From Fine Dining to Soul Food: Chef Lana Lagomarsini's Journey of Rediscovery

Chef Lana Lagomarsini, a private chef, journalist, and artist, shares her journey of rediscovery through culinary artistry.

From Fine Dining to Soul Food: Chef Lana Lagomarsini's Journey of Rediscovery

Photo Cred: Chef Lana Lagomarsini

Chef Lana Lagomarsini finds inspiration for food through fashion and the art world but draws from culinary artists before her. Her experiences growing up in New York City exposed her to the consistent ever-becoming amalgam of food and culture.

Every artist has a different viewpoint – a different vantage point that brings something different to their food and story. I'm making my own food. I'm bringing my own story to the table and doing what comes from the heart. I think that is all you really can do as a chef, and I hope it resonates.

Growing up with Puerto Rican, Black, German, and Italian backgrounds, Chef Lana recalled memories of her culinarily diverse childhood. From the flavors of her grandmother’s stroganoff recipe to the versatility of her family’s use of plantains, she takes inventiveness from her backgrounds to apply to her menus.

I've been hungry since I was a little girl. I've eaten a lot. This is the beauty of growing up in New York – it's a total food Mecca. You can have amazing food your whole life, I can draw upon these sources and use them with honor and respect.

From the culinary institute of America to NYC fine dining

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Lana found a home in NYC kitchens like Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Gramercy Tavern, Daniel, and Momofuku Ko. Gaining extensive experience in these fine dining restaurants, she wanted to culminate her career with more creative pursuits. Combining the French fine-dining fundamentals with dishes from her heart, Chef Lana felt motivated to mesh culinary inventiveness with her experience growing up Black in America.

As a chef, I had a lot of training and fine dining experience, and I was trying to figure out my own voice in that space. And that can be a very hard space for a Black woman to try to find her voice.

A deep dive into her familial history

In order to find her voice, she turned towards her first passion – journalism. She began a deep dive into her familial pathways rooted back to Alabama. She gleaned memories from the Great Migration, reconnecting with Southern food practices along the way. After years of applying fine dining techniques to French cuisine, she found herself back with her grandmother’s soul food.

I am figuring out how to apply those same kinds of fundamentals to the soul food that I grew up eating. I’m excited to be taking a deep dive into the history of my family and the history of how Black people have been treated in the US.

Following the pandemic, Chef Lana opened a private catering company that produced foods from her roots in Alabama. Fusing these dishes with her mixed heritage, Chef Lana presents her artistry by creating fusions on each plate, such as in her Edna Lewis-inspired menu for our A NIGHT IN pop-up series. In developing dishes, she experiments with various techniques, memories, ingredients, and styles.

Plantains are one of my favorite ingredients. In general, I love the versatility of it. I love that it can be used at any ripeness level. I love that it is delicious at any ripeness level and that you can do so many things with it. The heavy starch content is something you can either utilize or wash away. The flavors are unparalleled.

Carolina Gold Rice Grit Arancini

She finds inspiration in listening to how the flavors talk with one another – allowing herself to mix her heritages in new ways. In developing her Carolina Gold rice grit arancini with pimento cheese, she combined Southern pathways with her Italian roots. As an expert in handling each ingredient, she practices using different flavors to develop her palette as a chef further.

There are certain things as a chef that you're working on that might be your favorite recipe, and then once you feel like you figured it out, it might be your least favorite, so it’s constantly changing. Currently, it’s the Carolina Gold Rice Grit Arancini. I really like the meld of flavors and cultures. But I am still figuring it out. You know, maybe that recipe has one more life in it.

Chef Lana creates intentional dining experiences which allow guests to interact with her ancestral routes. In developing new recipes, she pulls from her desire to create and work closely with the ingredients and techniques of her past. Chef Lana hopes her menus spark deep conversations about the Black experience in America while showcasing her identity on each plate.

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