Chef Jernard Wells is the self-proclaimed Chef of Love. Famous for his time spent on Food Network Star and Cutthroat Kitchen, Chef Jernard believes food and love go hand-in-hand and wants everyone to know how easy cooking can be – and how much excitement it can add to your life. The National Peanut Board sat down and dug into how the Chef of Love shares his passion for food, social media, and of course, peanuts.
NPB: Where did you discover your passion for food?
JW: I discovered my passion for food at the age of 10 while watching my father create meals for my mother. Seeing how much enthusiasm he put in to each dish drew me in, which later ushered me into opening my first restaurant up when I was 16 years old. I made enough money from it to pay my way through culinary school.
NPB: You seem to engross a wide range of media and influencers for food inspiration and guidance – millennials especially. How do you engage consumers of this generation and what are your top sources of culinary inspiration?
JW: We live in a social media driven world and I’ve learned to adapt to stay on the cutting edge of trends. The way we cooked five years ago is so different from today’s style. Living in a world of gastronomy cooking and Pinterest inspiration, I rely on social media, national cooking shows, magazines and lots of travel. When I visit a city or country, I request to eat where the locals dine so I can truly experience the uniqueness of the area. I use this as a guide to my style of plating and to for new innovative concepts to infuse in an old style cuisine. I also regularly visit local farmers markets to sample and ask the farmers what are they growing and what has spiked in selling, which gives me an idea of what’s trending. Also, having nine children ranging from age 21 to 7 years old helps a lot. We do cooking sessions in our home so I can learn from them.
NPB: You are very involved on your social media platforms. What are some of the benefits of chefs using social media?
JW: The best benefits of being highly active on social media is the ability to streamline, market and brand who you are and what you do across the globe in your own unique way.Being a chef gives you the ability to create what I call your very own “cooking resume” visually.Not only can you share your love and creativity for food but it also transcends into business and learning at the same time. You are learning new state-of-the-art creativity from others while showcasing your skill set throughout.
NPB: What food trends do you feel are developing in your industry?
JW: The most notable food trends I feel are developing in my industry are the clean-eating movement, meaning pure or simple labeling, and the trend of utilizing nuts and berries in hearty dishes.
NPB: Speaking of nuts, how do peanut ingredients like peanuts and peanut butter play a role in your food?
JW: Peanut ingredients have been in my life for as long as I can remember, dating back to my childhood of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I truly believe peanut products have earned their rightful place in every home. Peanuts are a multi-purposed product from everyday eating to high-scale cuisine. I use them as a binder, sweetener or to add texture, energy and so much more.
NPB: Sustainability has a broad definition in the culinary world. How do these factors (eco-friendliness, eating local, social consciousness) influence your work as a chef?
JW: Sustainability is key in marketing but truly standing behind it goes so much further. I believe in sourcing fresh ingredients and incorporating products from whatever region I’m creating an amazing meal in, which supports that area if I make a living there. It’s my duty to support the locals that help make it all possible, especially in the food scene. I do a lot of private consulting and personal chef services throughout the world. The one thing that always reigns supreme is to buy local and eat local.