Something’s Burning: Aryen Moore-Alston’s Story

By: Aryen Moore-Alston
Executive Chef/Owner
Sweet Potato Baby

True Story: Growing up my mother never cooked but as soon as I set foot in the kitchen she would yell out from the other room “Something’s Burning!” To which my reply was almost always, “No, it’s not!” Sometimes something was burning but I definitely wasn’t going to let her know.

You see, my mother thinks that cooking is a skill you’re born with. My aunt, her sister, argues that if you can read a recipe that ultimately means that you can cook. Well, what do I think? I think it’s a little bit of both.

Cooking started off as something I liked to do for those that I loved. What cooking has become is something that I love to do for the world (yes, for perfect strangers). There’s something completely gratifying about a person you don’t know telling you that they’ve sincerely enjoyed the food you prepared.

It’s like we all have our own personal Rocky’s that live in our psyches. And every once in a while we get to dance a little jig to “Eye of the Tiger,” complete with sweat suit and headband, when we’ve accomplished something significant…and that’s what cooking does for me every single day.

As with most stories, this journey has not been easy. In fact, it’s been a little rocky (pun intended). I’ve had every job you can think of from a career as a robotics engineer to a dance choreographer and trust me, the list goes on and on and on. I never thought that one day I would receive a phone call from Food Network and appear on their 10th Season of the highly coveted show “Food Network Star” as the home cook from Memphis, TN. It’s especially surprising because, technically, I didn’t even audition for it.

In December of 2012, I submitted an audition video to be cast for the 9th Season of “Food Network Star.” I was selected as a finalist, signed all of the required papers, spoke to producers and thought I was on my way to L.A. The plane ticket never arrived and unfortunately I went back to work. All the while wondering what happened. I guess it just wasn’t my season. It was the 10th Season to be exact and I decided that my culinary point of view would mimic my life. My plan was to teach the “home cook” how to prepare international cuisine from the comfort of their home kitchen without ever needing a passport.

Although, I would have loved to win the coveted title and have my own show on a major cable network, I like the life I’m living. If I had won the show, I would have never sought out culinary school and hence would probably not be a student of the Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy. Who knows, I probably would have thought I knew it all and I’m honestly glad that I don’t, because being a student is so much fun.

Throughout this blog series, we’ll get to know each other a little better. You’ll find out why every time I turn on a gas stove I hear the phrase “Something’s Burning!” echo through my head. You’ll discover why having a Type-A personality makes me a stickler for detail which is perfectly paired with the culinary arts. You’ll discover that my obsession with cookbooks started way before I had a proper command of the English language. Who knows, we may even shed a few tears together while watching “Like Water for Chocolate” (and not because we’re mincing red onions).

For now, what you do need to know is that my life as a chef is full of adventure, craziness, cuts and bruises and yes, occasionally something gets burnt.

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