Ask Hollywood’s biggest stars who they have their assistants calling when they need their breakfast, lunch and–or—dinner plate filled with delicious food? Ask! You’ll probably hear the name Chef Manouschka Guerrier come up a lot…a whole lot. Chef Manouschka has cooked for the likes of Drake, Barbara Streisand, Ariana Grande, Giuliana and Bill Rancic, just to name five. The Brooklyn-born diva of scrumptious cuisine has a background as colorful as some of her dishes. She has been a video model, and, in the mid-2000s snagged roles in movies like Crimes Against Charlie, and Crooked.
Manouschka Guerrier’s front-of-the-camera experience still comes in handy, as one might imagine. She starred as one of the chefs on the Food Network’s show “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills”, and was called on by the TV Guide channel as food stylist for “Hollywood Girl’s Night”. She’s single-handedly brought her company Single Serving to recognizable brand-status, while catering Hollywood’s most high-profile events and feeding some of the world’s hottest celebs.
Kreyolicious: Who taught you how to cook?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: I learned how to cook from my grandmother Olga, my mother and my father. I always thought my mother was the greatest cook ever, but it wasn’t until her funeral 7 years ago that I found out she went to culinary school…she was a bona fide trained chef.
Kreyolicious: Growing up, what view did you have of cooking?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: Growing up in a Haitian kitchen, I wasn’t really a fan of it. Haitian cooking is so time-consuming and labor-intensive…plus my family cooked everyday…except Friday nights, [when] we ordered Chinese. There was no such thing as frozen or canned junk food meals in my home.
Growing up in the States as a first-generation Haitian-American, you are desperate to try other cuisines… but eating out was a luxury which was mostly a trip to Sizzler or Red Lobster—fancy, I know—so early on in my life, I actually got tired of Haitian food…but when I moved to LA sixteen-and-a-half years ago, I craved the comforts of home, so I started hitting up my grandmother and parents, collecting written recipes and got to cracking… it changed my life! I have created so many shortcuts that makes our food more accessible.
Kreyolicious: I’m going to give you a list of spices…Garlic. Thyme. Bell pepper. Parsley. And I’m going to ask you a question about them. So keep them in mind. Okay, so if you were given a spice ban…where you could not use one of these spices for the rest of your life in your cooking…which would cause you the most distress… not being able to cook without garlic, thyme, bell pepper or parsley.
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: Cooking without garlic would have to be the worst! It’s so prominent in all the cuisines I adore Caribbean, Asian, Italian and so on.
Kreyolicious: Word on the street is that you have a new show…”Food Fighters”. That’s an awfully catchy name. What’s it all about?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: It’s home cooks versus five pro chefs. The home cooks battle the chefs with five of their tried, true and tested, best recipes…the chefs find out what we are making on the spot so we have less than a minute to figure out how to beat these home cooks at their own game. I have been asked to do a lot of competition shows over the years and this was the only one I agreed to because I learned how to cook from home cooks.
I have an incredible amount of respect for them…Hell, at the end of the day we are all home cooks. I love how the show isn’t mean-spirited and it really is a friendly competition with some healthy smack talk between sparring. The home cooks competing are so deserving of a win, they are all battling for some incredible causes. My favourite part is that I get to rep Haitian cuisine on an international stage in front of millions of people.
This is my first foray as a chef from cable to primetime network TV and it’s an absolute honor to showcase the flavors of what I feel is the best type of cuisine, the cuisine of my people to the rest of the world. It’s about time that people learn that Haiti is more than just a poor country faced with numerous disasters that stunt our growth as a nation. Our greatest commodities are our art, music, coffee, sugar, rum, resilience and food. [Smiles]
Kreyolicious: Did you know that Manouschka is a Russian name?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: Hah…yes, I knew.
Kreyolcious: You ever ate Russian cuisine?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: I have traveled Eastern Europe, was engaged to a Russian once, lived in a predominately Russian part of West Hollywood and there is a bomb Russian spot at walking distance from my house now called Talisman…I kill their buffet. It’s so good!
Kreyolicious: You ever burned yourself cooking?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: All the time pulling stuff out of the oven… I’m an idiot.
Kreyolicious: Hah. Is there a dish that you aren’t particularly fond of, but you enjoy cooking?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: I hate cooked/caramelized onions with a passion…buuuuut I do like the way it smells while cooking. Reminds me of home. You know something is about to taste bomb when you smell onions and garlic—see told you I can’t live without garlic—cooking in olive oil or with bacon. I can’t live without bacon either…hah!
Girl, when was the last time you went to Haiti?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: I was in Haiti last October for 10 days. It was my first time visiting in almost 30 years. I even got to visit my grandfather. It was the third or fourth time I had ever seen him. I saw my grandmother’s kitchen and the portable burners she used to cook on…it was surreal!
Kreyolicious: You’ve cooked for celebrities, and all sorts of spectacular events. Of these engagements, which have been the most memorable?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: Cooking for Ariana Grande’s grandfather for Father’s Day was the most memorable. What an amazing, LOVING, energetic, positive, beautiful family. We just lost her grandfather, lovingly known as “Nonno” a few weeks ago…broke my heart. Tied for a close second was cooking for Drake. He is truly one of the most down to earth guys I have ever met and catering Mel B’s baby shower. She was the only client I have ever had that called me personally to thank me and my assistant Stacy the next day! Usually I get a thank you from an assistant or house manager or by email.
Kreyolicious: What would you like to say to beginning chefs, in terms of getting comfortable in the kitchen and becoming good at cooking?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: Best advice I ever got was a year ago working for acclaimed chef Adam Perry-Lang—“Shut up, keep your head down and cook!” It’s that simple and it set me free.
Kreyolicious: It shouldn’t surprise you that my next question is about seasoned chefs. What should they do to take their culinary hustle to the next level?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: Take risks. Be bold. Stand by your product. Take on a mentor, be open to learning, accept criticism gracefully, be respectful to those you are working with, be courteous to those that are helping you, watch your temper…you’re cooking food not curing cancer. Listen. Taste your food. Take field trips to local farmer’s markets. Explore all the ethnic markets that are in your city. Social media is your best friend. Culinary school does not guarantee you work. Surround yourself with others that share your love of food and desire for success…Oh, and pray…pray a lot.
Kreyolicious: Do you learn new things from time to time about cooking? Or at this point, do you feel that you know all you’ll ever need to know?
Chef Manouschka Guerrier: Like anything in life, to stop learning is akin to dying. I am so blessed I get paid to do what I love and there are so many avenues I still need to learn. And it will take me the rest of my life to learn new tricks, techniques and flavors that I will die with just a blip of the food knowledge that’s available.
That excites me! Plus, I’m not that big of a baker or work with pastry so I have tons of that stuff to learn. A huge dream of mine is to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and attend culinary school…preferably in Paris. Do you have a Rosetta Stone in French I can borrow?