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2:38 PM / Wednesday February 8, 2023

16 Feb 2019

Celebrity Chef Kenneth McDuffie: From North Philly to Hollywood

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February 16, 2019 Category: Local Posted by:

Phil Gavin Riley of PGR Images

Celebrity Chef Kenneth McDuffie talks about his passion for food, his inspirations and more.

By Monica Peters

Celebrity chefs are icons in food culture. Luckily for Philadelphia, the city has a celebrity chef it can claim as its own.  His name is Chef Kenneth McDuffie.

His culinary talent has taken him from being a chef for Norwegian Cruise Lines to catering for Senator Vincent Hughes and his wife actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, actress Jennifer Lewis, legendary soul icon Patti Labelle and more.

I discovered Chef McDuffie, not through his celebrity status, but through experiencing his savory culinary creation first hand.

After one bite of the Cajun pasta with ground turkey dish at WDAS-FM Frankie Darcell’s meet-and-greet, for her upcoming production of Eve Ensler’s V-Day Monologues, there was one question: Who made this dish?

Chef McDuffie’s culinary offering at the meet-and-greet was one of the highlights.

The humble North Philadelphia native discusses his inspiration, passion for food and lots more.

SUN: Tell us about your background.  Are you a Philly native?   KM: I’m a Philadelphia native, born and raised in North Philly by my great grandmother Esther Smith, who instilled so much into my upbringing. Raised in the church (shout out to Trinity AME Church), I grew up in a loving home on the 2600 block of Cumberland St.

SUN: Tell us about your love for cooking.  Who inspired you?   KM: I come from a family that cooks and I mean cook– I mean “BURN!” I love food and I just love how food brings family together through the good and bad. I fell in love with cooking from my great-grandmother. She inspired me to do whatever I put my mind to do. I watched her make magic in the kitchen and I wanted to do the same

SUN: When did you realize you wanted to make a career with your culinary talents? KM: My aunt told me about 10 years ago that I should start a catering business. I was scared. I didn’t think I was good enough to feed the masses. It was nothing but faith–and keeping my faith in God that allowed me to start Young & Hungry Catering. I realized at the age six that I wanted to cook– but never dreamed that I would be where I am today. 

SUN: What would you consider to be your big break in the business? KM: Wow! Catering for Senator Vincent Hughes and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph. This is when I knew I made it. I was invited by the legend herself, Ms. Patti LaBelle (my favorite of all time) for her annual Thanksgiving Dinner party at her home.

SUN: What is your favorite dish you love to make?
KM: I love making baked macaroni & cheese. Folks go crazy over it! And, I enjoy making my famous “cajun shrimp & chicken pasta.” 

SUN: Do you make vegetarian dishes? KM:  I do. I actually enjoy making new creations without meat. I love meat but sometimes I can do without all the chicken, turkey and pork. I do enjoy making a vegetarian lasagna with fresh eggplant in place of the noodles.

SUN: What is a typical day for you?   KM: I do have a 9-5 as well, so Monday-Friday from 7am-3pm, I’m the Food Service Director at Philadelphia Montessori Charter School in Southwest Philadelphia. I provide breakfast and lunch for 200 students a day. When I’m off, I’m either in front of my computer answering emails or sending out invoices for Young & Hungry Catering. My down time is from 7pm-11pm. I’m curled up in front of my tv watching some of my favorite shows.

SUN: What advice would you give persons who wish to pursue their passion? KM: Follow your dreams, reach for your goals and ask questions. The world is waiting on the next chef and we need more people who have a passion and the love for cooking to conquer the world. My advice for everyone who is reading this is to: Put God first in all that you do and step out of the normal and be creative! 

Contact Chef Kenneth McDuffie for your catering needs at 215-910-7927.  Follow him at Instagram.com/youngandhungrycatering16 and facebook.com/youngandhungrycatering2016. 

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