Shacafrica Simmons

Name: Shacafrica Simmons (Chef Shac)

Career field: Culinary Arts

Organization: Chef Shac LLC

Years with current organization: 4 years

Years in career field: 15 years

What encouraged you to work in this career field?

I've enjoyed cooking all my life. My family encouraged me to apply for culinary school after I was unable to practice midwifery when we moved to Birmingham, Alabama.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Sharing my passion, my love for food and flavor with the world.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Empowering those around me with access to amazing food. Also being a food voyeur, I enjoy watching my friends, family and those closest to me enjoy my food. It is amazing to see the joy on their faces when they taste something delicious.

What has been your greatest accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishments are my three beautiful children. In the culinary arts world it would be starting my business, Chef Shac LLC. This company is the mother company for Life Chef, our food coaching and holistic wellness service, Empowered By Food, our community outreach project, Chef Shac Catering, The North Florida Culinary incubator, our program center around growing and supporting food based business here in Tallahassee and the surrounding area; and The Sensory Experience, which is our exclusive four course dining experience that fuses the creation of food and the arts. Also, our new radio show “Chef Shac LIVE” launches in mid-October and our newest project “Grow, Eat, Live” will focus on fostering healthier communities.

What motivates you daily?

Leaving a lasting legacy for my children, their children and my community. I want to see lives changed and impacted for the better.

What education/training does a person need to get started in your field?

Some chefs never attend college and are considered ‘working chefs’ as they have the work experience and on the job training. This route can take a while to get to the income level you may desire. I attended Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Birmingham, Alabama. They offer a two-year Associate of Science degree, 18 month diploma program and a four year bachelor's degree in culinary arts. I hold two AOS (Associate in Occupational Studies) degrees one in Culinary Arts and Pastry and Confectionery I attended school for four years.

What advice do you have for those considering entering into a career in your career field?

Do not do it for the money because you'll be disappointed. It can be a great living but there is a lot of work and it can be physically tasking on the body and on your personal life due to the long hours. Do it because you love it, and you have a passion for it.

Is working in a restaurant the only thing I can do with a culinary arts degree?

Absolutely not! Those of us with culinary degrees go on to do many amazing things. You can choose to be a banquet chef, a food stylist, a caterer, a nutritionist, a personal chef, a food critic, a food blogger, a business owner, a pastry chef and on and on. The opportunities to express your passion for food and cooking are endless.

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