Journey of an Aspiring New Orleans Chef

June, 2015
By:Kelly Hensel, Institute of Food Technologists
Photo: Institute of Food Technologists

A New Orleans native, Syrena Johnson’s love for cooking started at home but it wasn’t until she enrolled in Liberty’s Kitchen—a non-profit cooking school designed to help disadvantaged youth throughout New Orleans—that she realized she could turn it into a career. Johnson then entered the first-ever scholarship competition held by the John Besh Foundation’s Chefs Move! and won a scholarship to the International Culinary Center in New York. After graduating and returning to her hometown, she worked in a handful of upscale restaurants, learning from top chefs like Susan Spicer and Michael Gulotta. Here, 24-year-old Johnson shares her whirlwind journey and the kind of chef she aspires to be.