How Nyesha Arrington's Family Inspires Her Cooking

Chef Nyesha Arrington is a lot of things, but "bug enthusiast" is not one of them. She made it clear in a recent interview with Mashed that while she has, in fact, eaten cricket before, she's not in a hurry to get more bugs onto her plate anytime soon. But Arrington, like many professional chefs seeking longevity and success in the food industry, is enthusiastic about sustainability, and as such remains open to all conversations that involve keeping restaurants – and the people who love them and work in them – going strong. Even if those conversations are about bugs as a sustainable protein source.

Perhaps a more palatable path to sustainability for Arrington is another one of her passions: mentorship. In fact, when the producers of "Next Level Chef" reached out to Arrington to ask what drives her, it was her response that ultimately earned her a spot on the show, judging plates alongside Gordon Ramsay. "Mentorship, mentorship, young minds, continuing to water the soil," Arrington told Mashed. "For me, that's a no-brainer." It might be because Arrington herself was mentored by some very talented, recognizable names (Joël Robuchon, Anthony Bourdain, and Padma Lakshmi, to name a few). Or, it could be because the most important chef in Arrington's life – her grandmother – was there to mentor her at the very beginning.

Arrington has a culinary tapestry woven with many threads

Born in Southern California, Arrington attributes her love of cooking to her early days in the kitchen with her Korean grandmother (via And she credits the eclectic palate she enjoys today to the diverse foods that were introduced to her back then; things like octopus, homemade kimchi, and bulgogi. "My grandmother is no longer on this planet in a physical form," Arrington explains on Kalamata's Kitchen, "but it's important and exciting to get to share those memories, and also to be able to look back and say that her food instilled a passion in me. I think it's because it lit the fire in my soul of understanding culture. Not just my culture and heritage, but of all people."

And the melting pot culture of America has many ingredients. "There are other matriarchal figures in my family," Arrington told Zagat. And she credits all of them for shaping who she is as a chef. She went on to reveal that while her dad may have been known for his filé gumbo, it was her aunts who orchestrated Thanksgiving, bringing mac and cheese, collard greens, and "bomb-a**" potato salad to the table. And learning about her father's grandmother, who worked as a chef in Beverly Hills for the family of a famous oil tycoon, was inspiring and impactful for Arrington. "She was an angel person who cooked for everyone," the chef explained, adding that it "gives my life a lot of meaning and purpose."