Meet Cordell Robinson The Culinary Diva Taking the Cooking Industry by Storm
Cordell Robinson aka Cordell The Culinary Diva has been cooking since he was 7 years old. Cordell grew up in a household of six kids and his mom worked two sometimes three jobs. She did not have time to cook all the time so his siblings would have peanut butter and Jelly, Spam, or some other kind of quick meal. He began to watch his aunts cook which led him to mimic what they were doing in the kitchen. He asked questions out of curiosity and Cordell knew he had a love for food. Cordell started with very basic dishes like baked chicken wings with seasoned canned vegetables. As he got older, Cordell started doing more complex cooking. He made fried rice, egg rolls, meatloaf, spaghetti, and many other things. At that time there was no internet to depend on for recipes, so Cordell went by taste. Later in college Cordell cooked for his friends in exchange for them to buy the groceries because he could not afford the food, that's when he really began to sharpen my skills.
After college he went into the US Navy and his first duty station was Diego Garcia. Cordell got together with friends, and he would use a one burner to make meals. It was very challenging, but it helped him have the ability to be able to cook in any kitchen. Cooking is a passion of his and likes to share that passion with everyone. In the past few years Cordell has been cooking for celebrities, corporations and has cooked all over the world like places such as Diego Garcia, Rota Spain, Sicily Italy, Crete Greece, London UK, Toronto Canada, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Paris France.
Q. What was the inspiration behind becoming a Chef?
The inspiration of me becoming a Chef is that I have a love for food but not just eating food but creating works of art flavor wise and visually. At a very young age I was different when it came to food. Instead of gravitating to sweets I enjoyed unique vegetables. Each time I ate food I would think about the preparation, seasoning, and love put in it. Growing up I did not have google or the Food Network, so it was watching my aunts and Stepmom cook. Some of their food would not taste as expected which is ok because it made me realize the natural diversity of palates. It also made me realize that there are universal tastes and techniques that can be created that a majority would enjoy. I was not a picky eater at all except for eggs. I am not a fan of them and have tried them every which way. I appreciate eggs but they are not my go to unless used in a dish for example, baking, souffle, stuffing, mac n cheese etc.
As I got older and with limited access to different types of food and seasoning, I learned editing very fast. My brothers are very picky eaters, so it was hard for me to understand why they did not like the variety of foods that I liked but it was a challenge for me, and I love a challenge like that.
When I went to college, I met some great friends, and they were from affluent families. That was a great experience because they would talk about different dishes they ate, and I would say “I can make that” and then I would make the dish without knowing much about it because of my limited exposure but I knew tastes and smells of food.
Then in the Navy I was able to travel and meet people from many places with palates that were so unique from one person to another that it was frustrating at times. I remember in Rota Spain, one of my friends grew up only eating fast food all his life. I was beyond annoyed that a person could have only eaten that type of food knowing there is a world of cuisines out there. We talked about it a lot and I remember making gumbo. He was so hesitant at first, but I said taste it. When he did, he was like OMG this is delicious. I learned how to make that Gumbo in Diego Garcia from my friend Kamaria. All those experiences culminated my inspiration to become a Chef.
Q. How did you get started? What steps did you take to launch your career?
I got started in a very unconventional way, I would cook for friends and get feedback. Then I hosted large BBQ’s and dinner parties. I would not ask how my food was, I would look for reactions and if the plates were cleaned or if there was food left on them. The steps I took to launch my career is I started posting my food on social media, then filming some cooking segments on social media and behind the scenes. I worked with brands and built organic relationships. I invested in myself to start launching my brand. There was a lot of trial and error in some things but most things were so natural that I knew that this is my calling.
Q. How did you earn the name “The Culinary Diva”?
I earned the name “The Culinary Diva” because all of my friends call me “Diva” . The way I Live my life is very particular. I like things a certain way. I am OCD so I am always cleaning. When I host functions, everything must be perfect no matter the number of people. When I travel, my hotel must be a specific way, and so on. I am not a mean person at all, but I have very high expectations of people and the way I want things, and I will let you know or just remove a person if they are not the right fit. I cannot stand tardiness, and people that demand respect that is not earned. With that said, when it comes to food, I try to make sure the flavors, textures, and temperatures are perfect, or I get really upset and have stern conversations but in a cool calm, collected and scary manner. I know that the term Diva has a negative connotation to some, but it is just a person that is specific in every facet on how they live. Everyone that knows me knows that when “The Culinary Diva” has a dinner, party, BBQ, or steps into a room the energy of fabulousness has arrived.
Q. Movies such as the classic “Soul Food” based their storyline around food and how it can bring families together. Do you believe food is a national love language and that it brings people together?
