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Meet Gerard Nealy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gerard Nealy.

Hi Gerard, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I’ve always had a great admiration of food. Not just the act of eating or tasting food, but watching the planning, preparation, and execution of creating a meal for others to enjoy from the beginning to end. I’d like to believe my journey began in the early 90s, simply because my parents and grandparents always provided home-cooked meals which introduced me to ingredients and flavor profiles that helped develop my palate. Seeing how they would write down grocery lists on the fridge, cut out coupons to source out the best available ingredients at the lowest price point, and the conversations they would have in the car ride on the way to the supermarket about food, really sparked my interest in wanting to learn how to cook and expand my palate.

My professional journey began in 2011 when I decided to enroll myself in culinary school. I attended Le Cordon Bleu International, where I spent a full year learning and building my skillset from the ground up. I spent hours after school each day working for free as a stagiaire, which is an unpaid internship, for some of the best restaurants in the world just to expose myself to new techniques. After graduating from culinary school, I worked in every possible kitchen setting from hotels, restaurants, catering, buffets, and as a private chef. I am currently working as a freelance private chef.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Absolutely not. I’ve thought about calling it quits many times on my culinary journey. But of course, when you get knocked down, you have the choice to stay down or get up. I’ll choose to get up one hundred percent of the time. It’s challenging at times because people do not understand the luxury of hiring a private chef. Often times they want to experience your services, but do not understand the value behind it. I would say my most common struggles are people offering to pay me in exposure simply because they have a large social media following. Let’s be real, this is my livelihood, and exposures do not pay the bills.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I prefer to refer to myself as a creative, although I am a chef. I have more than 10,000 hours of experience with traveling and learning about different cultures through food, cooking, and menu development. I have also competed and won culinary competitions internationally. The time, love, and energy that it takes to build rapport and relationships with people through food is something I enjoy. What’s even more rewarding is having the ability to create memorable experiences for every person I connect with through food. It’s gratifying to say the least.

I think my willingness to use all my resources around me is what I am most proud of. In such a competitive world, where egos are on full display and everyone wants to be recognized as the best, I’ve learned to put my ego aside and ask for help and guidance when I need it. I believe that sets me apart from others as well as my ability to use every day as an opportunity to learn and grow. I make sure to invest 14 hours a week, 2 hours per day, studying all things culinary, to hone my craft. It allows me to stay on top of the current trends in the culinary world as well as keeps my mind fresh to create innovative ideas.

I specialize in southern cuisine, with my signature dish being shrimp and grits. However, I have experience with other cuisines such as Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Indian, and Italian. For those who have specialized nutritional needs, I am knowledgeable with low sodium diets, keto, plant-based diets as well.

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