Chef Jamie Laurita Interview
(Chef To The Stars)
He’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute Of America.
He trained with some of the best chefs in Italy and France.
He promotes organic foods.
He co-authored a cookbook titled “Plenty” with musician Sarah McLachlan.
His clients include Aerosmith, The Police, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Barry Manilow to name just a few.
The man we’re talking about?
Chef Jamie Laurita.
Q – Jamie, I first heard about you on a special either on the Food Channel Network, or the Travel Channel. Do you remember being on one of those networks?
A – I remember a lot of specials that I’ve done. I’ve done quite a few Food Network specials and lots of t.v. appearances, Oprah, things like that.
Q – How did you come to the attention of all these famous cook groups?
A – I definitely started out with a very strong catering co. that dealt with rock ‘n’ roll bands. I think I was one of the few culinary graduates at the time who worked for the co. (Eat Your Heart Out). I moved out of New Jersey where my sisters are The Housewives of New Jersey by the way. I graduated from the Culinary Institute Of America and I did pretty well going into this catering co. which was called Eat Your Hearts Out. I basically started with that co. in Chicago and got a lot of recognition for my food. That really was it. I started cooking backstage for all kinds of musicians, celebrities, everybody from Phil Collins to-----you name it! All genres of music. I cooked for The Rolling Stones. A lot of local bands. A lot of local talent that would come into Chicago I would cook for. Big bands. Little bands. Lots of different bands when I worked for the co. Then I got my big break when I worked for The Rolling Stones. The owner of the co. decided to give me my own tour with Sarah McLachlan and that was kind of the beginning of my own career. I broke out on my own then. Everybody started talking about me. I guess it was word of mouth, from celebrity to celebrity.
Q – You’re a young guy. Did cooking for The Rolling Stones mean anything to you?
A – Oh, my God, yeah. I’m a huge music lover and my whole life has been based around food and music. I’m an absolutely tremendous musical fan and I love all types of music. Yeah. Are you kidding? It was being able to prepare food for not only the band, but all of the roadies attached to the tour. It was a huge, huge boost of consummate energy for me.
Q – Are you preparing organic foods for these people or everything?
A – Everything. Then, as my career evolved I, myself eat only organic cuisine. I’m really into macrobiotic food and organic, so as I became more recognized more for my food, people began to realize that not only was I cooking gourmet food that looked good and tasted good, but, it was also good for you. So, I became sort of a sought out individual because of the diets that I would prepare for like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I would prepare the macrobiotic sort of eating right for your blood type diet. Sarah McLachlan was big into Vegetarian food that was organic and I was Vegetarian along with her the whole time she was in tour. Then I became known for putting tons of energy into the food. I’m actually writing a new book now. The first book was with Sarah McLachlan called ‘Plenty’. My second book is being written right now. I have a deal with Simon And Schuster pending. It’s all about the energy of food which you put into the food, is actually what you get out of the food. You are what you eat essentially, and you feel what you eat.
Q – Did you learn about organic foods at the Culinary Institute Of America?
A – I believe what I was taught at an early age has always resonated with me as an adult. As I evolved in my cooking technique I remember learning from an early age, coming from a big Italian family that cooked a lot is that you put yourself into the food. So, the Culinary Institute taught me practical techniques. But, I don’t think I’ve changed much as far as my style from a spiritual aspect. I was taught very, very young and this is why I have a passion for teaching really young children to cook because it’s something I took with me my whole life. I love what I do and I’ve been doing it since I can remember.
Q – You never had any aspirations to do anything else than be a chef?
A – I’ve always cooked and I’ve always been saturated with cooking through my growing up with a family that cooked constantly. I wanted to be a Rock Star. I wanted to be a celebrity. I wanted to be a musician. I had this really strong passion growing up to become something in the entertainment field. The entertainment field was always calling me in some way. I didn’t realize it was my path I was on that I’d be working with entertainers, and ‘til I found my way that this was what I was supposed to be doing, nurturing the artist to me being able to be the person that fulfills the needs and sort of heightens the level of energy a celebrity was so that they can go out and fulfill the expectations of their fans. It’s a big job. I didn’t realize that was my calling. I think we’re all wired to do something different in life. For me, I’ve always listened to my inner voice and my inner voice has always told me the truth. I had a love for cooking and I had a love for music. So, I think I’ve found my way by listening to myself and following my truth and my path has led me to lots of fantastic places. I’ve seen the world many, many times over. I’ve traveled with the best musicians. I believe I was able to tap into my frequency at a very early age and I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. So, as far as my dreams and my hopes-----I’m living them. I’m living my thoughts.
