter who has already surpassed me.

Do you have any other side ventures that you are working on?

My wife and I opened a wine shop in Staten Island called Wine Life in August 2010, where she operates and manages. In these economic times, it gets tough but we make it through every day. We just know if it doesn’t work out, at least we tried.


How were you selected to be on the Chopped show?

I was offered the opportunity by the casting director with whom I met a social event to apply for the Chopped Show. I had previously applied and tried out for other shows like Hell’s Kitchen & The Next Food Network Star, so I was familiar with the application and selection process. I came close to the final pick for Hell’s Kitchen but things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to.

Once I was selected to begin the interview process, I was interviewed over phone, had a tv screen test, and later when picked they came past the Marriott Marquis for screen shots for the show. I was actually in transition of jobs between the Marriott Marquis and the Ritz Carlton Battery Park. My first day off from the new job, I went in for the Chopped taping.

What were your thoughts going into the competition?

I went into the competition open-minded and pretty hype after watching a few earlier Chopped episodes. Most people don’t know but I’m very shy and I like observe my environment before I completely open up. I thought to myself that I have one day and three rounds to make it through, but ultimately it was important to me to make my mark!

What round were you most confident in?

I was most confident in Round 2 because I finished with plenty of time, felt great, my food looked amazing and I got everything on my plates. Unlike my two other competitors, their plates were messy and inconsistent.

What did you think about the judges’ critiques on your plates?

I think with the Sage, I may have grabbed too much and I didn’t get to taste it after I added it in. As for the whole cardamom pod found in first round, I believe it was a possible overlook.

If you didn’t win, how would you have walked away?

My philosophy was that it wasn’t about me beating them, but it was about me doing the best job that I could!

Since you have won, what did you do with the $10,000?

The $10,000 prize came at a good time, I rewarded my family with some small gifts but ultimately I invested it back into our business, Wine Life. We haven’t quite made it yet, but we making it strides with the money I’ve won.

What are your goals?

I would love to own my own restaurant empire, but it takes funding. I hope that my work ethic, food expertise, and professionalism comes across to the right people. I’m not one to boast or to be cocky, like I said on the show, my work speaks for itself!

Is there any advice that you would give to young and ambitious professionals, like myself?

I would say definitely work at several different restaurants. If you can afford to work at some of the top notch restaurants and don’t get paid, that’s okay. Also, its okay to work for some no-name restaurants, where you learn some of the finer things. For example, you don’t want to work only at fine dining restaurants and don’t how to make cocktail sauce from scratch.

Don’t get caught up in the politics especially working in hotels & restaurants. Be there, focus on the food and how to make yourself a better chef. Sacrifice is key!

When I lived in Rhode Island, I had to make extreme sacrifices like catching the bus to Boston to work, sleeping the streets between jobs, working odd jobs to make ends meet. I had to swallow my pride, if  I took a job it was my responsibility to fulfill the job.

Also when you dine out try different foods, never turn your nose up. You have to train your palate. Know the history of food.

Chopped Fans Wanna Know

How did you stay consistent through the competition?

It’s just a normal thing for me and I actually didn’t realize how bad the other competition was until I saw on tv because I was focused on what I had to do and how much time I had. I’m often referred to as a shark in water because I’m constantly moving. I rode my skateboard to the competition, so I had high energy and was ready to go!

What is your least favorite cuisine?

My least favorite cuisine would be Mexican maybe because I haven’t eaten at an authentic restaurant, I’m usually subjected to crappy fast-food. Although I had some good mexican dishes, I just don’t favor it overall.

Do you have a foodie vice?

I love scallops!

What professional organizations do you belong to?

While attending Johnson & Wales University, I became apart of the greatest fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Professionally, I was inducted into the Les Amis d’Escoffier Society in 2008.


After a great interview with Chef Shehu, I had a new perspective on life and how to live it differently. I was captured by his journey and became more intrigued and inspired by the minute to learn more about him. I have a new respect for Shehu, not only as a big brother in our fraternity [Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.] but as a industry professional. He motivated me as well as challenged me to step up and out out my box to try something different.

I completed my time at 2 West Restaurantt with a great lunch. Check out the photos below!

Thanks Chef Shehu M. Fitzgerald!

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