At Chief’s Creole Café, Head Chef Lorenza Jackson is training the next generation of great cooks, something he learned by growing up near historic 22nd Street S. in Midtown, St. Petersburg. A neighborhood also known as “the Deuces.”
“My passions started with granddad,” Jackson said, “It makes me reminisce. [Sitting] back drinking beer. I was being trained to be a prep cook through him.”
Jackson followed his grandfather's lead, and continued his legacy by learning all he could about what makes food great. He’s now passing along his knowledge to his 8-year-old son and training him to be the next great chef.
“Yeah, it’s basically the same things with my granddad. He’s in there with me cooking the french toast. He’s right behind me when I’m cooking. It’s me all over again,” Jackson described.
Using food to help the community is more than a matter of pride, for Elihu Brayboy, owner of Chief's Creole Café, it’s both necessity and history.
“As an African American, it goes deeper than just dollars and cents,” Brayboy said. His mother and grandmother inspired him to keep the spirit of food and cooking alive.
“My grandmother was a great cook and my mother was a great cook. I would have let down all the other generations. [Food is a] tremendous platform to break down barriers,” he said. “The time is now to do what we’re doing.”
Next to Chief’s Creole Café is Deuces BBQ . Its owner, Chef PT Collins, said he worked with Brayboy and took a gamble on the location. It paid off.
“For a white guy to open a BBQ joint in a black neighborhood… it’s something no one does,” Collins said.
Collins opened Deuces BBQ two years ago after Brayboy suggested renting the space next to the Creole Café. After some time there, Collins said he then saw a need in the community and wanted to give back to the people who have been so welcoming. He decided to do it by teaching culinary skills.
“I’m the chairman of the board at the St. Pete Culinary Center [that] I put together with other top chefs in the area [to] give a chance to those who can't go to PTEC (Pinellas Technical Education Center) or something because of the record that they had,” Collins explained.
Just like Brayboy, Collins said he feels that passing down his knowledge is a way of giving back to the people of Midtown. Both men help the community by giving a chance to those who may have been overlooked otherwise.
“I have been very proactive in involving the community and in result, they have accepted me,” Collins said.
The new generation of local cooks are now graduating from the St. Pete Culinary program, continuing a tradition that seems too strong to end.
One generation is passing the knowledge they inherited from previous ones to the next generations, one plate at a time.
Katie Wilcox, Lisa Brittain, Avery Speagle and Tracy Karp are student-journalists attending the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Journalism and Media Studies Department. This story was produced as part of the Neighborhood News Bureau class taught by Bernardo Motta in Spring 2017. NNB Graduate Assistants Tyler Gillespie, Zenena Moguel and Indhira Suero Acosta contributed to this story.