Once you figure out what it is you love to do, everything else will fall into place. That is chef Chanda Clark’s approach on why she loves her career. After ten years of working in a different profession, Clark decided to adventure into the culinary world. “I always thought there was something else that I should be doing and cooking was always my passion. My friends told me I should go into cooking because my food was really good,” says Clark.
The Southern California native began cooking at the age of 12. It was her grandmother’s Louisiana Creole food that initiated her enthusiasm. “When I was a kid, I would go to my grandmother’s business while she cooked for her patients. A lot of the recipes I learned are old Louisiana authentic Creole recipes from my grandmother. I duplicated her recipes and turned it into my style.”
In 2004, Clark graduated from the Art Institute in Santa Monica and landed her first job as a line cook at Sony Pictures Studios. During those four years, Clark became a sous chef and established her own catering company. Pursuing her aspirations for more knowledge in culinary cooking, she became an associate chef instructor at the Le Cordon Bleu in Hollywood, California. After a couple of semesters working, she left and went to the Crescent Hotel in Beverly Hills. As an executive chef, she was able to incorporate her family recipes and cooking. “My menu was eclectic. I did Mediterranean with a little Asian and Creole influence.” The Crescent Hotel received high Zagat ratings for Clark’s multifarious cuisine.
Clark is taking every chance she can get out of life, so it was a no-brainer when she decided to enter Safeway’s “Search for Our Next Chef” Competition. An once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for chefs to compete for a full-time position with the Safeway Culinary Kitchens in Pleasanton, California and have their recipe sold as an Open Nature Skillet Meal in Safeway stores. “I saw the ad on facebook and thought it was a nice opportunity for someone to display a dish that really signifies something to them,” says Clark. She decided to cook a dish that her grandmother taught her how to make and that has been in her family for years. “Let me show them how my family does it and how I interpret my family’s recipes. That would be a really good way to show how I appreciated my grandmother and all the things she taught me.”
The contestants prepared their skillet dish and then presented it to the polished judging panel consisting of Safeway executives and executive chef Alexandra Guamaschelli who appears on Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Iron Chef.” Clark won the regional competition in April and placed second in the finals on May 16 with her “Chef C’s Granny Chicken Creole” recipe which was handed down by her from her 97-year-old grandmother. An accomplishment to definitely be proud of, she is delighted for the many opportunities to perform under some really remarkable chefs and grasp a little bit of their techniques.
Whether she is in charge of a kitchen at a restaurant, running her own catering business, or appearing on VH1's “Famous Food,” Clark loves her profession. Look for more from Clark who is currently a personal chef to clients who are looking for healthy alternative meals. Having achieved so much in a relatively short amount of time, she is indubitably a chef that is on the rise.