Jul 27, 2023
Anyone can be a writer – even an accomplished chef! The first step is deciding what you'll write about. It could be something you're passionate about or particularly skilled in... Or could it simply be the book (or cookbook) you think is missing from the world!
Dennis Chan grew up in Jacksonville, where his family has owned twelve restaurants in the past eight decades. His earliest memories of food include standing on a little stool next to his grandfather’s restaurant stove while watching him cook. Somehow, Dennis always knew that he would end up in the restaurant business. He opened Blue Bamboo in his hometown in 2005, after graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and working with the Disney Company, and celebrity chef Ming Tsai. Chef Dennis is an adjunct professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville and teaches personal enrichment cooking classes at Blue Bamboo. Chan’s first cookbook, Hip Asian Comfort Food, was published in 2009. He also served as president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association North East chapter. Dennis won the 2018 Neighborhood to Nation recipe contest by General Mills and was chosen as one of 16 chefs to participate in Hormel Foods’ Culinary Enrichment and Innovation Program. Chef Chan lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Elizabeth, and seven-year-old sons Bennett and Michael. He says, “After working around the country, I am so happy to have found my way back home.” A supporter of many local organizations, Dennis believes that there is a place in everyone’s heart and schedule for worthwhile organizations.
Officially known as the Boss of Food in her family, interviewer Lauren Titus is a long-time Northeast Florida resident who brings over 30 years experience in our area's local food movement to the magazine, along with a passion and expertise in baking and front-yard farming. After a career in digital production and enterprise content management, Lauren is excited to be focused on her first loves: writing and talking about food and the vital role it plays in our community. Lauren lives with her husband in St. Augustine, and while her children have flown from the nest, they continue to support the local food scenes in Austin and Los Angeles.
Check out Dennis’s cookbook, Let’s Eat, from the library!
Places in Jacksonville to hold events in: The Main Library’s Ansbacher Map Room is a cool place to hang out. It is also just a few floors away from the Main Library's Conference Center, which has an auditorium and a very functional event room. We have gotten the chance to cater in some pretty cool venues over the last 18 years. Some were on top of tall buildings, like the clubhouse at the Peninsula, and some were on the ground surrounded by trees, like Chandler Oaks Barn. We've catered at shooting ranges, and at homes right on the beach. We also I also love the venues making a difference for organizations in our community such as the soundstage at WJCT and the Glass Factory.
Book inspirations: Hello Cupcake for playful decorating techniques on cupcakes. The author is the photographer from my mentor's book, Blue Ginger Cookbook. Looking through that book always brings a smile. I have authored two cookbooks currently, Hip Asian Comfort Food and Let's Eat. Local bookstores carry them, and there is a copy at the Main Library. Southern Goodness from Celestia Mobley is my favorite local cookbook.
Music inspirations: My favorite songs are cooking show theme songs.
Sources for great ingredients: Jax Oriental, La Salsa, and Caribbean-Latino Asian are all well-stocked Asian markets. Atlantic Beach Urban Farms, Be Well Greens, and Bacon Farms are all great places to get fresh produce. The North Florida School has a good program teaching special needs children how to grow and maintain produce, and how to work in kitchens. Nothing beats Azar Sausage Company for locally made sausage. Cline's Custom Meats is the best place locally to get a steak to cook at home. We also have a cool "u-pick" persimmon farm here called Willie's Sweet Persimmons.
Local Personal Enrichment Cooking Schools: A Chefs Cooking Studio and Italian Cooking Lessons Jax are two places that I teach on occasion, in addition to cooking classes at Blue Bamboo.
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