Chef makes most of family passion
It was the passing of a family member that pushed a young Bermudian to pursue her passion for food.
Brittany Lightbourne Oakley was 20 when her uncle, Nelson Bascome, the former health minister, passed away.
“He was always supportive, encouraging and fearless,” Mrs Lightbourne Oakley, now 28, said.
At the time, she was attending Columbia College in Chicago, from where she would later graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in music business.
While still at Columbia, she applied to Kendall College’s Associate of Applied Science in Chicago to study a culinary arts programme.
“I know he would have wanted me to follow my passion,” she said of the decision.
While the death of her uncle served to push her to pursue her passion for food, it was other family members who first fostered this love.
“Food and cooking has always played a big role in my family and still does,” Mrs Lightbourne Oakley said.
Growing up in Smith’s, her father Oscar Lightbourne, a professionally trained chef who still works in the industry, supplied his knowledge of various cuisines.
“I remember making pâte à choux with my dad in the kitchen,” she said.
Mrs Lightbourne Oakley said her mother Melody provided insight on traditional Bermudian cuisine.
Following graduation in 2013, she immediately began working with Chicago’s Blue Plate Catering, a company highly regarded within the culinary community.
“My dad always told me through great effort comes great rewards, so when I started working at Blue Plate I worked hard and showed that I was more than capable.”
The work itself, she said, as well as the reception it receives, are the best parts of the job.
“The most rewarding part of my job is hearing how guests loved the food,” Mrs Lightbourne Oakley said.
She said the most difficult part of the job often related to the sometimes odd spaces events are set in.
“We have to build kitchens out of nothing,” she said.
In the short term, Mrs Lightbourne Oakley said that she wants to continue to develop her skills with Blue Plate. A pop-up diner back in Bermuda is also an idea.
“That is something important to me,” she said.
Long term, Mrs Lightbourne Oakley said she was considering the possibility of a catering company of her own.
The skills she has honed have also allowed her to give back to her family, including at a surprise beach birthday party for her aunt.
“I flew in and hid at my parents’ house,” Mrs Lightbourne Oakley said.
“I prepped and cooked everything with my family helping. She was so surprised when I brought out her salad.”
While still a student she was able to deliver on a request made by family members for the Christmas meal.
“One of my cousins asked for lobster bisque and another cousin asked for turducken,” she said.
She described her family and husband as being “beyond proud” of her accomplishments.
The dynamic within the kitchen, however, has changed, Mrs Lightbourne Oakley said.
“The pupil has definitely become the expert.”
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