Chef JC Ricks, 24, is a master of Italian, Chinese, and African cuisines. With great delight, he discusses the greatest obstacle he had to overcome as a chef, the meaning behind the name — Team IDKitchen, and the ideal meal he wants to prepare for President Barack Obama.
ZT: What’s the meaning behind Team IDKitchen and how did it originate?
CJCR: Team IDKitchen stands for “Team In Da Kitchen.” A few years ago, my co-worker and I entered a food competition. We needed a name, so I came up with Team IDKitchen or Team IDK. The name stuck and I’ve been using it ever since.
ZT: When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
CJCR: My second year in college was when I realized that I had a passion for cooking. My whole life revolved around the kitchen and all my jobs leading up to that realization was food related.
ZT: Speaking of the kitchen, who are some of your influences in the kitchen?
CJCR: I would definitely say my mother because she gave me my love and passion for cooking. She’s the main reason why I became a chef. As far as celebrity chefs, Emeril Lagasse was someone I watched all the time. He made amazing food through his restaurants and shows, and the original Iron Chef was something I followed regularly at a young age.
ZT: What’s the greatest obstacle you had to overcome as a chef, and how did you overcome it?
CJCR: My first internship was tough, mainly due to how exhausted I was mentally and physically afterwards. It was 10 days straight, 12-hour shifts for an annual tennis tournament that was very busy, everyday all-day. But I persevered because I have a great work ethic.
ZT: President Barack Obama stated that his favorite food is broccoli. With that being said, if you had to cook a special meal for the President, what would it be?
CJCR: I would prepare a roasted broccolini soup with spiced chili hollandaise. Broccolini is a green hybrid vegetable similar to broccoli. It’s a mixture of broccoli and kai-lan (also known as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale). It’s really amazing. Then I would serve him an entrée of broccoli and cheese risotto with seared filet mignon and black peppercorn beef jus.
ZT: Sounds delicious. Food preparation takes time. What’s the longest you ever worked without taking a break?
CJCR: I once worked a 15-hours shift, 6 hours in the morning, and then I started working the entire afternoon and dinner shifts for about 9 more hours.
ZT: What advice would you give to an aspiring cook, someone who is trying to become a chef?
CJCR: I would let them know that the culinary profession is definitely a competitive environment, and the three most important things involved with this profession are experience, networking, and passion. Without experience employers won’t be looking for you, without networking you won’t know where to look for big and relevant opportunities, and without passion you won’t last long.
ZT: Years from now, when people say Chef JC Ricks, what will they say?
CJCR: He is a beast in the kitchen.
ZT: How can people get in contact with you to acquire your services?
ZT: Thank you for a great interview, and as an honored guest, do you have anything else to say?
CJCR: I love my profession and being able to cook amazing food everyday, but sometimes I feel like especially in America, with all the food shows and restaurants, we take for granted how important it is to have at least one meal a day. So pretty much, I want to urge everyone out there, not just on holidays, to please support their city and state’s food programs and homeless shelters. We need to help feed people who are struggling to get their next meal. Together we can make a difference.
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