From Long Beach to Valedictorian: Interview with University of Memphis Head Chef Tyrece Higdon

Minute Mentor

Pursuing a dream is rarely, if ever, easy.  Along the way, you inevitably face set-backs and obstacles that stop many people before they even started.  University of Memphis Head Chef Tyrece Higdon is not one of those people. Check out the inspiring story of his road to success.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live? How would people who know you describe you? 

A. I was born and raised in Long Beach, NY.  I currently reside in Millington, TN.  I am very outgoing, laid back, silly, and all about positive thinking.

Q. Describe your job. 

A. I am the Kitchen Manager/Head Chef over Residential Dining at the University of Memphis.  I am responsible for ensuring over 1,200 people are fed daily.  On a daily basis, I lead a crew of cooks to produce food from standardized recipes.  In addition to overseeing the food production, I do the ordering, keep track of inventory, station merchandising, and training, just to name a few of my tasks.

Q. What were you doing before you decided to pursue culinary arts?

A. I owned a bread route in the Memphis Area, waking up at 2:30am, 7 days a week.

Q. What made you decide to change careers?

A. I ruptured my Achilles tendon.  Being a route owner, I was forced to sell my route due to being physically unable to run my business  effectively.

“I have two children that mean the world to me.  I wanted to show them to never give up on your dreams.  So, I hopped into culinary school on crutches and walked out Valedictorian.”

Q. What did you have to do to pursue your current career? For example, education, internships, certifications. How much time did it take? 

A. I started school at the age of 33, with NO restaurant knowledge.  I used financial aid assistance, student loan approval (40k), a lot of determination and on crutches.  I spent two years in Culinary School.  Then, I worked as a Sous chef for 3 years and I have been working catering events for 3 years.

Q. Who was your biggest inspiration? Mentors? Family? Friends?

I would most definitely say my mother.  To watch her have the strength to raise 4 children and fight and defeat her demons gave me that kick I needed to not just “TRY” but “DO.”

Q. What was your biggest motivation? In other words, what kept you going?

A. I have two children that mean the world to me.  I wanted to show them to never give up on your dreams.  So, I hopped into culinary school on crutches and walked out Valedictorian.

Q. Did you experience any setbacks? How did you overcome them?

My only setback was the inconvenience of being partially disabled, due to crutches and a walking cast.  Since I was unable to hang out or do a lot of ripping/running, I utilized my time to study fiercely.

“When it comes to pursuing dreams, give your all to it.  Use your nervousness as adrenaline to do great.  Don’t be afraid to fail at first because even a failed attempt is experience and knowledge of what not to do.”

Q. If you had a chance to go back in time and speak to your 15 year old self, a) would he be surprised to see where you are now? b) what would you say to him?

A. If I could speak to the skinny young me, I’d probably laugh at the weight I’ve gained, since I never thought, I could gain weight. I know I’d be giving myself a high five being that I made the decision back then that these streets will always be here.  I would tell young me to focus more in school.  You have a brain so use it and stop worrying if your so called friends are jealous. Do you with no holdbacks.

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Q. What advice would you give to someone thinking about pursuing culinary arts or going after any dream?

If going into the culinary arts field, know for sure that this is what you want.  If you are going just to learn how to cook using different methods, that’s cool, but very expensive if you are not putting the learned knowledge to use.  If you are going to become a great chef, who is passionate about his/her craft, and wants to teach others, then by all means, the right program is worth it.  When it comes to pursuing dreams, give your all to it.  Use your nervousness as adrenaline to do great.  Don’t be afraid to fail at first because even a failed attempt is experience and knowledge of what not to do.

Q. Any long-term goals or dreams?

I hope to one day be able to instruct urban youth on how to prepare nutritional meals.  I have been blessed with a strong culinary IQ, and I would love more than anything to help the youth and have the tradition carried on.

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Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

4 thoughts on “From Long Beach to Valedictorian: Interview with University of Memphis Head Chef Tyrece Higdon

  1. Hi Tyrece! Congradulations!I’m sovery proud of you and your mother would be too and my mother as well. My mother use to always make a peach cobbler from scratch using real, fresh peaches. And i wanted to know if you had a recipe for making a peach cobbler. I have one but it says use bisquick for the crust. Do you have any suggestions?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your awesome and Im proud to know you. Your pass don’t determine your future. You have proven life is what you make it even if your banged up!

    Like

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