Chef Ava is a renaissance woman of valor, family and cooking skills fit for royalty. This eight-year military vet, turned chef by way of becoming an exemplary member of the “Wounded Warrior Project” has tackled war, disability and insatiable appetites everywhere.
“Empower At A Glance Sits Down With the Phenomenal Chef Ava”
Here’s what we talked about:
Kiel: Tell us what is “Low Country” Cuisine?
Chef Ava: The way I came up with that, because I’m from Charleston, SC and everybody knows Charleston as the “Low Country.” So, in my dishes the term “Low Country is the inspiration for my cooking, where I serve southern dishes with a twist. It just reminds of being back at home, cooking, palmetto trees and everything
Kiel: So, it’s inspired from the nickname for the city of Charleston?
Chef Ava: Yes.
Kiel: Can you expound on what that refers to, when speaking of Charleston, for our readers, who may not be familiar with the term?
Chef Ava: So, to me “Low Country” means or people may know it as referring to the water, the food that’s there, just the environment, all together is considered “Low Country.” And when I started Ava’s “Low Country” Cuisine, I took that into my restaurant, with the thought of great southern dishes, like shrimp & grits, the atmosphere that you’re surrounded by, like the body of water, to the palmetto trees; I incorporated those types of things into my business.
Kiel: Tell us about Chef Ava; background, personal info, public info, interest, etc.?
Chef Ava: A little bit about me, I’m originally born and raised in Charleston, SC. I have three kids, married and we reside right now in Florida. I used to be active duty military, for almost eight years, before I became disabled. Now I’m a part of the Wounded Warrior Project.
I started going to Culinary School, just out of the blue. I didn’t know what else I wanted to do at the time. It was something totally different from what I was doing in the military, and I had a passion for cooking. It was like my outlet. I started out just doing plates on the side, then I decided I wanted to do more than that. I wanted to learn everything about cooking. Just not the mom and dad stuff or cooking. So, I went to the chef’s academy in Raleigh, NC, and graduated from there with my associates degree. Soon thereafter, I started a catering company, called Ava’s Catering. Now I have my new culinary business, “Low Country” Cuisine, because I wanted to expand, and not limit myself to catering. So, I changed the name and started Ava’s “Low Country” Cuisine. I offer private cooking for your home, I also do personal chef classes, and I still do catering on the side for a couple of athletes, and I travel a lot.
Kiel: Do you have a restaurant of your own?
Chef Ava: Not at the time, but it’s one of my goals. I would love to have my own hotel, with my own “Low Country” Cuisine restaurant inside. But it’s coming. Kiel: What is your favorite dish to prepare or if I were to come in to your kitchen, what would put in front of me to try?
Chef Ava: (Laughing aloud.) Well, there’s a couple I’d put in front of you. One is my “3 Cheese Macaroni” with my “Mango Seared Chicken.” I’d give you that first, mind you, all my dishes, I don’t use box food. I make everything from scratch, inhouse. Like the cheese for my macaroni, to my rue, I only use fresh produce. I use fresh herbs, which I love. I incorporate that into all of my cooking.
Kiel: So, let me get this right. you make homemade “3 Cheese Macaroni and layer it with your “Mango Seared Chicken?”
Chef Ava: Yes!!
Kiel: Wow. My mouth is literally watering. Please tell me more?
Chef Ava: My other one, I’d put in front of you is my “Red Rice”. I love red rice. A lot of people haven’t heard of it.
Kiel: No, I haven’t.
Chef Ava: It’s regular rice, with a tomato base. You can add pork sausage. chicken sausage, turkey sausage or whatever you want. You can add onions, peppers, fresh herbs, and it takes a good couple of hours to prepare. It’s not like when you cook rice in 20 minutes. You have to constantly stir this dish. Some people put bacon grease in it. It takes time. You have to be patient. It took me a while to get it, but I got it. (Laughs.)
Kiel: Switching subjects for a moment. Empower Magazine is really interested to know about your philanthropic efforts. We know that you’re involved with The Wounded Warrior Project. Tell us about your affiliation with this awesome cause?
Chef Ava: Being in Wounded Warrior, it has been a whole lot, because it took me a long time to get where I’m at, being that I’m physically disabled and I had some difficulties. So, it means a lot to me, as a veteran and as a Wounded Warrior, that I can achieve anything, that no matter what disabilities I have, that this is my dream, this is my passion, and I’m going to fight through.
And I love being a part of Wounded Warrior Project, and doing things with those guys, and at the end of the day, they are my brothers and sisters, no matter what. And they also helped me out by helping me with the children’s home I do on the side, which I’ve been doing for about three years now. Every year I go and volunteer and do some type of event for them, and it just means so much to me, that people can see me not only as a veteran and female, but a black female to be a part of something so much bigger, and this was my dream and my goal, and they’ve been a part of that journey.
Kiel: How did you become disabled?
Chef Ava: I suffered a back injury and developed a hernia, while in the service. I received a medical discharge for my injuries, so I’m now retired from the military, based on the disabilities.
Kiel: What’s next for Chef Ava?
Chef Ava: We have a cookbook in the works. I’m just getting started. In it you’ll find some of the recipes, taking me back to my childhood. The things I grew up on, also little quick meals, you can prepare in 30 minutes, or less; things that you can have for kids and little background on Ava’s “Low Country” Cuisine in the book.
Kiel: How can our readers, or potential clients find you on social media?
Chef Ava: Facebook.com/avalowcountrycuisine