One of Jameeale's inspired bites (303742)
Credit: Kysha Harris photo

I hope you are all easing into spring like Ms. Ross did “down the road.” If you are like me, remote working is proving to be isolating and the antithesis of this season of “new.” However, these first world problems cannot outweigh the need for us to remain diligent even in the face of vaccines for all and embracing the new normal.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chef Eileen’s piece on her love of rice and beans. I cannot wait to give her recipe a try. I also cannot wait for you to meet the latest addition to the AmNewsFOOD staff, my best-good friend, Chef Jameeale Arzeno.

Jameeale and I go way back in our hospitality careers to the Cooper Square Hotel. She was the front of house manager at the restaurant and I the assistant to the executive chef. Fast forward many years when we reconnected at the James Beard House where she ultimately became its first ever Culinary Director. She has a wealth of knowledge and passion to share with us.

In her words:

My name is Jameeale Arzeno. I have been a resident of Harlem, bordering on my native home, the Bronx, for the last four years. My love affair with food has roots here from my after church Sunday jaunt with my Papa to my monthly Saturday sunshine in La Marquetta with my Abuelita. To share this love and these memories of what Harlem has come to mean to me and so many on the food scene, from behind the counter to the booth we sat in, is what I contribute.

The Amsterdam News and good food have been a staple in both of my families’ homes. To be able to share my Southern and Afro-Latino heritage by writing for AmNewsFOOD will be an honor and a journey I welcome to take with our readers. I will share my dining experiences and the stories of the people who provide them, and highlight businesses contributing to the melting pot Harlem has come to be.

My love for food comes from both sides of my lineage. I was the first granddaughter on both sides, the first child born to both parents, the first girl and the first to attend culinary school in my family. Both of my grandmothers were esteemed for their cooking skills. Their apron strings were bound to my hands early in, what would become, one of the greatest joys of my life—eating!

FUN FACTS: I am a hummer and a seat dancer. I massage the sides of refrigerators, while perusing the shelves within. I plan my day by my meals and my evenings by the sweets that were baked either by my Nana or purchased from bakeries my Abuelita loved to visit on her way home from work.

According to my matriarchal grandmothers, we were to learn to cook and bake well, keep a clean house, look cosmopolitan, be educated, and contribute to the household income. These were absolute and without discussion. So, my dreams of becoming a chef were out of the realm of thought for them. However, I pushed through and pursued a career, always keeping their words, “be the first,” at the front of my mind.

My journey of “firsts” within my life and my career have created a beautiful palate of many flavors, spices and aromas. I was the first Black Latina female manager in most of the fine dining rooms and kitchens I have worked; the first Black and Latina female pastry chef in many noteworthy locations; the first Black and Latina female front-of-house manager on four-star fine dining room floors I have worked; and, most recently, the first ever Culinary Director of the esteemed James Beard Foundation.

Along the way, I have learned a life well lived is full of flavors, textures, aromas and tastes. It is the full spectrum of nourishment I seek daily in all my endeavors. These are the stories I will share with the readers of AmNewsFOOD.

Jameeale, welcome. We are all so here for all you have to bring.

Happy eating, stay safe, wear a mask and thanks for reading.

Kysha Harris is a food writer and editor, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service in NYC for over 18 years. She is the new Food Editor at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPnyc, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc.

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