James Robinson is taking healthy food experiences on the road. Known as “Chef JR,” Robinson is the founder of KitchenCray, an innovative catering and event company that takes five-star dining experiences and recreates them to cater to its clients’ lifestyles.
“This means that one day we might do a pop-up kitchen for a celebrity event,” Robinson said. “The next day, we might take over a shelter and feed hundreds of homeless people. Or we might go into the community to teach parents to cook healthy meals for their families.”
It’s all part of KitchenCray’s total commitment to the community. The company’s initiatives include the Community Chef Experience, which connects KitchenCray with various organizations to help feed the homeless. Its culinary arts program for children, called KitchenCray Kids, not only teaches youth about healthy eating, but also inspires them to pursue their passions.
“These initiatives are close to my heart. When I was young, I spent time without a home, living out of my car,” Robinson said. “So one of the first things I did when I had the means was to cook at a shelter for the homeless.”
He began cooking at age 11, inspired by the talents of the grandmother who raised him and his six siblings. This joy for cooking led him to culinary school. After much professional success, he became a popular contestant on the cooking competition show Hell’s Kitchen.
“When I was young, I had to inspire myself. I had to learn how to work on my own without the support of others. That’s why I want to be the one who shows support for others today,” he said.
One of KitchenCray’s goals is to change how the world views the chef profession – to bring chefs out of the kitchen and put them at the center of the culinary experience. “I started a catering company instead of a restaurant so that I could have the flexibility and the power to show the community love,” Robinson said. “Because in order to build healthy communities, you need to build a healthy relationship with the community.”
James Robinson is a professional chef, entrepreneur and advocate for culinary education for youth and families.
As a professional chef, Mr. Robinson has found success in upscale dining. He has held positions at many notable Washington, D.C.-area restaurants, including the Ritz Carlton and Blue Duck Tavern; and has held sous chef and executive chef positions at the St. Gregory Hotel; Washington Marriott International; The United States Department of Energy; and Indulj, a historic D.C. restaurant. This diverse background has helped him cultivate a unique culinary expertise that includes Thai, Mediterranean, Caribbean and American cuisine.
Mr. Robinson’s commitment to making five-star dining an accessible, personal experience led him to found KitchenCray, a company that provides private dining experiences; and leads classes and events in partnership with schools, nonprofits, shelters, and other youth- and family-centric organizations.
The organization allows Mr. Robinson to focus on his passion for utilizing his craft to teach underprivileged youth about healthy eating and raise their awareness about a career in the culinary arts. Through special KitchenCray initiatives, Mr. Robinson and his team share their love of cooking with children and teach parents how to prepare healthy meals.
Mr. Robinson graduated summa cum laude from Monroe College in Bronx, New York, with a degree in culinary arts. Learn more at kitchencray.com.