This Traveling Chef Uses Comfort Food To Connect Cultures
By DeAnna Taylor
Santana Burriss is from Charlotte, North Carolina by way of Atlanta. The New York-based traveling chef has been cooking professionally for five years.
We spoke with him via email about his career and how he brings cultures together through food.
Travel Noire: How did you get your start in the culinary industry?
Santana: Back in Atlanta, I left corporate America and started bartending as a way to stay up on food trends, pick chefs’ brains, and to also gain a clientele from people who would come to the bar. Two years into bartending, I found out about this prestigious culinary school called the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Less than a year later, I stopped everything I was doing and moved to New York to attend school. That is what gave me my first push towards a professional culinary career.
TN: How would you describe yourself as a chef?
Santana: From working with different cuisines, cultures, and traveling, I found a way to infuse the comfort food that I grew up on with other cultures’ comfort food. No matter what culture you explore, you find that comfort food is what really connects friends and family.
I present food in an intimate setting while introducing you to new flavors and ingredients from across the earth. When asked to describe the type of food I cook, I respond by saying “contemporary comfort food.”
TN: Tell us about traveling to Mexico to cook?
Santana: Cooking in Mexico was dope. I went with the Black Girls Travel Therapy group and provided food for the ladies throughout the week. The travel therapist, who also served as the organizer of the group, and I got there one day before everyone else to get the vibe of the land. It allowed me to get some inspiration for food and cocktails.
TN: How easy or hard was it for you to gather ingredients in a foreign place?
Santana: Getting to Mexico a day early made it extremely easy to get ingredients. I was able to scout out the local grocery stores and markets to see what was available. I grocery shopped for the majority of the food that day, and throughout the week I was able to take quick trips to pick up other ingredients.
TN: What type of clientele do you typically work with?
Santana: I work mostly with Black professionals, travel groups, entrepreneurs and people who operate in the art space.
TN: Do you have a signature dish or cocktail? If so, what is it?
Santana: A signature dish I have is “Soul Rolls.” In Mexico, I prepared soul rolls with chicken that was braised in Mexican spices, onions, peppers, avocado, and pepper jack cheese. It was a burst of good flavor and texture. I also do variations of shrimp and grits.
My signature cocktails are punches and sangrias. In Mexico, I got a hold of fresh guava. I made this extremely sexy punch that had tequila, lime, pineapple juice, jalapeño, and guava. It was out of this world!
TN: Where can our readers find you online?
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.