In honor of Black History Month the “Celebrating Our People” series will be showcasing a few of Proof of the Pudding’s talented Black American chefs and managers and their contribution to the culinary industry. We are dedicated to sharing their personal journeys through the world of food. Join us in celebrating the outstanding contributions of these black hospitality and culinary POPstars!
Photo: Chef Hakeem Ruffin and Hakeem’s beloved late sister Robin Salaam.
HAKEEM “Dardo” RUFFIN
POP: Chef Ruffin, thank you for taking time to chat with us and share your experiences during this special month. To start, what have been the adversities you faced when you began your career as a chef?
CHEF RUFFIN: Being an African American in a mostly Caucasian dominated field.
POP: How did the adversities affect your career?
CHEF RUFFIN: It made me work harder and to prove to everyone that I belonged there.
POP: What has been your motivation for staying in the industry?
CHEF RUFFIN: The motivation is the LUV not the Love but the LUV…!! As a chef, you can’t say “I like my job,” you have to LUV it!! This career. And of course that smile you see from a client because it was down right.
POP: What do you love about working at Proof?
CHEF RUFFIN: Proof of the Pudding has allowed me to showcase my talent– and has given me the opportunity that most catering companies wouldn’t. Plus the growth of the company is unMATCHED!
POP: How long have you been with POP?
CHEF RUFFIN: Let’s see, I have been with this company on and off for about 12 years.
POP: When not cooking for others, what’s your favorite dish to cook at home?
CHEF RUFFIN: To be honest, really there is no favorite dish to cook because anything I cook is my favorite. LOL! And most chef after a grueling week would love for someone else to cook for them.
POP: When eating out what is your favorite restaurant?
CHEF RUFFIN: I enjoy a restaurant called Hook n Sknoor – it’s a seafood restaurant in my neighborhood.
POP: Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
CHEF RUFFIN: My dear Aunt Leana was my biggest inspiration. She would make these deviled eggs that where absolutely to die for…!!
POP: What dish or ingredient best represents you and your culture?
CHEF RUFFIN: My favorite dish is Braised Beef Short Ribs made with White Truffle Oil. Of course ribs (beef or pork) would represent my culture but I like to add fresh ingredients like herbs and garlic when I’m cooking. I think we have gotten away from the freshness to the quickness. My ribs are cooked with:
1 cup of roughed chopped carrots
1 cup of roughed chopped celery
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup of red wine for deglazing and sipping..!! Lol
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme and Rosemary
Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
2 cups of Demi glaze or beef base
2 pounds of beef short ribs