Who are you?
I’m Demi Unique, traveling chef and recipe developer with a background in fashion. I’m a self proclaimed creative that likes to help out when I can. I’m the founder of Masticate, a creative culinary company and outlet of expression.
Okay, now who ARE you?
I love this as a follow up question because honestly, the first thing that comes to mind when you're asked "who are you" are the basics, you know, your name, your age, what do you do? Yes, those to make up part of who you are, but it's usually so much more nuanced than that. So I guess to answer the follow up, who are you... who am I. I would say that I'm a person that's always learning. Because I'm always learning and changing and growing. And I'm just trying to show myself and others as much compassion as I can, on the way. It genuinely makes me really happy to see people happy. To be able to witness others experience moments of bliss.
And true peace is something that I live for, honestly, and I believe my purpose is to bring food and care to those different equations. It varies from person to person, but food is my connector, and I guess I'm even an instrument for that type of connection and grounding.
And I just hope that that my food can bring moments of happiness to someone's moment. So I hope that answers the question.
How did your upbringing and your roots influence your creativity?
My parents put me into a pretty creative high school that wasn't an art school, but it was art forward. And I guess art and style were kind of my thing through high school and college, even.
But generally most of my family on both sides are creatives, or entrepreneurs or both. My mom has been a hairstylist since she was like 15, not joking. She now owns a hair salon. She was probably my biggest influence on going into the fashion industry because she has so much style and the dreamiest closet. My dad is a director and a producer, my great grandfather was a drummer for Billie Holiday. My brother is also a musician, my aunt's an event planner... so many people who throw down in my family in the kitchen. But I think even outside of the influence of creativity, what's influenced me even more is that so many of my family members, so much of my family, haven't stopped chasing their dreams, whatever that may be, creative or not.
And that's inspiring. They don't give up they truly believe in themselves and they find ways to make things happen. But they don't give up and I'm very thankful to come from a family such as mine, very grateful.
Many artists speak about "the flow" - that trance-like state we fall into when we're creating - does that happen for you when you cook, collage, or style dope outfits?
It’s wild that this is even mentioned because I just learned what “flow-state” was from this guy I met at a video shoot a few weeks ago. He was experiencing it and we talked about what exactly it was. In the end, I knew what it was but never knew there was an actual scientific name for it.
I’ve definitely experienced it before. Not always in a specific place. But when I listen to my intuition and I’m fully present in the kitchen, when I’m getting dressed or even making day to day decisions, I sometimes experience it. I don’t think it can happen without being fully immersed in the current moment.
Things naturally start to fall into place and become seemingly effortless. Those are some of the moments of bliss I was talking about before. That’s peace. Even if there’s a lot going on, being fully present, fearless and trusting in the moment is peace.
How did you get your start?
I’ve been cooking since I was about six years old. When I was younger we used to go to church pretty much every Sunday. While everyone was listening to the preacher or the choir, I was always intoxicated by the smells coming from upstairs. I would sneak upstairs to be with my great aunts while they were making all the food for the after service meal. These were black women from North Carolina that did their thing in the kitchen. I remember them teaching me how to cut cabbage and letting me eat what I now refer to as “chef snacks” as they listened to the sermon on the speaker that was installed in the kitchen. My grandma on my dad’s side used to let me peel eggs and potatoes with her. My grandad had a garden he would grow fresh produce from. My childhood best friend’s mom always let me cook with her and so did my mom.
I’d like to say that I started taking a serious interest in cooking around 9 years old. I used to watch the Food Network pretty religiously and go online and look at tutorials about knife cuts and try my hand at julienning vegetables or whatever else I watched a video on. I remember making this crab bisque that I was so proud of when I was thirteen or fourteen and needed everyone to try it.
I made it at a family function and I remember it being so satisfying to watch how people reacted to my food. I always knew I loved to eat. I loved great food. But I think it was around then that I knew I wanted to be a chef. It wasn’t until I left my fashion design job that I rediscovered this passion.
Best advice you would give to young aspiring chefs? Or to your younger self?
It would honestly be the same advice I would give to myself now. Because I guess I'm always talking to my younger self or my aspiring self, but I would advise them to genuinely believe in, not only believe, but know that your dreams are possible. But to make those dreams a reality is going to take a lot of hard work. And it's not always a smooth and easy road on any journey. And motivation is great.
It's great when you're motivated, but you're not always going to be motivated. So, even more important than motivation is discipline, and consistency. Of course, listen to yourself and take breaks when needed.
Take care of yourself, your well being, but keep going. Don't stop and don't be afraid to ask for what you want, to ask for help when you need it. But overall, I guess action more than words. Action, just as much as dreams and to be fully present in it and to feel through it, but enjoy it while and when you can because there are some beautiful and triumphant moments that happen throughout. But really grant yourself some grace in it as my friend likes to say
What are some of your favorite dishes to make for your community?
There are so many factors that I consider when choosing a dish for the different communities that I’m a part of. Some of my favorite dishes are ones that I spontaneously have the craving for or the urge to create. The dishes that intuitively came to me and personally enjoyed so much (especially while making it) that I felt like someone else should experience it too.
This dish was a combination of two things that I love. My gumbo recipe is something I’m proud of and haven’t shared with too many people yet. I was intuitively cooking when I came up with it, listening to my guides and ancestors. Gumbo is a labor of love, it takes time and care to make. When I finished, I knew it was a recipe I would have to keep in my family. Mushrooms & Polenta is a dish that I also love making, serving and eating. The union of the two was something unplanned but special to me.
Pasta is one of my go to dishes to serve. I love pasta, simple or intricate. The basics, when done well, can be so satisfying and if I take it a step further with some additional elements, it can really wow a person.
How can people get in touch, book you, collaborate with you?
For now, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any booking for collaborative work. I am happily open to work. Book me! Soon enough anyone will be able to request services directly through the site.