Recipes From Kenneth Temple
Master Grillabilities ® From Kenneth Temple
Born to Grill™ With Kenneth Temple
I’m Chef Kenneth Temple. If you’ve been around New Orleans for long, then chances are you might’ve heard of me. Powerhouse caterer. Entrepreneur. Winner of Chopped. (Hey, let’s see anyone else figure out a pie in fifteen minutes… Did I forget to mention the sour gummies and sausage?) When I’m not working hard to teach serious cooking skills, I keep myself busy rolling up my sleeves with Savory, LLC, providing Michelin Star service in the comfort of clients’ homes. I’ve hosted weekly Facebook cooking shows attracting over 15,000 viewers, and I’ve worked with empowerment and outreach organizations like Son of a Saint and PINK House.
What’s that? You want credentials? Well, here we go: I’ve catered privately to professional athletes, Hollywood producers, Grammy award-winners, government officials, and more, all in my hometown of New Orleans. (Now, I’m not gonna drop names… I can’t think of a faster way to stop getting phone calls. And loves getting those phone calls.) I’ve even hit that “Look, Ma! I made it!” bar, putting out my own creole cookbook — “Southern Creole: Recipes From My New Orleans Kitchen” — all about juicy dishes with simple technique.
I’m out to inspire mouthwatering food, cooked simply but masterfully from everyday ingredients. And my culinary approach is all about showcasing world cuisine through a New Orleans lens. But I didn’t grow up stirring Grandma’s pot in the kitchen. All my cooking skills were learned in college, when I was figuring how to make the foods I grew up eating. Not to sound cliche, but if I can do it? You really can, too. And I strive to teach folks that the difference between “can’t cook” and “mastering simple technique” is called “Listen to Chef Kenneth!”
Simply put? Make food you can be proud of!
Q & A With Kenneth Temple
Growing up, you were your father’s “mini sous chef.” Some people might spend the rest of their lives avoiding the kitchen after that, but not you. What was your turning point?
Well, when you’re graduating from high school, two months left? That’s called, “What do you want to do with your life?” [Laughs.] But everyone’s got their recruitment drives, and Nicholl’s State University came . Turns out, they’ve got a culinary arts program! Cooking school? I’ll do that! I had a cousin at that school, so I knew I could easily go down there, scope out the campus, get a vibe for the location — only 45 minutes from New Orleans, so anytime I wanted to come home, I could. But I couldn’t have gone to school at home; I’d have played around. I wouldn’t have been able as focused.
So it was a “Eh!” [Shrugs.] type of situation. “Sure!”
I was great with computers, too, but I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer all day. Although, since everything’s on a computer now… [Laughs.] Oh man, but once I was in those classes, it was a natural fit! A natural vibe. It felt familiar. But not in an overpowering way. You know, I was an average teenager — I wasn’t one of these MasterChef kids, not by far. I could make a bologna and cheese sandwich! Anybody? No takers? Anybody? Anybody? [Laughs.] I could fry an egg! Make some French toast! You want more than that? Well, too bad — growing up, I wasn’t that kid!
That last part’s pretty surprising! So, what did your family think of you pursuing the culinary arts?
Obviously, being from New Orleans, food is a part of the culture, right? Cooking just seemed more intriguing to me. I was always interested in art and in ways of expression. My dad bakes. My family cooks. But even my dad was like, “Are you sure? Because you know you have to work on holidays, long hours…” You want to know my takeaway from that? “Great, I’m making that money! Just means Christmas is a little sweeter!” [Laughs.] That was our conversation before I went to culinary school and, lo and behold! Here I am.
What’s your earliest culinary memory, and what makes it stick out?
Helping my father in the kitchen with his baking. Now, I didn’t learn how to crack eggs with a butter knife. He had a professional offset spatula for cracking the eggs and icing cakes. And I wasn’t just cracking one egg — imagine a three-year-old popping open 24! Learning to use eggshell to get, you know, other eggshell out of there. Eggs have been everywhere in my culinary expression and history. Thirty-five years of eggs. I think they’re the best “fast food” you can eat. They just go with everything.
For 3 years, you served an ambassadorship between New Orleans to Durban, South Africa. How did you get involved in that?
Oh, man! Wait until you hear this story. Here’s something really powerful that I didn’t learn this until that opportunity arose — I used to always tell my Mom jokingly, “I’m leaving, and I’m going to Africa!” When she’d tell me to clean my room, I’d always jokingly threaten it. “I’m tired of this! I’m leaving, and I’m going to Africa!”
