To Live And Cook In L.A...It's The City Of Angels And Constant Flavor
It's the City of Angels and Chef Mike's serving up heaven on a platter.
"Your Excuses will soon be surrounded. Come out with your skills up!"
Chef Mikery Hatfield is Los Angeles through and through. He said, "If you scrape the surface of the 110 freeway and run a DNA test, you'll find that it matches mine! L.A. born, L.A. based, and L.A. raised. 'A true son of Los Angeles' is what Chef Roy Choi called it."
However, in 2004 Chef Mike went to work in San Diego at the newly built stadium Petco Park, which houses the San Diego Padres. He was the executive sous chef on the opening team for its exclusive dining department which included 70 luxury suites, a catering terrace, and six restaurants including a fine dining restataunt called the Dugout Lounge. Chef Mike embraced San Diego for what it was, but L.A. was home.
Home and family means everything to Chef Mike. "My entire life story is one of resilience and survival. And although we did not raise our children in the same elements, they've somehow embodied those same qualities. Meeting their own challenges, traveling the world, and still not compromising their own Godly devotion. I have three unbelievably awesome kids, Koko, Mikey-in-the-middle, and Mikki. As for my wife? Wow! She's been married to me, while I've been married to this circus. I have been shown mercy."
Still, many kitchens hadn't shown Chef Mike the same mercy. As an African American, a lot of people ignorantly pass judgement off of preconceived notions. However, that didn't change for Chef Mike working in many upscale restaurants. Chef Mike recalled an incident where he overheard a server say something extremely rude and racist. "I'll always remember walking into the kitchen at a new job in some high end establishment and hearing a server say, "I guess its goodbye Foie Gras, hello fried chicken and waffles".
Not only did race play a role in Chef Mike's rise up the culinary ladder, but the age difference between himself and his peers proved to be an uphill battle also. "I think what was more difficult was fast tracking up the kitchen ranks before hitting my 30's and being surrounded by people who had kids my age. That was heavier because the resentment didn't have any color barriers. So you're getting it from all angles. But that was all more of a motivator than a deterrent. Regardless of any of that, today I tell all students and newbies one thing:
"Pace (Yourself) so you can face (Yourself) in the end, You really only Race (Yourself)" ~ Evidence/ (Dilated Peoples)"
Chef Mike originally went to college for Radio Broadcasting, but quickly realized after three semesters that liking what you do and loving what you do were two different things. "Culinary gave me the creative outlet I knew I needed, plus the opportunity to make a decent living." Once Chef Mike decided the culinary road would be the one travelled, his first chef mentor Keith Starky encouraged him to seek higher learning in the field by way of the culinary program at L.A. Trade Technical College where Chef Mike graduated in 1995. After completing college, Chef Mike apprenticed at the Century Plaza in L.A. for another year and a half. From there, Chef Mike has worked at the Ritz Carlton, Warner Brothers Studios, a couple of Marriot and Hilton hotels, and Sony Pictures. The list goes on and on.
Photo by: Chef Mike
Chef Mike's experiences are what you'd expect them to be working in La-La Land. With the Staples Center, Microsoft Theater, and the Grammy Museum nearby, Chef Mike gave a vivid description on what work could be like on any given day of the week. "On any random night, we can have Jill Scott at the Microsoft, E-40 right upstairs at the NOVO, and Lebron and the Lakers clashing with the Clippers just 50 yards away. And the sexiest rooftop bar/lounge within walking distance is the Luxe! No Dull Moments". However, for about three decades as an L.A corporate chef, he'd become accustomed to cooking for celebrities all across the city and on a few movie sets as well.
Chef Mike's no stranger to the limelight himself as he was one of only three contestants to take home the full $25,000 on Food Network's cooking competition show Cutthroat Kitchen (season 14, episode 11). Even though being on the show was a fun opportunity, it hadn't given him the exposure he seekd when it came to his own brand.
Next Level Events is Chef Mike's premier longstanding catering service for over 15 years and he brought it to the forefront of his corporate career in 2017. Naturally, opening Next Level Event Center and finally being free of the corporate world is the next step for Chef Mike, but unfortunately, Covid-19 has gotten the best of the world at large, specifically affecting those in the hospitality and food and beverage industries. Next Level Events, like many other small businesses are suffering significantly from the impact of Covid-19. Chef Mike said, "This pandemic has brought the entire hospitality industry to its knees. I'm hoping with a little creativity and hard work, I can carve out a niche of servicing, even the small intimate gatherings."
Photo by: Behind The Lens Media
In addition to abiding by all Covid-19 guidelines, Chef Mike welcomes all of his new and returning clients to the "next level" with astonishing presentations of savory delights and VIP service. Chef Mike prides himself on delivering the utmost hospitable services when it comes to his clients. "The Latin word for hospitality was taken from the Greek word philoxenia, which is literally translated to friend of a stranger", he said. Although Chef Mike's clients are more friend than stranger to him, knowing how to provide great service as well as great food is vital to any lasting hospitality venture.
Chef Mike also prides himself on being knowledgeable in the art of international cuisine, a plate for anyone's palate. He said, "Early in my career, I always felt that to be a chef in the true sense, you had to truly know and understand world cuisine. So if you're from Mumbai, I have a Vegetable Curry to make you cry. If you're from Bangkok, I have a Panang Curry to make you dance, ut if you're from around the block, trust that I will have a pot of greens on deck with the smoked Turkey Necks, Fried Catfish and Yams." His most recent crowd favorite at many functions, prior to Covid-19 had been his Chili Garlic Chicken Wings.
If Chef Mike wasn't serving up Panang Curry, Turkey Necks, or his famous Chili Garlic Chicken Wings, he'd probably be in media broadcasting. However, since he's not, Chef Mike continues to do what brings him utter joy and happiness.
"I've always felt that one of the most loving and gratifying things you can do is prepare a meal, with your hands, heart, and soul. Our earliest food memories are almost always of our mothers feeding us, our first examples of love"
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