Driven by his passion to create healthy and delicious food, Eckerd’s vegan chef Spencer-Trevon Johnson professionally known as Chef Spence D recently appeared on Fox 13 and News channel 10 to give live cooking demonstrations.
On the shows, Chef Spence D demonstrated how to cook kale salad from start to finish. He showed the newscasters his unique recipe and told them the health benefits of the dish, before letting them taste it.
“The tasting part is really cool because you get to see their general reaction, what they think. The last lady was dancing while she was eating so I was like, ‘This must be good,’” Chef Spence D said.
Chef Spence has been working as a vegan chef at Eckerd since 2019. Originally from Maryland, the 24 year old moved down to Florida by himself. Though he has already done culinary and baking programs around the St. Petersburg area, he recently got accepted into the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), a prestigious cooking program in Hyde Park, New York.
Chef Spence says his journey has been far from easy. Operating by the saying “all gas, no brakes,” the chef experienced homelessness on his path to success. While attending culinary school in Florida, he lived out of his car for six months.
“I made a choice that I would never give up…never stop fighting. I felt like my life was lining up and I was walking into my life purpose despite my many obstacles. I learned at my lowest that when I had nothing, I had everything…everything I needed to start from the ground up,” Chef Spence D said.
Last year, he won a competition for Skills USA, a career and technical student organization, in customer service and restaurant management. In his daily work, Chef Spence D says he strives to make the customer feel amazing. His vision is to consistently provide customers with a tasty, healthier option.
“People like my tofu dishes a lot because generally tofu is boring and bland, and it’s not flavorful, and people look at something and think it’s generally not going to be good, and I try to make it awesome,” Chef Spence D said.
Raised vegan along with his siblings, Chef Spence D has had a passion for cooking since he was around 8 years old. He remembers being in the kitchen watching his relatives bake and being curious about the science behind it.
Inspired by cooking legends such as Emeril Lagasse and Anthony Bourdain, Chef Spence D started writing his own cookbook at 15. Although his early childhood dream was to have his own bakery and design wedding cakes, he now sees himself opening up a completely plant-based restaurant in the middle of Atlanta. He also notes that there are currently no fully plant-based cooking shows on Food Network.
“I don’t expect everyone to understand me because they don’t know my story. But I express my life story on every plate,” Chef Spence D said.