Interview By Kim CoCo
Introduce yourself to our readers. Let them know your name, where you’re from and what you’re known for!
What’s up! I’m Joe Stout, aka Chef Joe. Born and raised in Somerville, New Jersey. I am a single father of 3 awesome kids. I’m a professional chef and also a private chef for the past 22 years. Some of you may know me as the Restore the Shore TOP CHEF 2014 Winner but I am also the new owner and creator of Happy Chef Meals –my home based meal delivery service based out of Warren County NJ that currently serves all parts of NJ.
So Chef Joe –-You created Happy Chef Meals earlier this year 2020. Can you tell the readers more about your Chef Delivery Service and what you offer.
Happy Chef Meals was created earlier this year by me. I created a home delivery food service to provide prepared proportion controlled food- and GOOD quality food at that – for our clients that I personally cook in my own kitchen. Then we have those meals delivered directly to your front door. I launched this food prep delivery service earlier this year to help those who are trying to eat better and healthier even on a tight schedule. Each Chef Bowl and Chef Meal is thought up and cooked by me for the clients. Happy Chef Meals also has a special menu for those with food allergies and those looking to follow a healthier diet but may not have the time to shop, prepare or cook for themselves. One thing that really sets Happy Chef Meals apart is that I take pride in cooking with only the freshest ingredients that I buy from our local markets and farms. The thing is I really try to stay as organic as possible and I do so by shopping at local markets and farms. Like I said earlier- we also have a special menu for those with food allergies, vegan and those looking to follow a healthier diet but may not have the time to cook or shop.
Although we are currently going through the pandemic, once the world opens back I will resume booking in-home cooking lessons for my clients and for their dinner parties. We cook for cooperate events, ladies night, kids birthday parties and even if the client just wants to host a fun gathering with friends.
Chef Joe- Tell the readers! What’s on the menu?
Chef Meals has so many great choices for everyone. We have meals for almost every single dietary need and even those with food allergies. At any given time on the menu you can find things like Italian Roasted Veggies, a variety of Chicken dishes, our Chef salads, soups, my famous ribs, even vegan foods. Happy Chef Meals provides a lot of different meal options to choose from so I cook for a wide array of clients. Our clients can order custom prepared Chef Bowls that consist of 3 layers of fresh food- a meat, a starch and a veggie, meal prep meals ready to cook that you just put in the microwave, and already prepared meals straight from my kitchen delivered fresh to your front door. We do it all from menu planning, food shopping, personal chef/catering your events, cooking classes for kids, special dinner parties, meal prep etc. I really try to customize menu planning to meet every dietary requirement and keep the menu different and exciting every week. Our clients can check out the website, browse our menu and order their meals ahead of time for the week and have it delivered on Monday. CLICK LINK HERE FOR WEEKLY MENU: https://forms.gle/7DwuE3hLYSyhXv8e6
Your Philosophy is Better Food for Better Mood. Can you explain that for the readers?
For Sure- so the motto is Good Food for a Better Mood. Over the years I have met so many people that have mentioned how they would like to eat better, feel better , even lose weight and look better but many have also expressed that they don’t have the time to shop, prepare and cook for themselves because of everyday life. With Happy Chef Delivery service, we do all of that for you. My belief is, if you eat better, in turn you will feel better and when you feel better you will naturally begin to look better. It all starts from within. What you put in your body will affect how you feel and look. I personally have struggled with being obese and even became depressed because of it – but I I can tell you that once you start to eat better and notice changes – your overall appearance and well being changes. Good Food Equals a Better Mood.
Chef Joe what inspired you to become a chef in the first place? Did someone or some type of event spark your interest?
Oh most definitely, my grandmother Nanny Jones has inspired me since day one. My grandmother – Nanny Jones, just watching her growing up in the kitchen and watching her put so much love into what she was doing with every single meal she made- made me want to cook . The love and energy she put into it. Just seeing her throw down was amazing. You know as a young kid, my grandmother was constantly cooking something up in the kitchen and she knew how to really bring people together with food. She really is the reason I was inspired to want to be a Chef in the first place. Seeing her really put her heart and soul into cooking. Oh man. There was always good food and such good energy being with her in the kitchen. So even as a kid, she inspired me a lot. She still inspires me till this dy. Seeing her throw down was just amazing. As I got older and became a teenager, I started making grilled cheese sandwiches for my peoples. Lot’s of butter. Even sugar. Everyone loved them. Lot’s of butter and lots of love. I guess that’s the French in me. But the reaction from my people loving those grilled cheese sandwiches- that was really a turning point for me to keep cooking and keep going.
Chef Joe- you mentioned that you yourself struggled with weight when you were younger. How has that impacted you as a chef and how does that play a role in the creative side of Happy Chef Meals?
