Merix Guillory (10) uses cooking—a form of expression and art through sight, smell, and taste—to discover more about his multiracial heritage. Growing up in an Asian and African-American household, Guillory says that cooking has provid- ed an insight into his ancestry and an outlet for self-expression.
Read below to explore his experiences in cooking and how to recreate his favor- ite dish: Korean Braised Chicken.
What is your favorite thing about cooking? What do you enjoy about it?
Food is and has always been a way for me to express myself. I can freely create, experiment, and indulge in a way that is entertaining and educational. No matter how my feats in the kitchen turn out, I am always proud about how much I learned…I feel that every time I cook I can see and taste the improvement.
How did you start getting into cooking? When did you start?
I started experiencing cooking since I was a little kid watching my parents cook from the kitchen counter. Last year, I participated in one of Gordon Ramsay’s cooking shows and that moment really set off my passion. I felt more comfortable and capable in the kitchen, trying new techniques and getting acquainted with my rhythm. This past summer I worked a few days at a French restaurant in the city and then went to a cooking school in New York. Both experiences opened my eyes to all the people that cook and gave me more respect for all chefs. I also found out that executive chefs have no patience for mistakes and will yell at you any time you make [a] smaller mistake!
How has cooking influenced you as a person? As a student?
Cooking has been surprisingly influential in how I present myself. I feel a lot more open to ideas, confident with myself, and louder when I interact with other people. As a student, I have evolved in how much I participate in class and my reception of feedback and prototyping.
How do you think cooking influences you as a student of mixed racial backgrounds?
Being of mixed race was one of [the] driving factors in terms of my culinary evolution. I really want to show who I am and my background through what I present on the plate. I feel like my Korean and African-American sides have really influenced the way I utilize spices and certain ingredients. It also has given me more respect for my ancestors and how resourceful they were with the ingredients they had available.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to people who are interested in cooking or want to get into cooking?
Just do it. Starting with written-out recipes is important, but when you cook a dish more than once, it is very important to try by yourself without recipes. The reason why I have improved in terms of my culinary skills is [that] I do not follow recipes and [I] try to adapt them for my own taste through experimenting. And make sure to be yourself in the kitchen; the energy and attitude you put in always affects the outcome.
What’s one memory you have about cooking that stands out from the rest?
I remember that during my first week of cooking after I made my appearance on Gordon Ramsay’s show, I was making some shrimp dish and I left a paper towel next to the burner. Next thing I knew it was on fire, and when I tried to put it out, I burned my hand pretty bad. So remember, never leave anything flammable near the burners!
Written by Jordan Mak