Chef Randie Anderson considers cooking to be part of his heritage. Rising from humble beginnings on a farm in Jamaica, Anderson cut his teeth in the kitchens of some of the island’s top hotels before assuming his current position as the executive chef of Montego Bay Convention Centre. After receiving one of our 2015 JBF Scholarships, Anderson is using the funds to pursue a master’s degree in gastronomic tourism from Le Cordon Bleu. We spoke with Anderson about his inspiration, his studies, and why gastronomic tourism is so valuable.
JBF: How did it feel to win the James Beard Foundation Scholarship?
Randie Anderson: Winning the James Beard Foundation Scholarship was like having Her Royal Highness, Queen of England, bestowing Knighthood upon me. To date this is my most honorable achievement.
JBF: What stood out about the Le Cordon Bleu Master of Gastronomic Tourism that made you choose to study it?
RA: Le Cordon Bleu has always stood out to me as the premier institution for culinary education. While doing my research on how I could further my education to advance my career, the Le Cordon Bleu Masters of Gastronomic Tourism struck me as a course of study that seemed tailored specifically for me.
JBF: Have you always known what you wanted to do? When was the moment you realized you wanted to work with food?
RA: Throughout high school I wanted to be an architect or civil engineer, although I
had a love for and knowledge of food. I grew up in a peasant family in a farming community. We were self-sufficient—we ate what we grew and grew what we ate— so growing up, I had to do chores that included preparing food from farm to table. So I consider my relationship to food as hereditary. Where I am today is just a continuation of my inheritance and my inherent passion.
When I was in high school, no one ever said they wanted to be a chef. It was usually a doctor, lawyer, engineer, banker, etc. We thought that a chef was just a dude who wears a Pillsbury Doughboy hat with a curly moustache, stirring a pot of sauce. It was only when I came to the U.S. after graduating from high school that I realized that a chef can actually be a well-respected, important person!
JBF: What were the keys to your career advancement?
RA: The keys to my career advancement have been my passion and dedication to the culinary arts. My cooking not only makes others happy, but it makes me happy, too. The great Bob Marley said, “When music hits you, you feel no pain”—and when cooking hits me, I feel no pain. I got where I am today through hard work and dedication to my career. There have been many challenges, but the key is to not quit. When the challenges push at me, I push back harder.
JBF: What do you think distinguishes gastronomic tourism from normal tourism?
RA: I have always asked: “Take away the food and beverage from this facility or region and what are you left with?” The answer is usually “nothing” or “nothing that you can’t get anywhere else.”
JBF: If you had one piece of advice for a new student, what would it be?
RA: When you’re challenged by your work or studies, push back harder. Le Cordon Bleu has an excellent support system and someone is always there to hold your hand and give you the support you need to be successful and strong.