This past Saturday I did a little time travel. I was taken back to being a little school girl. I was dressed in my uniform, sitting in our school’s auditorium waiting anxiously for the lights to dim and the curtains to open. We were in for a treat. The dancers of Alvin Ailey were coming to perform for us. They would travel from Manhattan to our little Catholic school in Queens. It wasn’t our first time seeing them and I hoped it wouldn’t be my las. I was always excited to see them. They were brown men and woman, who had come to share their talents with me, with us. They made me want to be an Alvin Ailey dancer. I knew all too young that little black girls could never be prima ballerinas (thank you Misty Copeland for changing that narrative for young girls today) but I knew I could strive to be apart of the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, a group created for African-American dancers.
Fast forward to present day Cassandra. I still have a love of dance but I am far from being the dancer I thought I wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong, if you throw on the right music I will still put down some moves on the dance floor. Rochelle worked hard on getting us an interview with a couple of the dancers but unfortunately their tight schedule did not allow us that opportunity . . . this time. There is always next year! However, we still were given the chance to see them perform.
Once again I sat anxiously waiting for the curtains to open. We had arrived 15 minutes late due to life and unexpected events, so we had to wait to be admitted for the second act. We were seated less than 20 rows from the stage. The curtains opened and there he stood, stage left with his back to us, facing the back of the stage. I felt myself holding my breathwaiting for him to move. Then I heard Nina Simone fill the theater and he moved. He danced like Nina herself commissioned him to express her words to the world. I was moved. Cliche, I know but I was. I watched, all the while anticipating the dances that were performed at my little Catholic school in Queens. Then the final scene, Revelation started. The little girl that lives in me was clapping with joy. The dances I watched as a child were being performed. Wade in the Water and Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham were the dances that always stood out in my memory. At this age the songs and performances took on new meaning for me. I was watching old memories with a new understanding. Alvin Ailey has taken on a new understanding as well. They are no longer just an African-American Dance Theater, they are now an American Dance Theater. Diversity. I still know that if I were a dancing chef I’d have a chance at Alvin Ailey. Some things will not change.
Thank you Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Dawn Parker and The Fox Theater for a wonderful night of memories. The next time they come to town I suggest you grab tickets early. The show will leave you wanting more. Maybe you’ll have a childhood memory come full circle. Or maybe create a new one for yourself. So go forward and make some new ones.
Until next time….
~The Chef In Pearls
P.S. All pictures of dancers and performances are courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
I guess it’s a little late for Happy New Year wishes. However, I have never been one to really follow anyone’s rules so . . . Happy New Year from the Chef In Pearls!!! I hope 2017 brings you everything your heart desires and more. It took me this long to write something because I was in a pensive mode, working on what will be the next move for myself and this blog. The truth, which hit me like a ton of bricks, was the I have all the necessary tools to be successful. I have a God given talent and it is up to me to make sure I share it with the world. With that being said, I present to you my weapons of Mass Success!!!
I believe these few objects are what I will use to become successful. There are other tools as well, but none as strong as those pictured. Sometimes I will have to use them collaboratively and others I will use them separately to make my point.
No chef is worth their salt without a good chef’s knife. I personally prefer a 10 ” blade. As a chef returning to the kitchen I need this to make the magic happen. Yes, I did kind of slip in my plans to return to the kitchen. I will be returning as a private chef. You will be able to hire me to cook in your home or any private kitchen. And know that I will have have this baby in tow. More to come on me returning to the kitchen, later.
Aprons are a big thing for me. I mean any fashionista who cooks values keeping her clothing as fresh as can be. I have the traditional chef’s coat but because I love to show off my clothing choices, I prefer a good apron. It covers and protects my clothing while still keeping me fashionable. You will find me in a chef’s coat from time to time but the apron is my go to piece. It is one of my success tools whether I am teaching a class or whipping up meals for clients in the kitchen.