Q – When you travel with these Rock groups are you going First Class?
A – Not really. It depends on the situation and it depends on the budget. Most recently, this past summer I cooked for Sting for a little while. Sure I was on his private plane and I had to stay in his hotels and lots of others I do that with too. But, most people think it’s a very glamorous job that I have. And yes, I’m not at some of the parties and some of the events, but I’m normally working. Although I’m staying at a Five Star Hotel I’m up at 5 in the morning preparing food. And, it’s not just the food I do either. I’m not just a chef. They call me the Food And Mood Guro. I also set the stage as far as their backstage environment. It’s completely designed, manufactured and built by me. So, I sort of create the energy backstage that they’re in whether it be like for Madonna I created…..it looked like Vanity Fair backstage. I traveled with her all over the world just setting her up in her dressing room. Designing her dressing room, creating and energy and space where they can walk into and know every single need is taken care of. Do I travel in high style? I would say no. But, it’s always work. Would it be nice to have a job without all the responsibility I have? Yes, I’m very, very lucky to have seen the world on their dime, but I’m being paid to do a very specific, important job. The pressure is very high.
Q – After having toured the world with Madonna, I don’t expect that you would go on the road with a new group in their tour bus would you?
A – I think in life if we talk about evolving, there were days when I did ride in the tour bus with the entire band, crew, management. Everybody was on one bus. And, it wasn’t a nice one. So, I would think the more personal I get with the artist – yes, the pay scale is better. Yes, the accommodations are better. But, would I go with a new band? Would I do this for someone who really needed me for less money? Absolutely. I have never, ever. I’ve been very lucky and I believe when you’re living your life, when you’re really in tune with your life’s path, the opportunities present themselves for you to climb the ladder of success. With that comes the abundance of all of that. Hopefully everyone can feel that. I think that’s when you know you’re on your path, when the abundance is there running the money, the style and the perks. But, it doesn’t say that in this economy it happens all the time. If I knew a person needed me more than I needed to be taken care of I’d be there for a lot less than I normally would be. But, don’t tell anybody that. (Laughs).
Q – When you go into a city, how do you know where to get the food you need?
A – Well, a lot of things have changed since the days of me dragging a Tupperware container with organic ingredients underneath the bus. Organics thankfully have come such a long way. I have an organic coffee co. called Been Trees Organic Coffee. I’m partners with somebody for many, many years and watching organics explode and evolve to the way it has today is really, really exciting for me. I come from the days when looking for those esoteric ingredients, I mean I couldn’t even find Tofu half the time! But now, based on a lot of connections and something called a Rider which is faxed out and e-mailed over, many, many hands see this which is a list of ingredients I need. Luckily again with the cooperation of a great production team and the Internet and a group of really great skilled people, I’m able to get a lot of things I need at my fingertips especially when we’re dealing with a top level artist who needs these things. You sort of get what you need when you work with somebody at that level. It’s long since the days of me running out of a van in the middle of nowhere trying to find things, Thank God!
Q – Were you ever in a rock group?
A – Only in my mind.
Q – You studied under some of Italy’s and France’s best chefs. Did that come after the Culinary Institute?
A – Yeah. I was awarded a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America and it was in cooperation with the Italian Culinary Institute for foreigners. Basically it enabled me to travel through Europe for almost 3 years and because of my really relentless sort of energy when it comes to cooking I was able to transport myself through Europe, through recommendations of Europe’s top chefs. They’re all sort of linked together. They call each other and say I got a great guy I want you to help train. Before you know it you’re at another restaurant. I was able to do that for almost 3 years traveling around Europe. I sort of lived the chef’s dream of packing your bags and back packing through Italy and all through the vineyards and the peach orchards. I’ve done it all. I’ve done all that. When there were people telling me how difficult it was when I was in culinary school, there’s nothing difficult if you believe you’re able to do it. That’s kind of the person I am. I’m a very spiritual guy who believes in the power of thought and intention. For me I’ve never said no and never had a negative thought about my career. That’s why I’m able to get to the places and work with the people I want to work with. I have an extremely positive attitude. And, I put that into the food and into the ambiance.
