Features Interviews

Chopped Like a Champion: An Interview with Chef Andre Fowles.

Chef-Andre-Fowles

Photo by Michael Condran

 By now you have heard of him and even if you haven’t, Andre Fowles has been proving himself a fierce competitor and a tallawah force in the culinary world. At just 26 years old, this  passionate, inspiring, and humble chef has moved to New York from Jamaica and has stepped onto the international stage by competing and winning two rounds of the Food Network’s show, Chopped. The sous chef at Miss Lily’s in New York City, this newlywed’s passion for culinary arts keeps his flame burning. He is a true inspiration for all Jamaicans, as he brings his A-game to every competition to show the world how #wejaminate. We sat down for an exclusive interview with this young chef, fresh off the chopping block, to understand how he operates and to learn more about what drives him and where his career is heading.

How would you define your cuisine?

My style of cooking is light, contemporary Caribbean Cuisine. Jamaican traditions and heritage are great, and I want to continue to refine and introduce these tastes to the entire world.

Who are some of your culinary heroes?

I have so many, but first I’d have to say Martin Maginley, the Chef at Round Hill Hotel in Jamaica, who inspired me because he taught me how to be innovative, which prepared me for my move to the United States. I am also a big fan of Chef Michael Symon’s passion and style of cooking. Finally, of course, is Chef Adam Schop who I work under and learn from every day at Miss Lily’s in New York City. He has shown me the ropes in the kitchen and has made my transition as a young chef moving to the US for the first time so much easier. He has taught me some new techniques, introduced me to new products and has really served as a mentor to me. We’ve really created some great dishes together! I’d encourage your readers to stop by and try some of them!

chefs adam & andre

Fowles and Schop. Photo by Michael Condran

Tell us some of the qualities that you feel a successful modern chef should have?

I’ve learned that it is really important to create your identity as a chef, understand which direction you want to go, in terms of cuisine, and really own that. It’s also important to perfect your technique. Oftentimes, chefs have to adapt quickly in the kitchen, and getting your technique and rhythm down is essential.

What are some emerging Caribbean food trends that you’re noticing?

Right now I’m seeing a lot of fusion going on with Caribbean flavors and ingredients in international cuisines. One of the things I’ve been focusing on is molecular gastronomy, which is using innovative techniques and understanding the chemistry of cooking, in order to accentuate the flavors of the Caribbean.

What do you think are the most important qualities in a young chef?

I think it’s really important to be passionate and enjoy the art of cooking. Combine that with hard work and dedication and it’s a recipe for success!

What’s the one cooking tool that a chef should not be without?

You have to have a well-sharpened chef’s knife. Without that tool, you can’t execute 70% of the things you’re going to attempt.

How has your life changed since being on Chopped?

That’s a great question! People love a great story, and food is one of those things that brings everyone together, so when you combine the two it’s really a unique experience that Chopped helps facilitate. I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to meet new people and share my cooking with them and also get feedback from some of the best and most experienced chefs in the business about something I did. It’s an amazing feeling when someone comes into Miss Lily’s because they saw me on Chopped and want to experience my cooking. It’s humbling, honestly! 

Which notable Jamaican, dead or alive, would you like to prepare a meal for and have a conversation with? What would the meal be?

Well, I am a huge fan of Bob Marley. He is one of the most inspiring Jamaicans because he was such a spiritual person, who really cared about everyone. He wanted to figure out a way to inspire others to be the best version of themselves, so I’d love to talk to him about that. My grandmother has always encouraged me to do my absolute best at all times. She is one of my greatest inspirations and Bob Marley’s music inspires me to do just what she said. And because he was a vegetarian, I would make him the best callaloo rundown with fresh veggies, coconut milk, garlic, onion and of course some scotch bonnet pepper.

So, you’re in the kitchen and you have to “buil’ a vibes,” what do you do?

I think music, like food, is a universal language that can lift people’s spirits, so if the kitchen is stressed or super busy, I like to create a fun energetic atmosphere by playing some reggae music. That usually helps to get the kitchen staff excited and motivated.

What foods do you stay away from?

As a chef there is not much that I’m unwilling to experiment with or try but I’m really into cooking with as many fresh and local ingredients as possible, to build great flavors like we did back home.

If you were on a deserted island and you could have one food what would it be?

I would probably have to say fresh coconut because the coconut water will help keep me cool and hydrated, not to mention it’s delicious, and the meat of the coconut has some fat which will help me feel and stay full.

What’s next for you, Chef?

I want to continue to work as an advocate for Caribbean cuisine and break down barriers by creating bold flavors with amazing traditional foods from Jamaica and the Caribbean. I’m also excited about winning a spot on the Chopped Champions Grand Finale, where I get to compete with some of the best chefs out there for $50,000!

What would you like to say to the people?

I would love to thank everyone who has supported me on this remarkable journey, and I hope to continue to make the Caribbean proud.

We are very proud, Chef Andre! Continue dreaming and doing and making the world see how #wejaminate!

Follow Chef Andre Fowles’ journey @cheffowles on Social Media and on The Food Network (check local listings).

 To Learn more about the great work the folks at Miss Lily’s are doing for Jamaica, click here

Miss Lily's 7A Exterior

Photo by Michael Condran

 

About the author

Kerri-Ann M. Smith

Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith is an author and educator. She is an Assistant Professor of Academic Literacy at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. She is a patois translator, a wife, and the mother of a gregarious little girl. She is a senior writer for jamaicans.com.