The camera has become an integral part of my arsenal. I am no expert with a DSLR, like the pictured above, but I am very proficent with the camera on my Samsung Galaxy 7. ( No, not the Note 7s that were exploding.) I use my camera to try and convey the deliciousness I create in the kitchen or the great outfits I pull out of my closet. The camera helps to keep my social media channels up-to-date on everything going on with The Chef In Pearls, from cooking to events to video creation. It’s how I stay relevant with current followers as well as make new follower.
I know it’s time for an upgrade but . . . Life. This baby has been my ride or die for the last few years. She has helped me with getting blog posts out, creating menus, writing recipes and so much more. She allows me to communicate to the world the things that run through this beautifully insane and creative mind of mine.
And let’s not forget the key component to what we know to be The Chef In Pearls. Me., Cassandra Mason. Anyone can use the above mentioned tools but only I can bring to life the things I do, they way I do. There is only one me. And I am proud to be able to bring to life The Chef In Pearls brand. There is so much in store for me and you as my audience.
What would be your “Weapons of Mass Success” tm? Let me know in the comments below. Until next time go forward and make memories.
~The Chef In Pearls
P.S. It is near the end of the year and I never got around to posting this. As I read it I realized that I wrote these words knowing that putting on “paper” makes a thing real. I may not have shared with everyone until now but I knew it existed. You know what? These very things have been bringing me success. I don’t measure or can’t measure success based on others metrics. My idea of success include an increase of brand awareness, increased client list (more cooking), increased partnerships and most important increased faith in my abilities. As my daughter likes to keep reminding me, I am living what looks to be my best life. I worked hard for it and I know what I have done for 2017 will only get better in 2018. The grind will be real for 2018. Are you ready to take that ride with me?
I know for some my review of 2017 is kind of early but it needs to be. I have to plan for the new year and I cannot do that without evaluating where I am coming from. The experiences have been amazing and the memories seem endless. I have learned from all of them good and bad. I hope this post causes you to take a look at the beginning of this year and where you are now. Have you accomplished the goals you set up for yourself? Do you need to re-evaluate? Do you need to focus more? Go through those memories and see what you’ve learned. It’s never too late to start working towards those goals.
Cassandra- The Chef In Pearls
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, good or bad. One must acquire the skill of taking the experience and learning from it. I was meeting the other half of the Dynamic Duo, Rochelle Wharton for lunch at BQE Restaurant and Lounge. We were having a working lunch about our blogs and where we wanted to take them . We arrived at a pretty weird time. They were shutting down their lunch/brunch menu and preparing for their dinner crowd. So depending on what we wanted, it may not have been available. Wait I am focusing on the wrong thing here. This was not about whether or not we were going to be able to eat but rather about us being in the right place at the right time. You see that Thursday was our chance meeting with Mr. Maynard Eaton.
On arrival, we decided to sit at the bar, one seat over from a rather handsome older gentleman. This gentleman turned out to be Maynard Eaton. We introduced ourselves as bloggers and chefs which seemed to peek Mr. Eaton’s interest. Before long we learned that he had his own publication here in Atlanta, taught journalism at Clark Atlanta University, and also ran a live streaming news program entitled NewMakers Live. It was his outlet to Atlanta and beyond used to share what he felt was news worthy. He invited us to the next show happening that coming Monday.
Now I could have focused on how things weren’t going well at that moment. Referencing the aforementioned food selection dilemma we seemed to be facing. But if I did I would miss out on what turned out to be the reason we were there. It was our chance to meet Mr. Eaton! Let’s fast forward to Monday night at NewsMakers Live. This show is normally done live but it was being taped that night. Mr. Eaton arranged to interview a few candidates running in the next city election. I was told that just prior to me arriving, Mr. Eaton referred to Peter Aman, a mayoral candidate, as being the next black mayor of Atlanta. The joke here is that Mr. Aman is very Caucasian. See what I mean about things happening for a reason. Had the show been live instead of taped he would not have been able to cut the film and re-take as if nothing ever happened. I heard it caused a big laugh from everyone including Mr. Aman. In all I had a wonderful time. I got to meet Mr. Peter Aman, Mayoral Candidate, along with Matt Westmoreland, City Council Candidate. I also got to learn a thing or two about doing interviews while watching Mr. Eaton, something I want more knowledge on for upcoming endeavors. Like I said everything happens for a reason.
