Most chefs are obsessed with food. They think about it all the time, trying to come up with unique and ingenious ways to create dishes that will make you want to slap your mama. Lazarus Lynch, however, is taking a slightly different approach to his culinary career.
The 24-year old doesn’t want to label himself as just a chef. In fact, he’s exploring all of his passions including food, entrepreneurship, music, art, and philanthropy. He’s about to embark on a completely new venture as he readies himself for the release of his first cookbook, Son of a Southern Chef (Avery Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House) in June 2019.
Lynch, who grew up in New York City, is a two-time winner on the Food Networks, Chopped, and was the host of Snapchat’s first-ever cooking show, Chopped U, and Food Network Digital’s Comfort Nation. His appreciation for food started early in life watching his parents in their family kitchen. Although his dad, Johnny Ray Lynch moved to the big city when he was 6-years old, being born in Bessemer, Alabama, laid a foundation of Southern roots that could be found in his food. The elder Lynch eventually opened a soul food restaurant in Queens, NY.
“I always grew up loving food. I remember as a kid I would be that person at the park that was sniffing the grass because I smelled something interesting. I later found out that those interesting things I was smelling were actually herbs,” said Lynch in an interview with theGrio.
Lynch also credits his mother and great-grandmother for teaching him classic soul food recipes like macaroni and cheese, homemade biscuits, and collard greens early on. The inspiration led Lynch to study culinary arts at the Food and Finance High School in New York City. During his senior year, he interned at the Food Network’s headquarters where he helped develop recipes in their test kitchens.
By 2011, Lynch had enrolled in the State University of New York College at Buffalo where he studied food and agricultural sciences as well as theater and conflict resolution.
“I’ve always had this artist background, so I was painting a lot and even thought I wanted to be an actor,” revealed Lynch. “Food was sort of the last piece of art to fall into my life. I’m so glad to say that now I’m at a place in my career where I’m able to incorporate all the other things that I do in my art in food.”
After working directly for Secretary Tom Vilsack in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Lynch took a leap of faith in 2015 and pushed towards his passion projects, which quickly landed him a job co-hosting ABC’s digital series, Tastemade Get Cookin’. Since then, he’s been taking bold steps to redefine the next generation of soulful cooks using social media to connect with fans of his food.
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A World Food Prize Ambassador, Lynch works with the 4-H National Youth Organization to develop civic engagement skills in young people. He wants to use his platform to bring further attention to issues surrounding food security, hunger in poor communities, and the LGBTQ community. He regularly visits schools, explaining that there is no longer a magic bullet or one-size-fits-all way to design a career in the culinary arts.
Millennial chefs like Lynch are rewriting the playbook for reaching success in the culinary arts. Using social media, his love of fashion and art, and his exuberant personality, this is one chef we know will be making waves in the future.
This Black History month, Chef Lynch urges his fans to try one of his favorite recipes below.
Wendy L. Wilson is theGrio’s managing editor.
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