Oh yeah. Being obese really changed my outlook on food and is what pushed me to open my business and is the basis of my whole meal prep mission. As a teen- I use to cook and eat a lot but not really the healthiest or greatest of foods. In my 20s, I was in the food service industry but still not sure exactly what direction I was going. At the time, I had a boss and learned a lot from her and from there, I just kind of took my career and knowledge of food and started to be creative and more innovative with it. But at the time like I said, I was still also very over weight. At my heaviest I was 356 pounds. As a chef, a lot of times it’s hard to eat right. You know there is this old saying “Never trust a skinny chef” and (laughs) all I can say is that that is a lie because if you look at me today, I’m half the man I use to be. You know cooking better for myself is part of what inspired me to start cooking healthy for others. I have lost a lot of weight since my journey started at 356 pounds. I started to really take the time to pay attention to my diet and I would up losing over 160 pounds. Losing the weight was not easy. But the thing is a lot of people don’t realize is that the journey to lose the weight started with me having to portion control and eat better quality food and really meal prep. And I realized that if I can do this and lose this weight- and what held me back was all these other factors that my clients have mentioned- such as being busy with work and life, not having time to shop, or any ideas of what to cook- I knew that if I could figure this out and lose weight and my mood was improving, I was looking better, feeling better, I wanted to share that with others who were facing the same struggle. The only thing is my food is GOOD. Like REALLY GOOD. You’d probably never know it was super healthy, organic and low calorie. I still put that love into it, I still throw down in the kitchen except I don’t use all that butter anymore. (Laughs)
Chef Joe, can you take the readers back to 2014 when you were the winner of TOP Chef Restore the Shore Charity event? What was the winning meal you cooked by the way?
Well I’m from New Jersey and in 2014 I was approached by Top Chef producer -Andrea Beamen who asked me to be a part of the Restore the Shore Top Chef Charity Event. It was part of the relief efforts of Hurricane Sandy. So I participated in the Restore the Shore Top Chef Charity Event in NJ and I actually won it. That kind of sparked my interest in being on TV and showcases my culinary skills to the world. Oh! And the winning recipe was my famous soup.
Chef Joe – Who are your TOP Chefs? Who influences you?
Top Chef’s ? Wow this is a hard one but I’m going to go with:
1. My Grandmother Nanny Jones
2. My Grandfather Papa Bergen
3. Emeril Lagasse
4. Bobby Flay
You’re a single father from NJ and you have a YouTube show out with your kiddos! Tell the readers how your kids inspire you as a person and as chef. And tell us a little about your YouTube series? Will we see more of that in the future?
During this whole pandemic, being in the house and having a lot of time on my hands with the kid’s being home, I started cooking with my own kids. My one daughter in particular Neveah loves to be the star of the show though. I mean I’m cooking in the episodes but I follow her lead. We film ourselves having fun while cooking. It was a way for us to do something productive during the pandemic but turned into something fun. After doing our first you tube video, I realized that people actually watched us and the episode’s. Our audience, which are younger parents that have kids between age 5-10 really enjoyed the short episodes of me and my daughter. Going into it I thought I would be teaching her how to cook but as it turns out she has the chef bug in her DNA already like I did as a kid and in our episodes she sometimes is the one teaching me. Schedule has been very busy now, which is a good thing but I sure do miss having fun in the kitchen with my youngest daughter doing these fun cooking shows. After doing our first Youtube video, I learned to keep my chef mouth kid friendly lol for the audience and we just have a blast with it
You talk a lot about playing music in the kitchen. So tell the readers, if we walk through your kitchen at any given moment what will we hear?
Oh wow. That’s a good question. I’m really an old school 90’s Hip Hop Head and I really love that era of rap music. And so if you walk through my kitchen at any given time you will hear legends like the Wu Tang Clan, Pun Big, KRS 1, Mobb Deep , Helter Skeltor, My play list may have N.O.R.E, Outkast, Biggue Smalls. Late at night – Like 2am I even listen to EDM, House Music or Techno music. I’m a little more chill in the morning.
As of Now you are delivering your food personally throughout NJ however you are going to start delivering out of state as well soon. Can you breakdown the delivery process for our reader’s. How can we order from you ?
Yes as of now I am delivering throughout NJ and the surrounding areas however we are in talks with a few companies to start shipping the weekly meals to other states with Dry Ice. That should be set within the next few months and we are really excited to feed people outside of NJ. But the delivery process is really simple.
Each week we have a small custom menu to choose from that includes my meal creations and Chef Table specials for the week. All of the meals are created by me and change weekly. The customers can go on our website and place their orders by Thursday of that week and their order is delivered to their front step every Monday. So simple right?
A big part of who you are as a person and chef is your generous spirit of giving back. In NJ area, you mentor college kids and teach them all about the culture of cooking and food.
