Livingstone culinary graduate becoming ‘big cheese’ in culinary arts, makes TV appearance
By Kimberly Harrington
SALISBURY – If it wasn’t for the white chef jacket, his mad skills in the kitchen would be unassuming.
Jordan Walker portrayed a typical student while at Livingstone College, one who shared the same highs and woes of such. But when he spoke culinary, his distinction and passion for food spilled out like a poached egg.
The December 2019 graduate earned his bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and his associate’s degree in culinary arts from the Livingstone College School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts. He was a member of the second class of the college’s culinary arts program, which began in 2012 in the former Holiday Inn at 530 Jake Alexander Blvd. South.
So what has Walker been up to since graduation? Glad you asked.
In a Facebook post, he wrote that since he was a little boy, he always dreamed of being on TV, where thousands, if not millions of people, could see him. “Today, I had that opportunity to showcase my talents in a place it could be appreciated.”
He said the opportunity came to him through his current employer, Divine Appetit of Concord, where he is sous-chef. He’s worked there since December.
There was one glitch during the TV segment in which the stove did not work properly – no fault of his – and Walker breezed through it like a professional. Fortunately for him, he brought a cooked version of his entrée with him to the studio.
The response has been overwhelming for Walker, whose infectious smile has grown wider.
“Everybody has been sharing it. It really, in my opinion, went viral,” he said of the post of his TV appearance. (View the segment at this link: https://www.wbtv.com/video/2020/02/29/chef-jordan-walker/.) It has 4,000 views and 97 shares on his personal Facebook page alone.
He’s also gotten some catering jobs from the exposure, and is considering a YouTube channel.
“I couldn’t have done it without Livingstone,” he said.
Making of a chef
The TV appearance is one of many highlights in Walker’s career. The Shelby native is making a name for himself in the culinary world at such a young age.
During his senior year at Livingstone College, he was a chef by every sense of the word. On many occasions, he prepared meals whether for a private event or public gathering. His Instagram posts are littered with culinary creations from peach herb fried chicken and vegan chili to lasagna stuffed shells and double chocolate Oreo cupcakes. (They look as good as they sound.)
He was an active member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and served as the liaison between Livingstone and the ACF, which is the premier professional chefs’ organization in North America.
Last summer, as fate would have it, he was selected to be a celebrity chef for an event sponsored by Live Free Magazine of Greensboro due to another chef having to cancel. Someone recommended Walker due to this social media popularity.
He literally had less than 24 hours to prepare, getting the invitation on June 7 with the event being the next day. He had to quickly assemble a menu with precise instructions on what ingredients to use, which had to be North Carolina-based products.
“I had no earthly idea what I was going to cook,” he said. “I met with them at 3 o’clock on a Friday and had to start preparing the meal at 4 o’clock the next day.”
Walker decided on a backyard picnic theme and was accompanied by a cameraman as he went grocery shopping.
By dinnertime on that Saturday, Walker had prepared a meal for 30 people at the African American Self House in Cherryville, demonstrating his cooking skills to onlookers.
His four-course menu included: mixed chilled honey berry soup with corn ricotta cheese (soup); everyday garden salad with oregano and kale blend with bacon-fig vinaigrette (appetizer); honey barbecue chili chicken and waffle cornbread with chardonnay fried green beans and mashed sweet potatoes (entrée); and peanut butter honey coconut truffles with chocolate drizzle (dessert).
“The experience was good. I really loved it. It made me feel like a real bona fide chef,” he said.
Becoming a chef wasn’t on the mind of Walker when he enrolled at Livingstone College. He intended to major in criminal justice and theater arts, but one day he came across Vivian Ray, the first director of the Culinary Arts School, who convinced him to change his major.
He’s glad he did. Since working in culinary arts, his life has shifted momentum and afforded him many opportunities to touch the lives of others. He has volunteered at Washington Elementary School in Shelby, where he went as a child, assisting with the school’s garden club and nutritional program.
Walker credits his home life for instilling in him a love for cooking. “I grew up around a family that loved to cook. From a young age, I thought culinary arts was the international language of all human beings because everyone eats. Food brings us together and is a reason to travel,” he said.
While his love of cooking is innate, a few mentors have helped to prime his gift. Chef Lion Hughes, executive chef for a group of private country clubs, and Chef Karrell Darden, former culinary professor at Livingstone, are among his mentors.
Livingstone’s School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts “has shaped me into who I am. I really love the program. I love my HBCU (historically black college or university),” he said.
“All my childhood, I stayed in trouble. I was hyper and bored. I want to be an example of coming from nothing and from an alternative school. I want to show that you don’t have to repeat the cycle of hurt that goes on in a community,” he said.
Follow Jordan Walker on Instagram @chefjordanlwalker.
About Livingstone College
Livingstone College is a private historically black college that is secured by a strong commitment to quality instruction, academic excellence and student success. Through a Christian-based environment suitable for holistic learning, Livingstone provides excellent business, liberal arts, STEAM, teacher education and workforce development programs for students from all ethnic backgrounds designed to promote lifelong learning, and to develop student potential for leadership and service to a global community. For more information, visit www.livingstone.edu.