STIRRING UP SUCCESS
Chef Kieu Tran personifies what it means to be Made in New Orleans. She grew up in New Orleans East in an area called Versailles. After Hurricane Katrina, her family relocated to Chalmette. She is clever, determined, and always continually learning and working towards being better at her craft and business. She is the proud founder and creator of Chasing Wang Baking Studio. Her tenacity, drive, cleverness and consistent ability to think outside of the box is inspiring. Kieu always creatively sees beyond barriers and always courageously leaps toward her dreams.
Kieu started Chasing Wang in 2010 as a food and lifestyle blog. What began as a way to share her daily rambles and dessert photos turned into a thriving online cake business. She graduated at the top of her class at International Culinary Center in 2013 while working at a Michelin-starred restaurant and training with a prominent New York cake designer.
We are thrilled to have her working with the foundation and to supporting young people in New Orleans to chase their dreams as well.
Chef Chris Okorie is a steady and a determined force in and out of the kitchen. Chef Okorie embodies the values of being Made in New Orleans. Humble, a natural leader, always seeking to learn and grow, supporting others and wanting to share his discoveries. He was awarded the scholarship in 2012, While studying in New York, Chris externed at Ai Fiori a Michelin star restaurant under chef Michael White. He graduated ICC at the top of his class and was awarded the San Pellegrino Top Chef under 25 as a part of the award studied in Italy for three weeks. Upon returning to New Orleans, he worked at Borgne, Domenica and Restaurant August and at Emeril’s as the lead line cook. He was sponsored by Chefs Move! to study pizza and pasta making in Parma, Italy for 3 months. A graduate of Cafe Reconcile and board member. Chris was encouraged by his sickly grandmother to attend the scholarship program. His grandmother passed away before he finished the program, but Chris persevered.
“I’m fortunate. Food found me.” says Chris. He’s been featured in Essence magazine and on NPR and is currently Sous Chef at Martin’s Wine Cellar. His advice to those considering the industry is straightforward and real. “There are lots of rewards, but it’s not so glamorous in the beginning. Learn as much as you can.” He most certainly has done just that. Currently Chef Okorie is pursuing to create a travel show that features multiple restaurants and educates viewers on what’s the story behind the cuisine being served. He is excited about discussing current obstacles faced by food industry workers. A large portion of his success can be attributed to the amazing work and good people of Chefs Move! Chris says, “They helped mold my life into the Chef I’ve always dreamt of becoming.”
We are honored to have Chris in collaboration for the foundation, he is a role model for other young chefs in the city of New Orleans.
Chef Johnson is a testament of what it means to be Made in New Orleans. She was the first scholarship recipient in 2011. She grew up in uptown/central city neighborhood of New Orleans. She has made the most out of every opportunity and continues to forge ahead living into her passion. A Food Network Chopped Champion, mentored by Leah Chase, and many others. A graduate of Liberty’s Kitchen, she has been featured at culinary events in Dubai, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London, and Copenhagen to name the short list. She is currently Sous Chef at B.B. King’s Blues Club and MiNO board member. She has made appearances on Fox8, Essence Eats at Essence Festival, The Melissa Harris- Perry show, Roadtrip Nation, on New Orleans based radio stations WWOZ and Q93. She has also been in Food and Wine Magazine as well as Louisiana Cooking. Chef Johnson is a rare gift that is as unique as her story. She was featured in the 2015 ABC Special KATRINA: 10 YEARS AFTER THE STORM with Robin Roberts. All are lucky to have her near, involved in their work, whether its a youth program, kitchen or festival.
She is a contribution, a true leader and student of life. We don’t know what’s next but our taste buds and our hearts can sense she is on the precipice of so much more than what we have seen and that is the most exciting part. She is quintessential New Orleans in all the senses, she will tell you like it is, speak from her heart, cook and create food on another level, and inspire others to do better. Syrena is humble, bright light, and determined.
Witnessing her career unfold is a privilege and we could not be more thankful and honored that she decided to step into her purpose and apply for the scholarship program.