What are your thoughts on chance meetings? Do you think like I do or do you have your own theory? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
I think all my memories are news worthy. So no doubt I believe the memories I made that night were too. Now I want you to go forward and make new memories.
Until next time.
~The Chef In Pearls
It was 5:04pm when I received the text notifying me of the location for this year’s Diner en Blanc. We were to report to Gate 2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Wait . . . the newly constructed Mercedes-Benz Stadium? Perfect!! I was less than 15 minutes away enjoying drinks with my blogging partner, Rochelle Wharton of Culinary Vegg Out. We would be part of the digital media covering Diner en Blanc. We left P.S. 404 to head to the festivities. As we drove up to the stadium, all I could see was a courtyard engulfed in a sea of white. As each bus allowed guests to disembark, it became wave after wave of white descending upon the stadium. Have you ever seen a sea of white created by people? It was a magnificent sight.
After parking we make our way to gate 2, where we obtained media passes for ourselves and our guests, Paris Coburn and Dionna Collins. From there we were guided in the direction of the media lounge. Walking through the gates there were people bustling to and fro claiming their space in the courtyard, setting up their tables and chairs. This view of the white sea resembled choppy waters before a storm. So much movement!! Some people pulled wagons while others toted bags. Some were very creative with the way they transported all their Diner en Blanc needs. In the midst of all this choppy water, I began to see where the vision was heading. During the setup there was music played by a live orchestra and cirque style performances throughout the venue. Once at the media lounge I got to finally meet the face behind the emails, Ms. Lisa Fisher. As one of the three hosts for Diner en Blanc Atlanta, it was great to be able to put a face to a name.
The media lounge was wonderful, decked out in all white sofas, white tables and white chairs. We had our own bar and a lovely spread for us to nosh on. We were able to network with other media outlets and reacquaint with others met at previous events. And then it was time to go to work. Time to share through my social media platforms all things Diner en Blanc. When I looked out into the courtyard again that once choppy sea of white had simmersed to a lull with light ripples caused by a few late comers. It was beautiful to see how the table settings came together with the people seated all around dressed in white. The sight was brilliant!
To signify the start of Diner en Blanc there is the traditional waving of the napkins. You can catch a glimpse of it here. The party was now under way. There was a live band and a male vocalist, not sure of their name. I somehow missed it amongst all of the fun being had. There was a guitarist who performed with some of the aerialists of Liquid Sky Entertainment on stage with him. It was great. Then DJ Grace Lamour took to rocking the crowd. People danced the night away. There were plenty of photo ops available for attendees. There were two beautiful white Mercedes-Benz cars, a photo booth with the Diner en Blanc backdrop, the stadium with the great Falcon Sculpture and let’s not forget the lighted letters of Diner en Blanc for people to choose from. The sea of white was taken a step further later in the night when another tradition took place, the lighting of sparklers. Here is a small glimpse of the stars above the sea, a grand sight to see. Let me stop rambling on and share some of the pictures from the night.
All told Diner en Blanc was a breathtaking event. I was sad to see it come to an end but I am super excited thinking about the 2018 edition. Diner en Blanc Atlanta was made possible by the diligent efforts of our gracious hosts Lisa Fisher, Tina DeRenzis and Helen Mitchell, who produced a memorable event. Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a wonderful location. Special thanks to Diner en Blanc sponsors Lanson Champagne and Evian-Bedoit who provided the drink options for the night. And let’s not forget all the people who attended. Without them how would I have been able to experience such a stunning sea of white. I look forward to what this team has to offer everyone for the 2018 Diner en Blanc Atlanta.
I made so many memories that night. So many that I wouldn’t know where to start or end. I hope this post makes you want to participate next year. Stay in the know for Diner en Blanc Atlanta 2018 at atlanta.dinerenblanc.com. Now go forward and make new memories.
