So I'm in my car on my break, and I get a text that reads:
"Jermaine this is very last minute. Any chance you are free to do a surprise dinner party for Lakeia next weekend." 

My initial thought was "Next weekend? Today is Saturday! That gives me less than a week to plan, schedule, have a formal consultation, discuss the menu, make recommendations, discuss the budget, discuss the party size, discuss whether the event would be appropriate for personal chef services or catering, buffet style or plated. Not to mention I have prior engagements that I have already committed to." And then of course my immediate second thought was "Wait...It's for Lakeia? And Jen is asking? Of course I'll cancel my weekend plans, and stress out for them" Lol! 

We decided that this elegant birthday party would take place on a Friday evening, under a beautiful wedding inspired tent, with a fully stocked bar, using white sheer table cloths and beautifully designed center pieces. What we had not yet discussed was the most important thing...The MENU. They say you never know someone until you live with them. Well...Let me preface this by saying that Lakeia and I have never been roommates, but I guarantee you, after discussing Lakeia's "Foodie Do's and Don'ts", it was if we had been roommates for YEARS. I learned so much about Mrs. Bowman in just a matter of minutes. Lakeia has a very umm... particular palette. Okay, okay, yes, from my understanding she is a very specific (picky) eater, lol!   

Instead of creating the menu based on my abstract culinary philosophy, we created the menu using negations. The questions quickly transitioned from, "How about this *insert fancy dish description here*" to "What else isn't Lakeia a fan of." And let me tell you, I loved EVERY SECOND OF IT. It almost reminded me of a challenge on the show, and all I kept repeating to myself was "Challenge accepted"! I learned that we couldn't use cheese, anything creamy, potatoes, pork, or nuts. My immediate thought was "Welp, there goes my signature 5 Cheese Mac and Please with Jalapeno's and Bacon that won me Top 4 on Food Network's All-Star Academy."  Nonetheless, I discovered some of her favorites and decided I would work from there. Some of her favorite items included Lemon Garlic Chicken, Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Rice with Gravy, and Shrimp... Specifically Shrimp Scampi. 

So here we are, one night before the event, and we FINALLY have a menu finalized and ready to go. We decided that for course one, I would create a petite appetizer trio with my signature Caribbean Jerk Grilled Shrimp Skewers with a Warm Sweet and Spicy Caribbean Salsa, Succulent Jumbo Shrimp Scampi cooked in a delicious Lemon Butter Sauce with Green Onions, Garlic and Shallots, a Bitter Greens Curly Parsley and Watercress Salad, and two Lime Wedges for some color and acidity. 

When I say it was a HIT!!!! Mannnnnnnnnn listen! Lol. Nothing is more humbling to a chef than empty plates, smiling faces and the infamous "Is there any more?" Usually to save my clients the embarrassing moment of having to "ask" for more, I'll come around and pass whatever is left over. Before I could complete my sentence in asking "would you like...", they were already gone. This group had no shame and I LOVED it! Of course I asked the woman of the hour how she enjoyed her food, and she responded "Perfect! It was sooo delicious." At that moment, I knew my job was done, and it was on to course two. 

For the second course, I decided to really cater to the Birthday Girl's Palate. Now remember, she likes Lemon Garlic Chicken, Kale, and Rice and Gravy. It was my job to kick it up a notch, and to creatively elevate those very specific flavor profiles without losing sight of the traditional value of the ingredients...And I did just that. For our entree, we had Seared Lemon Chicken in a Thyme, Marjoram, and Rosemary Butter, with Southern Style Kale, cooked low and slow with Smoked Turkey Tails, and Southern Spices, with Herbed White Rice and a Cream a Chicken Lemon Gravy! Mmmmmmmm Mmmmmm Good! 

Another HOME RUN!!! More empty plates, more smiling faces, and more requests for seconds. What seemed to shock everyone was that those "Southern Greens" they just devoured was Kale and not your traditional Collards. I got asked for the recipe numerous times, and even supported a guest in eating what was left straight from the pot! Another guest politely asked if she could take some of the greens home to her family, as she could not believe they were collards, to which I quickly responded "Sure, if you can get to them first!" Lol.

 20+ people gathered to celebrate the life of an amazing woman. What better way to celebrate Lakeia Bowman's "25th Birthday" than to set up a wedding-like scene in beautiful backyard, filled with beautiful guests, tasty cocktails and delicious food. I am so glad I got to bring the 8 Count Kitchen experience to your surprise birthday party and I am honored to be a part of this life-long memory! 

Thank you again for having me. Until next time!

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