Chef Carlos Swepson on Crafted American Soul
Crafted American Soul is exactly what New Jersey-bred executive chef and owner Carlos Swepson embodies in his life as well as the delicious food at Harlem’s newest revitalized restaurant BLVD Bistro.
Authentic sweet tea, fresh, flaky biscuits and a soulful playlist accompanies the warm feeling of the historic brownstone it lies within. Think Sunday dinner at your grandmother’ table surrounded by love and tons of family
A fusion of Creole, Southern and classic French cooking as well as rich Mississippi roots, the chef has an astonishing 20-plus years in the industry including a prestigious internship under Jean-Georges Vongerichten, The Fitzpartick and SoHo House before forming his successful catering company.
Armed with a prestigious Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management degree from The Art Institute of New York, this experienced entrepreneur shares with us his earliest food moments, greatest influences, how he plans to take Harlem by storm and much more.
Here’s what we learned:
On His Love of Food:
“I started cooking around the age of 5 or 6 and my first books were French cookbooks purchased by my mother. Food mends the connection..when you feed people it’s a connection, a moment and that is something special. It goes beyond food-when you actually think about it.”
On His Culinary Influences:
“I was influenced by a slew of industry greats including Chef Patrick Clark, Chef Philip as well as Chef Augie Saucedo. Clark was the first black celebrity chef while at the helm of the famed Tavern on the Green. This man was responsible for pop-up restaurants in TrBeCa and collaborating with Basquiat and Fab Five Freddy. This was before anyone was even thinking of such ideas.”
On Crafted American Soul:
“Crafted American Soul Food is the same as American food! The idea of using the best ingredients for simple items to create recognizable foods is amazing. Soul food, comfort food has a nostalgic feeling and I am looking to bring back those moments of yesterday.”
On Settling in Harlem:
“It was between two cities: Newark and Harlem. These two Black cities embody the concept I was aiming to achieve. Harlem is such a true Black city and I knew it had to be in a place where people love you. It had to be in a location where people got it!”
On the Importance of Black Chefs:
“We created American cooking! After slavery, outside of the French culture, all of the chefs were Black and it was not a glamorized job. We fed America and always serviced the most important people in the country. So now you look at the field and most African-Americans, at one time, did not feel it was a promising career. So we are just realizing the importance of this field and that being a chef can actually afford one to lead a great lifestyle.”
On What’s Next:
“Franchise in the next five years! I am currently figuring out how to duplicate what we have already established here in Harlem. Growing inside the community and hopefully we will produce a Sweet Pies-esque chain of BLVD Bistros.”
Blvd Bistro Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
4 cups plus 1/2 cup White Lily Self-Rising Flour
1/2 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter
2 cups of buttermilk
1. Preheat your oven 450F.
2. Combine the dry in a bowl.
3. Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour until it resembles course meal,
4. Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined
5. If it appears dry, add a bit more buttermilk. It should be very wet
6. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. This is where you use the 1/2 cup White Lily Self-Rising Flour.
7. Gently, gently pat ( do not roll with a rolling pin) until it’s about 1/2″ thick. Fold the dough about 5 times before gently press the dough down to 1 inch thick
8. Use a round cutter to cut into rounds
9. Place the biscuits onto an ungreased cookie sheet
10. Bake for 10 minutes. DO NOT over bake
Serve hot with your favorite butters, jams or syrup.
To learn more about Chef Carlos Swepson and to visit BLVD Bistro, please visit www.boulevardbistrony.com or at 239 Lenox Avenue at 122nd St, Harlem, NYC.
About Tyrus Townsend
Cultural expositor Tyrus Rochell Townsend has written for Essence, Uptown, Vibe, BET.com, The Atlanta Post, Bleu Magazine, Details Style Network and numerous other publications. Read about his style musings at The Gentleman’s Daily and follow him on Twitter @gentlemansdaily and on Instagram at @tyrusrochelltownsend and @thegentlemansdaily.