As the chef behind Gourmet Street Foods, Carla Fears notes that her culinary drive draws partially from her experience of being a ‘latchkey kid’.
She grew up in Miami and remembers coming home from school with a hunger that fueled creative thinking toward food. She always favored cooking shows and grew up watching Julia Child and Martin Yan on Yan Can Cook. These shows taught Chef Carla the many varieties of cuisine that can please a person’s palate.
As a chef, Carla has always sought to break the stereotype of Black individuals creating only ‘soul’ food. Yes, her cooking reflects her soul and she creates “soul-full” food. However, her dishes don’t strive to fit in any one culinary box.
Chef Carla’s featured dish is her scallop crudo, which highlights this diversity through its combination of global ingredients and techniques. Each ingredient also speaks very personally to Chef Carla — she notes that the dish is essentially Carla Fears in a fancy bowl.
The dish begins with a strip of black rice ‘water’, which is made by blending black rice with charcoal. The puree is brushed across the plate from end to end, and it is meant to represent Chef Carla’s culture as well as the goals she’s accomplished. The bright scallops sit atop this strip bring color contrast to the plate. Chef Carla intentionally uses scallops because their soft, tender bodies housed inside tough shells remind her of the life experience as a Black woman moving through society.
“My Brown, tough skin houses my sweet and tender characteristics,” she remarks. “It’s me within the sea of life.” The crudo is garnished with Thai basil and basil oil, candied Thai chili ginger, lime zest and cocoa butter. She candies the ginger with Thai chilis to reflect her unassuming spiciness, similar to the intense, unexpected heat brought by the small chilis. The spice contrasts the sweetness of the candying process. The balance of these flavor profiles represents the complex balance between introversion and extroversion in her personality.
Lime zest and cocoa butter are two ingredients indigenous to South America. These garnishes reflect the love that Chef Carla feels toward her hometown of Miami and the many cultures intersecting there. This dish reminds her that “no one can compare, emulate or discredit anything I’ve accomplished thus far.”
The recipe for Carla’s Scallop Crudo is featured in Fearless Innovation: Atlanta’s Food Story Cookbook.
Punk Foodie offers this weekly column about Punk Food, a moniker for a cuisine without defining or distinctive ingredients, techniques and dishes which is being born out of the increasing infusion of the diverse cultures and experiences that live in our city. Find out where Gourmet Street Foods is popping up next and go deeper via Punk Foodie’s weekly guides and pop-up calendar.