“I fell in love with food the first time I saw my grandmother flip a pancake. I couldn’t believe what I saw and I wanted to learn how to flip pancakes and that’s where it all began,” says Chef JR.

From pancakes to a profession, Chef JR is proving hard work is the key to culinary success. The 32-year old cuisiner is the current Sous Chef at the St. Gregory Hotel, while cooking as the Executive Chef at the United States Department of Energy, Indulj Restaurant and Washington Marriott International.

Reflecting on his past, James Robinson says esteemed titles were years in the making. The New York native recalls jumping through a few major hoops to get to where he is today. “The main obstacle that shaped me me into the man I am today was going through being homeless and not having any mentors,” admits Robinson. “It made me grind more and my motto was sink or swim!”

The Harlemite didn’t let that stop him. Using his grandmother as inspiration, Robinson watched his grandmother whip up home-cooked recipes before taking a stab at him for himself. “My family… supported me as a kid by paying me to bake cheesecakes for the holidays. This made me want to create my own recipes and new desserts. It made me get in the kitchen with my grandmother to learn more and more. Then I signed up for culinary arts in high school and decided to change the game by putting my spin on things,” he explains.

Robinson went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Culinary Arts from Monroe College. From there, he created a diverse and unique style of food, ranging from Thai & Mediterranean to Caribbean cuisine, as well as contemporary American dishes.Robinson is also the founder of KitchenCray where he works with a team of talented chefs who aim to to change how the world views what they like to call, “The New Chef Culture”. They take five-star dining experiences and recreate them to cater to their patrons’ lifestyles.

With a tough road behind him, and a glittering bright future ahead, JR is always giving back. Even while working to launch a new restaurant location as well as his first cook book, the charitable cook says the best advice he can give to other artists pursuing his profession is “to never lose the passion and never take short cuts. Love what you do and give back by teaching others.” Chef JR currently runs a program to provide community youth with culinary education.

To learn more about ChefJR visit KitchenCray.com.

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