Until next time…
~The Chef In Pearls
P.S. Here’s a video of inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium
P.S.S. Watermarked pictures were captured by Averi Washington for Diner en Blanc Atlanta all others are C.I.P owned
I am blessed to have lived a childhood where I did not have to worry about hunger. That doesn’t mean there were no hard times in my family’s life. It just means my Mom had a nifty way of making sure as kids we never knew about it. I managed to raise 3 kids and none of them experienced hunger. However, that is not the case for so many children, 1 out of 6 kids do not have a decent breakfast before school. WIthout breakfast they are more likely to miss school, less likely to get better grades and less likely to graduate high school. It is said that 13 million children suffer from hunger. This is where No Kid Hungry comes into play. The goal is to raise awareness of this epidemic happening in one of the richest countries in the world. They also help to raise money to help fill the gap in areas where this is happening.
This past weekend I had the honor of serving as media coverage for the Give Me Five . . . No Kid Hungry Fundraiser. 5 featured chefs and 5 sommeliers crafted a 5 course meal all in the name of raising awareness and money. This was the 11th year for the fundraiser. Attending this event was an “extra happy” event for me. It’s was a chance for me to play dress up, eat good food and do my part to share all of the going ons during the event. It was a win-win situation all around for me. The atmosphere was totally different from the event I had gone to earlier that day. You can read about my time at Culinary Fight Club right here.
The event started off with a cocktail reception and passed appetizers, where entertainment was provided by a live harpist. All great events start with bubbly and this one did not disappoint. Within the next hour we were ushered into the ballroom that was so exquisite. There was a Jazz Trio playing wonderful music as we found our seats. The concept of the event had the chefs and the sommeliers to create wonderful pairings for each course. And they definitely achieved that goal. Now I could sit here and write about each course but I honestly feel like the pictures will speak volumes. Believe me when I say the only way you are not drawn in by the pictures would be because you are blind. One of the coolest thing was that they held a live auction during dinner. It was very exciting to hear the auctioneer roll those numbers off his tongue urging and pulling people into outbidding one another, all in the name of a good case.
Give Me Five was a wonderful event but if you are like me and were moved even the slightest by the statics I shared, you may want to make a donation. You have several ways you can help out. You can make a one time donation, make a monthly contribution or find a local restaurant or event that supports the cause and participate through them. Feel free to click here and check out the options yourself. Let’s work together to help make fond morning memories for some needy children.
Until next time
~The Chef In Pearls
Forty-five years ago, in a hospital in Brooklyn, NY my mother gave birth to who you have all come to know as The Chef In Pearls. I’ve shared that I am a born and bred New Yorker, who transplanted to Atlanta, Georgia. Here is a new factoid for you the readers: you need to know is that I LOVE a good birthday. They are a big deal to me as I look forward to them the way a shopaholic looks forward to a good sale. I mean, I just turned 45 and I’m already planning for my 50th birthday. As if I don’t have other birthdays between now and then. Don’t get me wrong I do plan on celebrating each and everyone until my 50th but I am extra excited about reaching that milestone age.
With that being said I had wonderful plans for my birthday. I wanted to celebrate for a week straight, something to do everyday. I thought about going to a local spa with several salt pools, doing a movie night, or even doing a 5k for charity. Yet as my birthday grew closer, I realized I really didn’t want to do those things anymore. I just wanted to have good vibes for my birthday. I wanted to be around people who would not only celebrate with me but would celebrate me. I knew my best friends of nearly 30 years wouldn’t be able to make it. We had already made plans to celebrate together later in the month. So I pulled out my trusty phone and crafted a text message that I sent out to a handful of friends. The response was want I wanted…yes I’ll be there.
What happened next brought me pure joy and happiness. Let’s start with the fact that my sous chef and friend, Linda Adamswithe, drove in from South Carolina to make me queen for the day. She said with that crown I could have anything my heart desired. What I desired was a menu of appetizing food. She helped me to craft and create a wonderful menu for what would become my birthday gathering. We made crackers from scratch, my recipe for marinated feta cheese crumbles, hummus, and marinated tortellinis — all in the name of a wonderful appetizer board. It was also filled with fruits, nuts, cheeses, dips, veggie and assorted sausages …it was just a beautiful site to see. Then Linda pulled out her bartender’s cap and created a Sangria that left everyone wanting more. But the piece de resistance were the grilled oysters that she pulled off so lovely. Not over cooked and served on a platter of kosher salt with lemon wedges and sriracha for those that needed a bit of spice in their life. Yeah I’d have to say…we did that!
Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the food we created I enjoyed having friends and family around even more. Turning 45 to some may be a thing they want to avoid. Not me, every chance I get to live a little more life I embrace it. I want to grow old and be able to look back through my memory files and smile a big smile. Birthdays are blessings from God and as long as She gives me breath I will continue to celebrate them.
What are somethings you like about celebrating birthdays? Do you have a tradition? Or do you wing it every year? Tell me your fondest birthday memories.
Until next time
~The Chef In Pearls
verb. fail to care for properly
noun. the state or the fact of being uncared for
Had my blog been a child, the state would have swooped in and taken her from me already.Neglect is a serious matter. I have left this blog uncared for, not tended to, the bottom line is she was N.E.G.L.E.C.T.E.D. I want to hang my head in shame but I will not. You see everything happens for a reason. The reason I had to neglect this blog is because I was busy trying to make greatness happen within my life. And to be able to do that required me to lay some things to the wayside. With my youngest graduating high school in less than a week and half, quitting my part time gig, and following my passion of cooking I needed to regroup and get some things in order.
So I throw myself at the mercy of my readers. I ask for forgiveness for my transgressions. Allow me the opportunity to provide you with all the wondefulness of food and fashion. Let me share with you my journey down my rabbit hole of life, filled with new adventures everyday. I don’t normally make promises but I will make an exception to that rule. (As I raise my right hand and place my left on the bible) I promise to do better in keeping you in the loop of all things The Chef In Pearls.
I want us to enjoy new restaurants, recipes and fashion that will bring some much needed color to our lives. I cannot wait for us to connect over food and fashion and life in general. Making and sharing memories we create. We’ve got to remember that neglect isn’t good for either of us. So I’m going to need more comments from you all. And more follows on social media. And just more of US on a whole so that we can become better overall. So now that we have moved on from my neglect, let’s move forward and make wonderful memories together.
Until next time!
The Chef In Pearls
Lately I haven’t really enjoyed doing the whole mall thing. The other day while out with the mini me I ended up at the mall. More importantly I ended up in JC Penney. That’s where I saw the cutest pink outfit. It seemed so fun and flirty. I already figured out so many ways to wear the two piece ensemble in less than 5 minutes of initially seeing it. I needed it in my closet but first a dressing room, please.
I tried on what used to be my size only to realize I needed a smaller size. YAY ME! Down 14 pounds but that’s not what this post is about. This little number that ended up in my closet ( a certain un-named person gifted it to me) was to be my ode to Breast Cancer awareness. A dear friend/neighbor of mine survived breast cancer only to later lose her life to cancer of the spine. I think about her often…missing her. I laugh about how I hated how perfect her home always looked. At that time she had no children and I had 3 so a clean house was hard to keep. She even had the nerve enough to have a white sofa. I secretly hated on her about that. Then she was blessed with a child of her own. And everything changed. The struggle became real and apparent, yet she only had one child. We became kindred spirits. I love the memories we were able to create. Laughing over tea in her kitchen about my oldest one running away from home to her house. Or the time she called my house because the wasband was playing his music too loud and way too late into the night. She threatened to bring her infant child over if he didn’t shut it down. Hell, I pulled the plug myself. I miss her. I wear this pink in her memory and for all the memories we shared. Sandra Hutchinson you are loved.
Go forward and make memories.
~The Chef In Pearls
We all can remember “the firsts” of so many things in life. I can remember the first boy I kissed. The first time I was allowed to wear high heels. The first time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner by myself. All firsts and all a little scary. But I took chances and got through them, mastering some more than others. As I become older, I still experience firsts. This past Saturday, I experienced a first that scared and saddened me deeply. This was the first time in 4 years that I cancelled one of my events. I did it quietly. Removing the event from the ticketing page I created and then refunding money to those already registered. I never made a formal announcement. I still thanked those who notified me they would not be able to attend as if everything was still a go. My family, closest friends and supporters knew. Each one trying their best to comfort me but the reality was it was a door that needed to be closed. Yeah, a really bummer.
