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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Keze Whitlow, Chef of Boston College Dining Services, Massachusetts Restaurant Association's 2015 Line Cook of the Year Award Winner #EVERTOEXCEL Our Coverage Sponsored by Fresh Origins

Keze Whitlow

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Hailing from the British Virgin Islands, Keze Whitlow was drawn into the culinary world when her passion for food was recognized at an early age. 

Keze always wanted to be a chef. Growing up, her grandmother did a lot of the cooking. Keze picked up a lot of things from her grandmother because they had a garden that had a lot of herbs and spices. Keze was always around her, trying to steal a taste from her pot. Her grandmother let her add her own ingredients to see how a dish would turn out. 

As a high school senior, Keze joined the Food and Nutrition program, where she excelled in the culinary arts. Doing so earned her a scholarship to culinary school to further pursue her passion. At culinary school, she learned the basics and food terminology, while discovering the challenges of being a female chef in the restaurant business. Her passion for cooking started to fade away, and she gave up on cooking to become a mother and wife. 

After the birth of her son, Keze realized that something was missing in her life. She started working at various restaurants in Boston and her passion for cooking returned. She then applied for a cook's position with Boston College Dining Services. 

At Boston College, Keze found many opportunities to hone her own style of what she describes as "Caribbean Fusion" cuisine, which is combining the cooking style of her Caribbean culture with fresh local New England ingredients. Keze emphasized using traditional Caribbean herbs and spices to create a flavorful and unique take on Caribbean dishes with a New England flair. 

Keze's creations have met critical acclaim in the BC community. Working at Boston College also enabled her to further develop her culinary repertoire. Keze's drive to excel has caught the attention of her colleagues, customers, and the Massachusetts Restaurant Association (MRA). Keze was nominated and won the Massachusetts Restaurant Association's 2015 Line Cook of the Year Award. 

Keze especially enjoys working in BC Dining for their constant emphasis on teamwork and personal growth. Furthermore, Keze values the teamwork that her colleagues provide in the kitchen, and believes that Dining Services especially promotes a work culture of collaboration. 

Keze's passion for creating food doesn't end at work. When home, Keze enjoys entertaining her family and friends with her creations at family gatherings. Family and friends rave about Keze's creations and her drive. She also loves baking cakes and is known for her cake creation in her community. She attributes her constant affinity for creating dishes to her Carribean background. Caribbean food is often a symbol of community and togetherness. 

While some people may view food as an essential element of life, Keze views it as a motif of many things. For Keze, food gives comfort and energy, and is a form of art. She believes that food can be anything a person strives it to be. Although she may be busy working a Boston College, or entertaining her friends and family, Keze continues to develop her passion at being the best cook she can be, and have fun doing it.   With Chefs like Keze at Boston College, it is no wonder that some students turn out to be food critics!  We are so happy to present Keze Whitlow who embodies the spirit of Ever to Excel as our latest Mover and Shaker.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Keze for Whom You Know.
Peachy Deegan: 
What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
Keze Whitlow: 
I have always been inspired by my family to excel. Namely, my mother has always pushed me to follow my dreams, because she didn't get the chance to follow hers.

What are you proudest of and why?
Being named the Line Chef of the Year! This recognition validated my passion that I'm on the right path doing what I love and people are enjoying my food.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I would love to do one of those competitive cooking competitions on television, like Chopped or Top Chef. I want to see how I would perform under pressure.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
I was honored to receive the Massachusetts Restaurant Association Top Line Chef of the Year Award in 2015.

What one word best describes you and why?
Hungry - Superficially, while I'm hungry for good food, I’m always hungry to learn more, and hungry to be the best I can be in my profession.

What do you take your sense of identity from?
My sense of identity primarily stems from my Caribbean culture and upbringing.

Why do you choose to work at Boston College instead of at a top restaurant?
It’s really because of the students. Whether they are my customers, or employees who help me with my profession, they are such a joy to be with – I couldn’t get that experience from a top restaurant.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan and Boston? 
My favourite place is Times Square.
In Boston it's definitely seaport district. 

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan and Boston?
Manhattan and Boston-Sur La Table.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
If I could hire anybody, I would hire Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. She is an amazing female chef that I would love to work with, as I see a lot of myself in her.

What is your favorite drink?
Angry Orchard Hard Cider, I'm obsessed with it!

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Honestly, I actually don’t have any moments.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan and Boston?
Manhattan -Butter
Boston - Ali’s Roti 

What is your favorite Manhattan and Boston book or favorite character in Manhattan and boston literature?
Manhattan- Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Boston- Boston Noir by Dennis lehane

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
The Dalai Lama, as he's so much at peace with his life.

If you could have anything in Manhattan and Boston named after you what would it be and why? 
My name on a billboard in the middle of Times Square announcing the opening of my new restaurant. Hey, I can dream big.  In Boston how about a cocktail! I think it's awesome to have a drink named after you. 

What has been your best Manhattan And Boston athletic experience?
Manhattan- Frankly, it's watching guys play soccer in Central Park.
Boston College football on game day!! There's nothing like it! Go Eagles!! 

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Manhattan -I love to climb to the top of the Empire State Building and see all the other landmarks – the view is amazing.
Boston-go to Quincy market at 6 in the morning to buy fruits and veggies. 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
My grandmother she was the first person who thought me how to cook and she was known for making chocolates I'd give anything to have one of her chocolates again.

What has been your best Manhattan And Boston art or music experience?
I really enjoy watching Broadway musicals – my favorite one by a large margin was Avenue Q 
Boston- listening to the POPs play on the heights at Boston college 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
The past two Thanksgivings, I’ve volunteered my time to serve food for the homeless and less fortunate. Aside from holidays, I’ve sponsored baked sales to help high school students help pay for significant events such as their prom. This coming spring, I'll be teaching co-op basic culinary skills that everyone should know at a homeschool.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan and Boston?
Manhattan -Overrated - the Rain Room in the Museum of Modern Arts.
Underrated – The Tenement museum - Immigrants presenting the struggles the face in America
Boston- overrated citgo sign 
Underrated-Quincy market farmers market

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite WhomYouKnow​.com​ column and what do you like about it?
Peachy's Professionals - where she name the best of the best in the business in Manhattan including her dentist Dr. Garo Nazarian who is her friend from her Boston College class. I also like when what Peachy is wearing is mentioned (see Feeling and Looking Your Best generally for this).

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I'm very passionate about my job and that anything is possible all it take is commitment.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
For email, Otherwise, follow my culinary adventures at @cooking_diva85 on Instagram or Twitter @daquarie 

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