“Cooking conversations with Zalika King”

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Zalika King spends most of her days in the kitchen. The 20-year-old is whipping up culinary concoctions and learning cultural differences in tastes.

If you are fortunate to know Zalika, you know she is living her dream – that of being a chef.

“The love for food actually came about in preschool. I always used to play with little toys making food and so on. It was all I could think about. I feel it was destined, like God had this planned for me to be a chef,” she said.

With that in mind and passion in her heart, she set out on a path to making her dreams come true, one step at a time.

“I did home economics and so on at Deighton Griffith Secondary. Then I went to PomMarine and did culinary arts as my associate degree. Then I went to do my bachelor’s in culinary management at Lincoln Culinary School in Florida,” she said.

Zalika graduated with a 3.96 GPA and first-class honours last July.

Her story now has become more interesting. As never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine that she would be working for one of the most popular celebrity chefs in the world.

“When I was working at Fairmount Royal Pavilion, Barbados. I did Food, Wine & Rum, and Marcus Samuelsson was the featured chef that night and I was his assistant doing the desserts. My executive chef at the time told me Marcus sent him an email telling him he really liked how I worked and that I’m really passionate about what I do, and he loved my attitude. He said if I ever had the chance to come to America, he would love for me to come work for him.

“In America once you do a bachelor’s degree you get a six-months or year-long internship. I was granted the six months so I contacted Marcus and I got the internship with him at one of his restaurants,” she said.

For the last six months, Zalika has been a pastry cook at Samuelsson’s restaurant, Red Rooster.

In the interview with EASY magazine from New York City while she was on a break from work, Zalika said the experience so far has been nothing short of amazing.

“It’s been going great. I’ve learnt a lot . . . been introduced to a lot of cultures. It has opened my eyes to a lot of different cuisines so it’s been a great experience so far,” she said.

Zalika told EASY even though she has interacted with Samuelsson a few times now, she still gets butterflies whenever he’s around.

“I don’t really work with him a lot because he’s always travelling. But when he does come to the restaurant I always get butterflies. It’s kind of life-changing to see that at 20 I get to work with a celebrity chef.

“Most of the time when he comes in he would always give me advice. He keeps telling me to keep striving for excellence. It’s just a breathtaking experience. I’m really proud of myself,” she added with a giggle.

Zalika is preparing to wrap up her internship next week and reflected on how far she has come since she moved to the United States two years ago to pursue her dreams. She told EASY where she is now is right is where she expected to be.

“Culinary school was good. It was a little different, though. I was expecting to cook but I didn’t. It was all theory. It was all managerial subjects. I helped out at different events and stuff. I enjoyed it, though.

“I’m very determined. I would always tell myself by a certain age I want to be this place or that place and so far I am where I want to be. I kind of saw myself where I am right now,” she said.

As for what’s next for this young cook, she’s unsure, but given her recent track record, it’s bound to be something spectacular.

“I have been offered a great opportunity overseas. I can’t speak too much about it but we will see how that goes. I also spoke to a few chefs I used to work with back home . . . but I don’t have anything concrete lined up,” she said.

She added, though, that she would like to further her studies and focus a bit more on nutrition.

“I’m an aspiring chef but I want to branch off into nutrition. I want to deal with food and how it helps sick people. I believe there’s a natural way to help heal people so I want to focus on that at some point,” she added.

Zalika, who said she lives by The Bible verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, thanked all those who had a hand in her journey thus far.

“I would like to thank God first of all. I would also like to thank my mum. She really was my backbone in everything I did. She would always push me to be a better person. Kirk Kirton, he was the executive chef when Marcus was there. I would like to thank him as well. If not for him I probably wouldn’t have been here today,” she added. (DB)