Chef of the Month: Brandon Burleson of Sparta Academy

Name: Chef Brandon Burleson

Name of Organization: Sparta Academy

Where were you born and raised?

Georgiana, AL.

Where did you train to become a chef?

Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center. No traditional culinary school training.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I love food and I love the sense of family that it brings. When I think back on food, I think of church dinners and family suppers. I think of when life seemed a little more relaxed and the laughter and happiness that always seemed to be tied around cookouts and I wanted to hold on to that feeling and share it with others.

What other jobs have you worked within the food industry?

If it is a job in a restaurant then I have done it. How can you ask someone to do something that you yourself haven’t done before?

Who is the most notable person you’ve ever cooked for?

I have been blessed to cook for many notable people such as famous athletes, political dignitaries, CEOs, as well as many TV personalities and celebrity chefs. I have even been able to create dinners in some amazing places for such people such as the United Nations Headquarters in NYC and hold private dinners in exclusive resorts in southern Mexico. However for me it is not about those people as much as it is the individuals that come to see me on a regular basis, and especially the ones that believed in me and my talents long before my name was printed on a menu.

What are your professional goals?

I want to leave a legacy. I want to have my peers know that I could throw down awesome food whenever and wherever, but mainly and more importantly, I want to be known as someone that helps the culinary industry grow. I want to help young people that have a passion for this industry reach heights that maybe they thought were not possible. For me it is about those individuals and their paths that will continue long after I have cooked my last dish.

What’s your favorite seafood dish to serve up for yourself and your family?

I love anything fresh with a little heat and acid. Fresh ceviche right on the boat, perfectly charred octopus with potatoes and a tomato sauce with fresh chilies, but hardly anything ever tops raw oysters straight from the Gulf waters.

If you won the lottery, how would you spend your winnings?

To be honest, I’ve never really given that one a lot of thought. But I know that my student loans would finally be paid off.

If you weren’t a chef, what line of work would you pursue?

I would be in a sports-related field. As a very competitive person, I am drawn to sports. I mean, does it get much better than fall in the South?

What makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special?

The life, the passion, the history that surrounds these waters is what transforms it into something special to me. The products themselves are amazing and highly sought after, but it is the people, and when that connects you to the seafood, that truly makes it what it is. These fishermen, oyster farmers, local distributors, scientists, and political lobbyists are all part of the heritage and are who takes care of the future for the great seafood. It is our job as chefs to respect all of those people as well as the wonderful product itself and let it shine on each plate that is sent out. It just does not get any better that Alabama Gulf Seafood.

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