Q – Have you ever studied under Tony Robbins?
A – I haven’t.
Q – Some of your philosophy almost sounds like its Tony Robbins inspired.
A – A lot of people are very inspired by the way I speak because I’ve learned from a very early age and especially when I left my family nest that a lot of people don’t know how to live their own truth. Me, I just live by the beat of my own drum. This is what I believe. I believe the world and the universe is filled with opportunity if you believe it’s there for you. So, I’ve never, ever compromised that thought. I’ve gotten everything I wanted based on just me.
Q – So, tonight you’re cooking for a hundred people. Is this a celebrity event?
A – Actually, it’s not a celebrity event. It’s my own personal event. I have a house-warming. I built my own home with my own two hands. Every other year I throw a tremendous Christmas, sort of Holiday party. I call it my Ho Ho House-warming. I’m celebrating the evolution of my own home. It’s a pretty spectacular project that. It’s funny. I was on the Oprah Show and Oprah said, ‘You made your dream happen with $100 and no place to live’? I said ‘That’s right’. And now I built my own mansion. It’s a place that’s very special to me. I built it all on the power of knowing that I would one day and here I am.
Q – Now, will you get the chance to enjoy it, if you’re always on the road?
A – Well, right now I’m on a little bit of a hiatus. I’m writing my second book which is very, very exciting. It’s gonna teach people the power of what I’ve come to know, the power of energy, food, mood and music. Its extremely, extremely powerful in the sense that I think when people read this book and allow themselves to understand what it is I’m talking about they’re gonna realize the keys to their own happiness is right in their own hand and the vehicle is right in front of them. What you put into your body and your mind is what you’ll get out of your life. It’s a very exciting project for me. I’m writing about my experiences all over the world and all over the culinary world where I’ve learned to come to definitely know that food has brought me here, and the power of it. So, it’s a pretty exciting project. I’m gonna be off for about 6 months writing this book and finalizing all of the material in it. It’s a very, very exciting time for me because I’ve always wanted to be able to affect the masses and I believe this book will do that on a great, big level.
Q – Is there anyone out there who can take your place in that 6 month time frame?
A – I don’t think there’s another person who does it like me, not to pat myself on the back. It’s more than just cooking for me. With me you get an experience. It’s not just about the food. There’s sort of a medicine man thing that I do. To be perfectly frank with you, I just think that people will…..the phone hasn’t rung yet. So, I haven’t had to say that to anyone. It’s something I believe I’m supposed to be doing right now. When the phone rings, if it’s somebody that needs something from me that I cannot provide, I’ll simply tell them the truth. I’m sure there are other people out there at this point who can do something along the lines of what I do, but, I know there’s only one of me. I don’t mean that in a cocky way. I mean that in a confident way. I’m really not a self-righteous guy. When I work, it’s all about the celebrity. It’s never about me. Nobody wants a celebrity backstage besides the Big guy who’s back there. For me, it’s made me very well-known and I’m really proud of that. I’m sure my family and my parents are proud of that, but, it really isn’t about me. I’m just livin my life. It’s taken me to unbelievably amazing places from the likes of the Oprah Winfrey Show and lots of Talk Shows and Food Network Shows and books. But, I never consider myself to be different from anybody else. I’m just doing what I love to do the most.
Q – People who are passionate about what they do seem to be the most successful.
A – Yeah, well, when you really tap into you and not the person you have to be for your wife or your kids or your partner or whomever, then you have to be for yourself. For me, I’ve always had that ability. I’m from a big family of 11 brothers and sisters. It’s really a cool feeling to be in-sync with yourself and allow yourself to be O.K. with that. I think that’s the secret to my success – to allow myself to always be me.
Official website: www.beantrees.com
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