My ladies lunch series came to life out of a need for me to get back into the kitchen. I had gone through a dark period in my life where cooking became something I avoided. I went from the mom that made everything from scratch to the Chef Boyardee-can opening-instant potato making-no more Sunday dinner making-I used to be a chef kind of cook.. It was hard for me to get out of that place and the lunch series helped me to re-embrace one of my loves. What started as a Mother’s Day lunch grew into a personalized therapy plan for me, something to soothe my soul. I looked forward to creating new menu ideas and fun ways of presenting food to my ever growing guest list. I always wanted everyone to walk away, not just full with food, but full with life from the interactions and connections they made while attending. I wanted everyone to walk away with gift bags and a desire to return and share in the fellowship the next time. The fact of the matter is the Ladies Lunch was successful as it served its purpose. I am back in the kitchen now. I am back to enjoying the kitchen as my place of peace. I am at a place where I want to share my knowledge with others and have fun doing it. Last year, I created the Exclusive Party of One as an avenue to do so. I will be focusing more of my time on educating and speaking about food and cooking as well as the importance it plays in the lives we lead. So much comes about because of food and the kitchen and I look forward to the mark I will make in this area.
So with a heavy heart I must say goodbye to the C.I.P. Ladies Lunch series and open my arms to today’s opportunities and ventures and those to come.
I’ll end with a quote from The Queendom, “Queen, keep your chin up. All is not lost. Sometimes you have to lose to gain.” I have abundant memories from all of those events and I will cherish them as I do of others. So please go forward today and make a memory, especially one in the kitchen. Until next time.
~The Chef In Pearls
I love bananas…I mean I could eat bananas all everyday if…they didn’t cause me pain. Apparently at some point in my life I met my banana quota. My body’s way of letting me know this is by inflicting excruciating pain on my stomach. I don’t have to eat a whole banana for this phenomena to take place…a bite…hell a half a bite and BAM instant pain. But that doesn’t stop me from creating wonderful banana inspired dishes (remember I love bananas).
Today I bring you the banana bread remixed. This dish was inspired by a post a friend shared on Facebook, “20 Recipes that will make you never want to skip brunch Again,” by viral nova. On this list was a recipe for cream cheese filled banana bread…..how could that not be good. I mean, I have done banana bread with a brown sugar cream cheese spread so I know cream cheese in the middle would definitely take it up a notch or 2. Here’s the thing though I wasn’t feeling the actual banana bread recipe that was posted so I went with my tried and true recipe from out of one of my old dusty notebooks. I now give you Banana Bread with cream cheese filling and candied walnuts….. So here ya go:
3 or 4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Cream Cheese Filling
1 (8oz) block of cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of corn syrup
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour a loaf pan. In a saucepan place walnuts, sugar and corn syrup. Heat until sugar is melted and nuts are coated. Spread nuts out on a parchment lined baking sheets so as to cool and not form lumps.Mash bananas with a fork in a mixing bowl .With a wooden spoon mix melted butter into mashed bananas. Mix in sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle salt & baking soda over mixture and then mix in. Add flour and mix until incorporated ( do not over mix as it will toughen the texture of the bread). Put to the side. Place softened cream cheese into bowl with egg, sugar and vanilla, mix until smooth. Pour 1/2 the banana mixture into prepared loaf pan. Then pour cream cheese mixture on top of banana mixture in pan. Top that with a 1/4 cup of candied walnuts followed by the other 1/2 of banana mixture. Finish it by sprinkling the remaining walnuts on top.Place loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake 45 minutes to an hour. Insert knife or toothpick to test bread , if it comes out clean then done. Cool pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan, allow to cool completely on rack. Cut using a serrated edge knife. Then enjoy .
Well I hope you’ll share how your banana bread turns out. CIPapproved