Which brings me to a point years later, doing small, private catering events for the mayor of New Orleans. So I was in “the known,” I guess you could say. But one time I was out at a party, and one of those young ladies working in city hall told me, “They want to send you to Africa.” And then I was like, “Sorry, the music’s kind of loud. Could you repeat that?” [Laughs.] “They want to send me to Africa?!”
Ironically, over by where my family lives, there’s always been a South African flag on North Broad Street. Well, that’s the office for this lawyer who runs the relationships between New Orleans and Durban. You wouldn’t think they were our sister city, but they are! I’ve asked New Orleanians, and they don’t know either! So that first year, I’m over there, killing it, having lunch with dignitaries from China, India, Africa, America… and here’s Chef Kenneth, thinking “Wow. This is… Yeah, I definitely took a different direction in life than just being a restaurant chef!”
New Orleans has all sorts of programs. Unless you know they exist… you don’t know they exist! This wasn’t something I applied for. I didn’t know about the program. I kept talking about it, and the door opened. Didn’t even know about the door! And that’s the really powerful lesson at the heart of this. That’s the power of speaking things into existence.
That’s an incredible point. This gets me wondering: to what do you accredit your success?
Charisma. Being a student of life! I love sucking up information, but always applying it. What’s the point of learning Instagram reels if you’re not going to be using Instagram reels? These things line up towards the opportunities and the places I want to be. Educating yourself? Beautiful. Educating yourself with a plan? So much better.
And people say I can actually cook! “That Kenneth Temple, oh, I hate that guy. His jokes suck. But wow, boy can he cook!” Since I’ve got both, I’m gonna run with it. And that’s one of my bigger lessons to teach. You’ve got both? Run with it.
Here’s a fun one: you’re given your own show. What do you do with it?
I believe food memories are some of the most potent things that we have. Tapping into that with celebrities, influencers, those people, getting them to share that story — and then recreating that food, that nostalgia for them, is just something powerful, you know? Obviously nowadays, we’re more in celebrities’ lives than ever. But did you ever hear who their Nana was? What their favorite dish was, growing up? Something maybe they can’t have anymore.
This ties into one of my passions: history. History, storytelling, and food. That’s the trifecta. So, to anyone reading this: call me! Don’t take my idea. [Laughs.] Call me. I’ll know where you got this idea from. Just wait ’til you see me do it.
You said earlier that your charisma powers you. But you’re clearly a man of confidence as well. What drives that confidence?
Ooh, let me think about that one… [Pauses.] Let’s say, a perusal of dreams without a shadow of a doubt that I can put my mind to it. How’s that sound? [Laughs.] I’m an only child, so if I’ve ever wanted to get anything done, I’ve needed to do it myself. That gave me that doer’s mentality. Self-doubt is 0.001% in me. I’ve always pursued my dreams with complete confidence — and I’ve taken action. Like I was saying earlier, what’s the point of being a good student and having information and never applying it?
Couldn’t agree more. With the Internet, there’s a lot more white noise out there — how do you choose what you want to learn?
Hmm. Well, interest comes first. Advancing my career, that’s one thing. I teach myself the things that I need to know. And I apply that, like we were talking about. But if it’s some general knowledge — something that involves my work, my art — then it has to have a historical value to it, and I want it to come from the source. Whatever that might be.
Case in point: early in the summer, I went to a local bookstore here in Dallas, Half Price Books; I wanted to get more Chinese sauces under my belt, so I was after a Chinese cookbook. Now, in the category, I spotted a Vietnamese cookbook — and Vietnamese culture is big in New Orleans. You see, after the Vietnam War in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, that community came down to New Orleans and brought their culture and cuisine. When you hear phrases like “Viet-Cajun,” that’s where that comes from. There’s real cultural value in that — and it was a old book, one from the 1970s! That’s first generation, before anyone could get their hands on the information and brush it up for our modern audience. Man! How much closer to the source can you get? [Laughs.]
I feel like this ties back into how you apply your knowledge.
It does! Which brings me back to my point. With cookbooks, I tend to go older, as that’s closer to the heritage. If you understand your history, you can change your present and your future. Looking behind the latest, the new-and-improved, you get that purity; it’s closer to the way it was done traditionally. Cookbooks written today are all going to be about making the best twist on older classics. A lot of the time, there’s nothing wrong with that! But I want to learn the older techniques and traditions. Applying that knowledge means knowing where that knowledge came from, and what brought it into being. Know the why, and you’ll master the how.
So, what’s next on the horizon for Chef Kenneth?
Man, doing what I’ve been doing. Making my own opportunities. Teaching these skills. And hell, getting my Cooking Memories project off the ground. I’m telling you — I’m your guy. I’ve got celebrity friends! [Laughs.] I can drum up some folks. You give me a call, and I’ll get you five seasons. Let’s make it happen!