Chef Lexis Gonzalez: A Passionate and Innovative Culinary Professional From Harlem
Chef Lexis’ love for cooking began at a young age in Harlem, where she grew up surrounded by generational cooks and the rich aromas of home-cooked meals. Her curiosity for culinary arts was piqued at parties where she eagerly awaited the cakes, fascinated by the various fillings inside the pastry. After studying accounting at Baruch, she decided to pursue her passion for cooking and enrolled in Kingsborough’s Culinary Program.
At the age of 23, Chef Lexis opened her first bakery, Lady Lexis Sweets, in East Harlem. She continued to hone her skills by competing in pastry competitions and attending New York City Tech. Her reputation as a pastry chef grew, leading her to appear on Food Network’s Chopped! Sweets and in various publications such as Food and Wine Festival, Essence, and People Magazine.
Currently, Chef Lexis is the private chef of Lady Lexis Kitchen and a culinary educator. She coined the term “Boricua Geechee Cuisine,” a fusion of Puerto Rican and southern country food, and is working to combat stereotypes about nutrition and food in the African-American community. Through her cooking YouTube channel and pop-up events, Chef Lexis is sharing her signature cuisine and the history of Geechee food with a wider audience.
Can you tell us about your experience working with the James Beard Foundation?
It was a great moment. We had fun with the menu to highlight the Hip Hop theme “Ladies First”. The entire staff at Platform by JBF was amazing and welcoming. They helped me to execute the menu with ease.
How did you first get interested in cooking?
I enjoy entertaining people. When I was a child we would gather at my nana’s house to eat on Sundays. I would love how food brought the family together. My mom would always cook as well in our home. In these moments cooking great food filled the homes with warm feelings and that’s why I was always interested in cooking.
Which food network shows have you appeared on?
I appeared on Chopped Sweets showing off my cooking-making skills.
What have been some of your biggest challenges as a chef?
Transitioning from having a sweet shop to being a private chef was a big change. I was used to having a shop where people enjoyed my desserts and could walk in to see me. Now I had to appeal to a new audience with savory items and switch to online promotions. Losing a shop was already hard enough but to also pick yourself up and pivot into a new category of food was quite challenging.
How do you come up with new and creative dishes?
I listen to my customers. They usually tell me what they are eating and what they like. Then I will go online and search for ideas of how it should look. Also, many of my dessert ideas come from nostalgic desserts I reinvent.
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
Anyone trying to be a chef needs to know that they need to be persistent and patient. Keep pushing through the long hours and be patient with the process. Also, seek other jobs within the culinary field. You don’t have to be in a restaurant to cook. You can be a private chef, a recipe tester, or even a corporate office chef. There are so many options you can look into to create great food.
Can you share any exciting upcoming projects or collaborations?
I will be hosting a private dinner series. I also have some food festivals I will be featured in. The best way to keep up with me is to sign up for my updates at www.cheflexis.com
What is your favorite ingredient to work with and why?
For my favorite ingredient, I am going to have to go with the desserts on this one and that would be Ground Vanilla. It’s packed with vanilla flavor and smells amazing. It adds vanilla without adding extra liquid which is great for certain recipes that just need the flavor boosted.
How do you balance running a successful restaurant and still finding time for your personal life?
Well, now being a private chef has freed up some more of my time since I really dictate my schedule and am able to take off when I need to before I burn out. But there are some days/weeks that are busy. Even with help, prepping food takes time. My personal life does take a hit and that may mean missing out on certain events but I do my best to be present in the moments I have.
What is your ultimate goal as a chef?
I want to have a couple of restaurants (I already have the concepts in a notebook). I will have a few cookbooks for people to pick up in the store. I want a cooking show that shows food enthusiasts how to make cooking fun and simple. I want a James Beard Award, possibly for best cooking show.
Connect on Instagram @cheflexis