So I myself didn’t always have it easy. I learned that having someone give you an opportunity and actually believe in you is sometimes all it really takes for you to believe in yourself. Even when everything is up against you. At Princeton University actually here in NJ, I am part of a program that combines Food Service with Hip Hop where I give the local adolescents and teens an opportunity to come put their time to good use in the kitchen and stay out of trouble while discovering and developing their cooking skills. I mentor these kids and teach them step by step how to cook and all the different types of roles/ careers that are possible in the culinary world. A lot of these kids open up to me and I mentor them not just about food and being a chef but about other things that go on in their life. I was a teen too once so I get it and It is part of my mission to make the kitchen a safe place for these kids to go where they know that me- someone who believes in them will consistently show up for them. That program was growing fast but we are on hold due to the pandemic. Once the world opens up we will resume in person cooking. As much as those kids rely on me, they have become are a part of my purpose and keep me going and wanting to grow my brand.
Name 3 ingredients that your kitchen MUST ALWAYS have?
3. Olive Oil
Chef Joe what is your most popular or most requested dish ?
Oh my Ribs. That’s easy.
Chef Joe I know you’re a Hip Hop Head so Who are your TOP 5 artists of all time Dead or Alive?
1. Jay Z
2. 50 Cent
3. Lil Baby
4. Pop Smoke
5. Biggie Smalls
If you had the opportunity to cook for 2 artists in the music industry- one dead and one alive throw a who would you pick?
1. Oh wow – I have to go with Tupac for sure
2. And definitely Young Ma
What are 3 very important things you look for in a good chef?
1. Some who is passionate about the culture of food
2. Someone who understands that there is always something new to learn in the kitchen / Culinary world
3. Someone who is good under pressure
What’s your favorite place for dining?
Oh man- Im gonna have to say my own kitchen in New Jersey of course!!
So Chef Joe– your Brand is growing like crazy. You have the You Tube series with your kids, more shows and production in the works, bigger names you will be working with and you are seeking submissions for assistants, interns , sue chefs , dishwashers , delivery team and even promo team. Tell the readers how can they can a get a shot at working with you?
Yeah it’s crazy. The Brand has been taking off and although I am grateful I am definitely looking to discover talented people from all aspects of the culinary world. I can use the help and would love to work with others who are as passionate and innovative as me. The best way to reach me is through email or through Direct message on Instagram. Send me a message and tell me what sets you apart and makes you different. It’s easy to pick a winner but I also have always been one to believe in the underdog. I am open to working with and anyone who has a passion and love of food. Email submissions: : email@example.com
So During the Lockdown while we thought the world was at a complete STOP- you were still cooking! People needed to eat. Like you said- The Chef Joe brand and Happy Chef Meals Brand is growing like crazy even during the pandemic. SO Chef Joe, tell the readers what can we expect from you when the world opens back up?! Will you be available when different artists and their teams come from out of town and want a private culinary experience from you. Tell the readers were what are your future plans, food festivals and so on?
Wow. I am ready when the world opens to resume food festivals and even to cook and cater backstage for different artists and their teams. There are so many amazing things in the works from the YouTube series with my kid’s, I’m going to continue with that and possibly pitch to a network since people have been so receptive to the series.
I also am going to continue with Princeton University and the mentor program. We may go virtual if the pandemic does not allow for in person cooking. I also am also booking my private cooking events and cooking classes for any type of occasion. When different artists and their teams come to town and I am available to cook not only in their kitchen but I also cater to on site video shoots, gathering’s , BBQs etc. And like I said I am innovative and keep things fun so you name it and I can cook it. I also will be starting with another non -profit program through WIC. The program connects mothers and their children in the kitchen. The mission is to create a fun experience for moms and their own kids who are under the WIC program -to bond and actually have fun while combining music, healthy meal choices and the culture of food and the culinary world. I will actually be making an announcement on that program so the readers can stay tuned. Im also going to launch a program for recently released inmates with who have a passion for food and just need someone, or an opportunity or kitchen to prove themselves and keep them on the right track. I’ve learned that food is something that brings people together. It creates a creative space for people of all walks of life to create memories and share an experience with those they love. Pandemic or not- people still need to eat and this is only just the beginning for Meals.
Where can our readers find you on social media? Plug yourself in so we know how to find you for features, collaborations and all things Chef Joe Stout!
Chef Joe has been in the culinary space for 22 years and recently opened up his personal chef business called Chefmeals that is based out of Warren County NJ. Our service includes a broad range of services to meet your needs from meal prep to running a new culinary concept business or revamping your current concept.
Joseph Stout Chef Phone: +1 908-283-0806 Address: 173 Morris Street 08865 Phillipsburg, New Jersey
WEEKLY MENU: https://forms.gle/7DwuE3hLYSyhXv8e6
FB: Chefmeals @happychefmealsLLC
YouTube Subscribe: Chef Joe Cooking Show
Links to IG Photos: