A big serving of success: Culinary arts grad turns passion into a career

Chef Sultan KarriemTCC Culinary Arts graduate Sultan Karriem owns a thriving catering business, serving up healthy and great-tasting food to people across the Metroplex. But his passion for cooking started when he was much… shorter.
 
“My mother and grandmother introduced me to the kitchen when I was young, and they couldn’t stop me from asking questions and requesting samples,” Karriem says. “My mother said I could start cooking as soon as I could reach the stove. And I did.”
 
Once Karriem started cooking, he never stopped. He discovered that he had a natural talent for preparing meals from scratch and creating his own recipes. By age nine, he was making nightly dinners for his family. When he was old enough to get a job, Karriem worked in high-end restaurants. To make a career out of cooking, however, he knew he needed to continue his education.
 
“TCC elevated my skills in the kitchen. I learned trends in culinary arts, how to purchase products and what it would take to turn my enthusiasm for cooking into a living,” explains Karriem. “I trained under instructors with real-life experience and practical knowledge. TCC was the polish I needed to excel.”
 
Karriem’s instructors saw his drive and ability from the beginning.
 
“He was ready to learn and always delivered an outstanding product,” says Katrina Warner, coordinator and instructor for Culinary Arts, Hotel and Restaurant Administration. “Chef Karriem is a team player, and his leadership and kitchen skills made him an extraordinary student.”
 
Even before Karriem graduated, catering companies began asking him to prepare and serve his special brand of American comfort cuisine. While the new chef was achieving his goals, his success also presented difficulties.
 
“The main problem was time – finding time to study, work and have a life,” he notes. “I also had to not doubt myself in order to get to the next level.”
 
TCC helped Karriem overcome those challenges. He started his own business in 2011 (with a signature Poblano Chicken known as Karriem’s Chicken) and earned his associate degree the following year.
 
Today Karriem’s Catering is in demand, with a growing customer base that includes his alma mater.
 

Chef Karriem catering

TCC graduate Chef Karriem serving it up during African-American Heritage Month at South Campus.

 

“Whether it’s a small meeting, a multi-day event, or a special guest, we can count on Chef Karriem to provide quality food, with excellent service and presentation,” says Wendy Hammond, executive administrative assistant in the South Campus Office of the President. “It is apparent that he tremendously enjoys what he does.”
 
The fact that he is a TCC graduate is a great bonus, according to the offices that hire him. “Chef Karriem counted on TCC for his education, so it’s very fitting that he sees the fruits of his labor right here on campus,” says Maria Alvarado, administrative assistant in Community & Industry Education Services. “Talk about giving back.”
 
Giving back is important to Karriem, whose business has donated thousands of meals for families in need. For his contributions, the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce recognized him as its 2014-15 Businessman of the Year. This month, he will receive the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce’s Quest Award, which honors African-American entrepreneurs.
 
Karriem’s business ventures aren’t limited to catering. He recently shot a pilot for a cooking show and is now in discussions with producers and networks.
 
“For students who are struggling to balance school, work and their personal life, I recommend not focusing on where you are right now. Envision where you want to be in life,” Karriem says. “Keep your eye on your objective, and you’ll get there.”
 
Want to cook like Chef Karriem? Try his recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini.
 
Chef Karriem’s Chicken Tetrazzini
 
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 15 min. Bake: 30 min.
MAKES: 8 servings
Ingredients
• 2 cups sliced mushrooms
• 1/4 cup butter, cubed
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 1/4 cup half-and-half cream
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 3 tablespoons white wine or chicken broth, optional
• 3 cups cubed cooked chicken
• 8 ounces spaghetti, cooked and drained
• 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
 
Nutritional Facts
1 serving (1 cup) equals 258 calories, 13 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 71 mg cholesterol, 763 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 21 g protein.
Directions
1. In a large skillet, cook mushrooms in butter until tender. Stir in flour; gradually add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in the cream, parsley, salt, nutmeg, pepper, and wine if desired. Fold in the chicken and spaghetti.
2. Turn into a greased 3-qt. baking dish; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 8 servings
 
The second in a year-long series celebrating TCC’s 50th anniversary through the lives of its students. Follow the link below, to enjoy the first feature:
 
JANUARY: Erin Casey