Food is definitely an international love language. If you look back in history, food has been the centerpiece for every type of celebration from weddings to birthdays. Good food has ended wars between nations. There are Sunday dinners, Shabbat dinners, the feast after Ramadan and so on. In the summer there are BBQ’s where families get together and have created family reunions in which food is the center. Beyond the family gossip, food is the most discussed topic for events. Who is bringing what, who makes the best mac and cheese for example, and who should bring the drinks because they cannot cook. While “braking bread” the moments and conversations during that time are memories and experiences. Some of the biggest deals are made over amazing meals. The ultimate is love. Food can save a relationship or break one. Good food can make a man or woman fall in love. Food can end a lovers spat or argument, or at least cool things down and a constructive conversation can be had over a good meal.
Q. What’s your favorite food?
My favorite food changes to what I am craving at the moment (a moment is 2-3 months at a time). I think though due to my heritage and my first experience with it, my all-time favorite food is jerk chicken. I am so picky when it comes to my jerk chicken. There are very few places that make it how I like it. A lot of people tell me about a place that has some good jerk chicken, and I am usually disappointed because I expected it to taste as good as mine or better. I have one favorite in DC which is Pimento Grill. It is in the hood, a family run business, tiny walkup which I love all those things about a place, and it is done right. I have not found my favorite in NY yet, but I know I will. Around the country there are Jamaican restaurants in LA, Colorado Springs, and Dallas. I am sure there are more which I will create a show around, but most have been just ok that I have experienced that have Jerk Chicken.
Q. Have you come across any roadblocks in your path to success? If so, how did you overcome them?
I have definitely come across many roadblocks on my path to success. Sometimes the roadblocks are so severe that I just want to give up because it can be stressful, and I do not see the purpose. One of the roadblocks I have encountered is being lied to. It has always been the biggest annoyance to me to over promise and under deliver. I have experienced roadblocks in the corporate world and in the entertainment industry. There are a lot of people that like to be negative in a non-constructive manner. Some people just want to be mean and hateful. That can really tear someone down so a thick skin is necessary. There are a lot of people that secretly want you to fail, and I can see right through the bullshit, not understanding the blood sweat and tears that are put into it because they only see the glamorous side of things. The celebrity and access, which is earned. I get varying opinions which I am ok with as long as they are constructive because I can give opinions all day long but not in a manner to tear someone down. Constructive criticism and competition are healthy because it makes us better in the long run. It is the fucking haters, naysayers, and ones that look for the negative angle out of envy can create a mental roadblock. I have been in the entertainment industry in a capacity for over a decade. Working my ass off and getting fucked over. Some are life lessons learned. Some of the roadblocks have been bad decisions that I have made, and I own them all because owning mistakes is growth not failure.
I have overcome roadblocks by making each one of them a stepping stone to rise higher. If something is blocking you, that is a metaphorical wall. Climb that wall and stand on top of it like a stepping stone and keep pressing forward. When faced with a roadblock I look at it as a growth moment for me. God does not give me anything I cannot handle. I face challenges daily, but the end goal is far greater than me, so I focus on that.
Q. Is it safe to say that you are living for your purpose?
Yes, I am living my purpose. My purpose is not being a world-renowned celebrity chef but utilizing that celebrity to do good in the world and pay if forward. I have a foundation called “Shaping Futures Foundation”. I am working on building an all-girls technical training center/school in Zanzibar, Tanzania. So, my purpose is to keep perfecting my craft, build my celebrity to get more people on board with my mission to change the education system starting with one school and growing from there where it makes sense for our changing and evolving world. Helping others in need by “teaching to fish method”.
Q. What does success mean to you?
Success means to me having the ability to pay it forward, feed people good food, live comfortably without financial worry, have a core of real friends and family that I can trust and get advice from. Success is measured by who you know, and how much you have. When I stopped chasing the coin and started working on my providing a quality brand in ethics, food, and lifestyle, the rest fell into place. What makes my success enjoyable is the ability to give back, which motivates me to work even harder to do more and make changes to get to a point to give tools to help people help themselves. One day having the infrastructure to create opportunity on a larger scale.
Q. What advice can you give to aspiring chefs who would like to turn their dreams into realities?
The advice I would give to a young person who wants to be a chef is to keep following their passion. Never give up on their passion. Realize and understand that there will be many obstacles, but those obstacles will only make them better. Never be intimidated by anyone in the culinary world but take the opportunity to grow and learn when they encounter great chefs. Try to travel as much as possible to learn about cuisines and spices globally, it will make you stand out above so many other chefs. Enjoy the process of learning and understanding, no matter how long you have been in the culinary world, there are always new things to learn and be receptive to it. Try all kinds of different foods to keep expanding your palate because the more diverse palate you have the better your cooking will be.
Stay Connected with Cordell through Instagram: @cordelltheculinarydiva
Interview by: Lee Whetstone, Editor-in-chief
Publicist: Pilar Scratch