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A Symphony of Flavors: Celebrity Chef Lelani

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

In the heart of the culinary world, a celebrity chef, personal chef, and restaurant owner is crafting a delicious narrative that connects food, mental health, and the warmth of family gatherings. Known for her appearance on the popular TV show "Chopped" and her participation in Alton Brown's Maniacal Baskets tournament, this passionate entrepreneur has made a name for herself in the culinary scene. We sat down with her to discover her philosophy, her journey in the industry, and her unique approach to promoting wellness and self-care.

"I used to cook with both of my grandmothers from the time I was a little girl," she says, reflecting on her early inspiration to carry on the family tradition of using food to express love. "[I] decided to carry with me... the joy to be able to serve my customers, and to see the smiles of satisfaction on their face to hear stories about how my food may remind them of their moms or their grandmothers." Her menu offerings provide a pathway for good memories, stimulating good mental health and invoking feelings of togetherness and happiness. "If you're taken back to a time when you were happy with family at a gathering... that brought you happiness to see your family. It's that same kind of feeling that we want to provide to our customers when they come in."

She prioritizes sourcing fresh, high-quality ingredients, and working with local vendors and farmers to ensure that her dishes are made from the best produce and meats available. In terms of cooking techniques and ingredients, she believes that small changes can significantly impact wellness. "Using things like avocado oil and small changes in how you cook your food can make a big impact," she says.

Her focus on wellness extends to creating a relaxing and rejuvenating dining experience in her restaurant. "I love fresh flowers, so to have flowers and plants around just really creates a peaceful kind of vibe for everyone," she explains. And when it comes to customer care, her staff are trained to prioritize customer needs and create a supportive and appreciative atmosphere.

practices for diners, seeing wellness as the new wealth factor in people's lives. "Your wealth is your health and because we are literally what we put in our body, it is time and has been time for a while now for restaurateurs to set the stage for healthy eating."

In her newest venture, Vin en Noir, she is excited to bring an amazing collection of vintners of color and female winemakers to the forefront, providing a unique experience in Napa Valley and fostering a space for wine education and community building. "Being the first Asian and Black-owned tasting room in Napa Valley and in downtown Napa makes Vin en Noir unique," she says proudly.

With her innovative approach to food, wellness, and community, this restaurateur is reshaping the culinary landscape and inspiring others to prioritize health and happiness through their dining experiences. As she puts it, "We have to be able to provide that service to the customers so that we survive in our industry."

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