By Darlene Donloe
LOS ANGELES — Jason Fullilove and Michael Reed, two of L.A.’s hottest Black celebrity chefs, have been tapped as the featured culinary professionals for the 65th Monterey Jazz Festival set for Sept. 23-25.
The festival’s 65th anniversary is a major milestone for the world’s longest continuously running jazz festival.
Over its long and distinguished history, the Monterey Jazz Festival has earned a reputation for paying homage to jazz greats, but also for its focus and passion for new and diverse sounds; 2022 is a reaffirmation of both principles.
The Monterey Jazz Fest will celebrate its anniversary in the grass-filled, oak-studded Monterey County Fairgrounds, cushioned between the Pacific Ocean and the Big Sur mountains, just minutes from downtown Monterey.
This year, the festival has overhauled its food and beverage program, curated by California chefs, brewers and vintners who are pushing the boundaries of the Golden State’s world-renowned culinary scene.
Fullilove and Reed, who both attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, are part of a small, elite group of Black executive chefs in Los Angeles capable of successfully executing high-end fine dining for large, major events.
Both chefs, who have a passion for the culinary arts, said they were brought onto the project through their relationship with the consulting company, Levy Restaurants.
Fullilove and Reed, along with his wife and partner Kwini Reed, will helm an upgraded VIP experience in the Premier Club, dishing out exclusive, curated meals.
Chef Reed and Kwini, both 39, are the owners of Poppy + Rose, a California-inspired American breakfast and brunch restaurant located in the Flower District in Downtown Los Angeles.
Founded in 2014, the restaurant’s husband-wife duo serves seasonal, elevated country kitchen-styled comfort food in a relaxed, floral-themed ambiance.
Chef Fullilove, 45, who will also be the chef for the 2023 Grammy Awards in February, started his own restaurant, Barbara Jean LA in 2014, and brought his interpretation of African American soul food and globally inspired comfort food into the fine dining arena.
The culinary skills of the Reeds, parents of a 4-year-old daughter, and Fullilove will be showcased over the festival’s three-day weekend. The two will present gourmet bites for between 300 and 350 patrons in the VIP section.
During the festival, Reed and Fullilove will showcase their culinary skills solely on some days while collaborating on the other.
The two chefs, who will be working together for the first time, have teamed up to plan and direct food preparation and culinary activities.
Chef Fullilove, a native of Cleveland, is scheduled to present Sept. 23. He and Chef Reed, who grew up in Oxnard, will come together Sept. 24. Chef Reed will present on Sept. 25.
On Sept. 23, Fullilove, who has been in the business for 30 years and an executive chef for 20 years, said his menu will include curry fried chicken, truffle caviar, mint watermelon salad, West Indian seafood stew, steam clams, short ribs, fried rice and peas, cheddar onion biscuits and a caramel apple tart.
On Sept. 24, his menu will include oxtail quesadillas for lunch and Mexican aguachile, porchetta and mini pumpkin panna cotta for dinner.
“We are coming in early to check everything out,” said Kwini Reed, who co-owns the catering company Root of All Food with her husband. “We’re not cooking on Friday. We come together on Saturday night and then Sunday will be our day. We are ready and we’re super excited.”
A star athlete in college, after Reed broke his foot and lost his scholarship, he turned to his Plan B, which was culinary school, and he never looked back. He’s looking forward to collaborating with Fullilove.
“Once we knew we’d be working together, we talked about who we are as chefs and what we can showcase seasonally,” said Reed, whose restaurant is known for its seasonal fare, oxtails, and high-end seafood. “We both are going to showcase what we do best and focus on who our clientele is.”
A chef for two decades, Reed, who uses food from his outdoor garden in Anaheim in many of his recipes, said his menu includes, among other things, vegetarian fare, a braised pastrami short rib, a brown butter carrot mash, a crispy meringue with raspberry sorbet and lemon curd, and more.
Fullilove, who has been featured on numerous food shows, and the Reeds, noted that there aren’t very many high-end Black chefs in Los Angeles. In response, the Reeds have launched The You and I Coalition.
“It’s an organization designed to bridge the equity gap between Black and brown chefs being at the executive chef level,” said Kwini Reed a Long Beach native.
“In 2023, we will open up Poppy + Rose as a teaching kitchen,” said Reed, who has appeared on several food-related television programs. “We’re committed to this.”
With two high-profile events on the horizon, Fullilove said to relieve pressure, he likes to remain resolute.
“I feel focused,” said Fullilove, who currently only has a kiosk version of Barbara Jean at Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park. “Yes, there is pressure. You don’t have to be too confident. You don’t want to miss things. Be nervous. It’s OK. It helps you be alert. With good leadership and good focus, you can do anything.”
The mission of the Monterey Jazz Festival is to inspire the discovery and celebration of jazz, anchored by an iconic festival. It has had a 65-year-long commitment to education.
Its vision is a sustainable organization that sets the standard of excellence for jazz, connects a diverse community, and helps people appreciate and learn about jazz as fans and performers.
The festival lineup includes Gregory Porter; Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Moodswing Reunion with Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, Emmaline, Lakecia Benjamin, Samara Joy, MJF Women in Jazz Combo, Christian Sands, Yasushi Nakamura, Kim Nalley, Molly Miller, Clarence Penn, Brian Blade and Charlie Hunter.
For information on tickets to access the new VIP Premier Club featuring closed-circuit arena simulcasts, visit www.montereyjazzfestival.org or call 888-248-6499.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.