Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chef Dwight Evans in Paris - Part 2

A few weeks ago, Chef Dwight Evans was in Paris to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his graduation from the esteemed professional cooking school Grégoire Ferrandi. We met at a bistrot in Paris’ 5th arrondissement and he filled me in on all that has come to pass since he left Paris in 2002.

Chef Dwight Evans
© Discover Paris!
Almost immediately after returning to Muncie, Indiana, Evans went to work for Crystal Cruises. He sailed around the world during the year that he worked with the company, calling in ports in Italy (which he had planned to visit when he was preparing to leave Paris), Hawaii, Japan, China, Singapore, Greece, and Turkey.

After his second contract with the cruise line expired, Evans went to Chicago and opened a restaurant called Café Soul on the South Side at 66th Street and Martin Luther King Drive. It was a unique establishment in that Evans served both traditional soul food and bistrot food such as frog legs and osso buco. The restaurant was very well received, and Evans served celebrity clients such as Herman Rush and Willie Mays there in addition to neighborhood residents.

From Café Soul, Evans accepted the position of executive chef for Covenant Village of Northbrook, a retirement community in Northbrook, Illinois. Food service at Covenant Village is operated by the French conglomerate Sodexo, which affords Evans fringe benefits (long vacations, 401K plan) that most U.S. chefs only dream about. From this position, he is rapidly making himself known in the Chicago culinary community.
Evans is the first African-American 1st vice president of Chicago Chefs of Cuisine, the oldest chapter of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). He is expected to become president of the Chicago chapter in the near future. He is also a member of the World Association of Chefs Society and the Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of Chicago; the latter organization requires a referral to be considered for admission. Evans is particularly proud to be a member of the Escoffier Society because he considers Escoffier to be the author of “the culinary bible” of our time.

Being a great chef is not all that Evans aspires to. He also wants to be a great businessman in the culinary field, modeling the likes of master French chef Alain Ducasse. He envisions being the proprietor of a restaurant group and creating a line of products to be sold under his name. He wants to leave an epicurean legacy – a thriving business that will provide employment for communities around the Midwest and beyond as well as a solid economic base for his family. To this end, he is actively working on creating the Chef Dwight Evans brand.

Amongst his activities in this arena are signing with a publisher for his book entitled From the Ghetto to Gourmet…I Refuse to Lose, the completion of a pilot for a cooking show entitled “Fine Dining with Chef Evans,” and fulfilling the role of celebrity chef and spokesperson for Moo and Oink – a meat, chicken, and barbecue sauce company in the Chicago area. He was named one of America’s top African-American chefs by Ebony Magazine in 2009 and was the Illinois contender for Best Chef of the American Culinary Federation’s Central Regional Conference in 2011.

Giving back to the community is near and dear to Evans’ heart. He participated in the “Real Men Cook” event in Chicago in 2011 with his son Davonte and is active in other non-profit organizations such as Chefs in the Classroom, No Kid Left Hungry, and Taste of Chicago. His master project is the creation of his own non-profit organization called “G to G,” which he plans to launch in conjunction with the publication of his book From the Ghetto to Gourmet.

I asked Evans if he plans to stay in Chicago once these dreams are realized. His response: “Just because I was born in America doesn’t mean that I’m going to die on American soil!”

Evans' recent visit to Paris has turbo-charged his desire to explore the culinary cultures of other lands – Italy and Japan are two places that he mentioned more than once during our conversation. He wants to do something bigger than work in the U.S. and something bigger than what he accomplished in school in France and with Crystal Cruise Line. He is open to the entire world and believes wholeheartedly that he can achieve greatness anywhere on the planet!


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