‘Everything is better… with sauce’: How ‘Milkshake’ hitmaker Kelis became a chef

By Zach Harper

Practically the entire planet knows Kelisfor her 2003 smash hit “Milkshake.” It brought the pop singer/songwriter instant fame, made her a household name, and worked its way into most people’s heads that summer.

She’s continued releasing music since then, and her most recent album is 2014’s aptly titled Food. But she’s also hard at work on a new LP, which should be in stores sometime soon.

But what you might not know about the two-time Grammy nominee is that she’s also a trained chef! Between 2006 and 2010, Kelis attended the legendary Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, where she trained as a saucier. She later went on to debut her own line of sauces, Feast, which was later renamed to Bounty & Full. Sauces from the line have been available in stores since 2015.

“I think everything is better smothered, poured or dipped,” Kelis once said of her love of sauces.

Kelis has been outspoken about her love of sauces and how important they are in cooking, calling them “what accessories are to a woman’s outfit” in an interview with First We Feast in 2014.

On July 11, Kelis hits Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre for Brave: Secret Lives, Second Chances, an event which examines “what it means to lead a meaningful, multi-faceted life,” according to the centre’s website. It runs until July 21 at Harbourfront Centre. Kelis’s appearance is described as an intimate evening with “beautiful storytelling and exquisite food.” Tickets start at $50 and can be purchased atharbourfrontcentre.com,in-person at 235 Queens Quay West or by calling the Harbourfront Centre Box Office at 416-973-4000.

HELLO! Canada spoke to Kelis just before her appearance and we talked about one of the most important things (okay, we would argue the most important thing) in life: FOOD. Here’s what Kelis had to say:

HELLO: What made you decide to go into culinary school?

Kelis: Culinary school was something that I always wanted to do growing up. My mom was a culinary chef, so from an early age food and learning to cook was always something that I was around. I think having traveled the world, and experienced so many cultures and food that really made me more passionate about going to school. It naturally kind of happened, I was at home one day while we were off tour cycle and overheard a commercial for Le Cordon Bleu and decided then and there that I would apply. When I called up they said that their program started on Monday, so it was instantly a decision that I had made on the spot. Probably one of my most rewarding experiences as well.

HELLO: What lessons that you learned while in the music business have been most helpful in your new career?

Kelis: I think there’s a lot of overlap with music business and food, especially in a creative sense. Both are ways that artists express themselves creatively, and the business behind it has many similar overlaps. We’ve had a fun time integrating food into festivals whether that be with pop-up restaurants or food trucks. Its been a lot of fun!

In 2015, Kelis released a cookbook called My Life on a Plate. She described it as “an exploration of tastes and cultures, and my experience as a chef, musician, mother and wife.”

HELLO: Can you tell us what it was like attending Le Cordon Bleu? Was there anything that surprised you or you didn’t expect while there, and if so, what?

Kelis: Attending Le Cordon Bleu was a really special moment. Being an adult going back to school for a passion that I had with food and cooking. It was something that I was deciding to take time away from my day-to-day life and dedicate myself to 6 days a week, 10hour days for training. And I learned so much from attending school at that point in my life. I think that applying these lessons in my company Bounty & Full now looking back is an important takeaway for me. Learning to become a saucier and honing in on what I love to do which is cook for the ones closest to me in my life. Its an enriching experience.

HELLO: What do you love most about being a chef?

Kelis: I think sharing the dishes with the people closest to you and getting to know the ingredients and where they come from. That’s so important to me, and now a days really imminent that we understand what we are putting into our bodies. We should be able to read the ingredients lists on the back of any item we buy at the store and understand what they are. That’s something that is extremely important to me with my sauce line, Bounty & Full.

HELLO: Why sauces? What do you love most about them and why?

Kelis: It just naturally progressed into sauces during culinary school. Sauce is always something that I loved to have on a dish, though really everything is better covered, dipped and poured with sauce.

HELLO: What’s your absolute favourite sauce to make and why?

Kelis: That’s so tough to pick, as every sauce has its different purpose and can be used in so many different ways. Though, I am always a fan of a good hot sauce and the cranberry is also a special treat that you would typically think of the holidays for, but its something I enjoy year round.

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