Getting To Know Chef Roshara Sanders
(PHOTOS BY DEBBIE LEMONTE)
(Bio taken from her website written by Mashaun d. Simon)
Before graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Roshara was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the 4th Engineer Battalion, Roshara served as an automated logistical specialist responsible for supervising warehouse functions to maintain equipment records and parts. When Roshara returned stateside she joined the 395th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and was allowed to cross train as a food supply specialist. “I was passionate about cooking,” Roshara says, “and I prepared meals for 500 soldiers, three times a day, in shifts around the clock. If it weren’t for the GI Bill I wouldn’t have gone to the Culinary Institute of America or any college for that matter. It was a blessing and it made my dream a reality.” Roshara’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. She holds Campaign Medals from Iraq and Afghanistan, a Navy/Marine Achievement Medal, and she was the December 2014 Chef of the Month for Chef Works, an international foodservice uniform company. Roshara was sponsored by Remy Martin Cognac Company and inducted into the Circle of Centaurs mentorship program. On November 11, 2015, Roshara was featured on a special Veteran’s Day episode of Food Network’s hit show “Chopped” that included military vets competing from every branch Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy. Roshara won the competition beating chefs twice her age and experience! In 2016, NBC Black named Chef Roshara Sanders to their annual “28 Under 28” list alongside other inspiring African Americans like Cam Newton. Roshara currently serves as a celebrity ambassador for Habitat for Humanity International, and most recently traveled to Malawi on behalf of the organization. In 2018, Roshara signed a partnership deal with consumable goods manufacturer, Microfoodery, for a line of products bearing her name. Chef Roshara Sanders was recently invited to present a feature dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City in November of 2018 in honor of Veterans Day.
INTERVIEW WITH CHEF RO
-When did you fall in love with cooking?
I have always found cooking fun; even as a young child. My mother worked two or three jobs my whole life; so learning how to cook at a young age was a necessity. I really started to think hard about cooking when I was in the 8th grade. I decided to attend a Vocational Technical High school where I could really pursue culinary. I was fascinated with how my mother was able to provide a roof over our head by working in he hospitality industry. My first year in high school is when I knew that I would be in t his career field forever! I wanted to graduate from the culinary arts program and pursue a Culinary Arts Degree from the Culinary Institute of America.
-Tell us a little about your time in Afghanistan and Iraq ?
I deployed in start of 2009 and return end of 2010. I was served under the 4th Engineer Battalion. Our mission was to clear Improvised Explosive Devices off the roads of Bagdad Iraq & Kandahar Afghanistan ( Route Clearance, and Vehicle Recovery). My job specifically was to order, inventory and distribute vehicle, electrical/ hardware, and weaponry items to the Battalion and Naval Seabee Companies( Automated Logistical Supply Specialist). I joined the military at the age of 17 years old. I wanted to obtain the Gi Bill so that I could then have enough finical support to pay for a bachelors Education at the Culinary Institute of America. I have traveled to several states and countries learning different cultures, food, and connecting with several communities. The military taught me a lot about hard work and disciple and it has helped shape me into the chef I am today! I lost many soldiers oversees and I strive to honor them daily in everything that I do.
-Tell us a little bit about your experience on Chopped?
Chopped was super dope! It has allowed me to flourish in my career! Chopped was the first time I ever took a step back and told myself I was talented. The judges where amazing and gave the best feed back. I was super blessed to meet Mark Murphy, Chris Santos and Maneet Chauhan. I must say Chopped is what you see on TV! You don't know anything ahead of time and everything is on you! It was the best experience of my life and to be able to come out as champion has been a life changing experience.
-Who’s been the greatest inspiration in your cooking?
My mother is the greatest inspiration I have for cooking! She has always been a great cook herself; sharing techniques with. me and teaching me about flavor! God is also my first inspiration. Everything I do is to Honor God for giving me this talent and skill.
-What are your favorite local ingredients to work with?
It depends on where I a located at; but I am big on fruits and vegetables. I am also into seasonality and I choose ingredients based of the season it is harvested in. Like for example Cherries are harvested in the Summer so I would love to cook and highlight something like cherries for the summer season.
- Tell us about one life changing meal?
My first time ever eating Pecan Pie I was in Kandahar Afghanistan with my squad at lunch. Everyone at the table had grabbed pecan pie but me. I asked them what that was and they all shared there favorite pecan pie stories with me. After my first bite I then knew I had my very own food memory story I could cherish forever.
-What was your go-to source for recipe inspiration for Bite NW Arkansas?
I just wanted to be different. I wanted to bring flavors together I thought people would enjoy. I also wanted the drink to be beautiful. Something that people could age at for a while before drinking it.
-Favorite kitchen tool?
My chefs Knife is my favorite took of Course. Every Chef has one favorite knife they love and admire. We need our knives for so many task and I appreciate this tool so much I treat it with so much love and care.
-Favorite style to cook?
I cook all styles. I love to cook all types of cuisines and pay homage to all types of cultures. I love to explore several types of ingredients from all over. I have no favorites I just love it all.
-On your day off, what are you likely doing?
Fishing I love to go fishing every chance I get.
-Last one, if we came over to your houses tonight , what will you cook?!
Soul Food. Collard Greens Macaroni and Cheese Fried Chicken Mashed Potatoes
Discover more about Chef Ro below!!!! She is truly such an inspiration!
This post was sponsored by BITE NW Arkansas. However all words and opinions are my own.