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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Alejandre Richards: The Girl Behind The Tie

Jul 31, 2023 09:01AM ● By Suzie Agrillo
Alejandre Richards is a multifaceted local celebrity. She is a chef, a media consultant, an entrepreneur and an author of seven cookbooks. The owner of The Tie Kitchen, she embraces a love of food, a keen eye for creativity and a commitment to cooking well.
Richards finds cooking soothing, and an outlet to express herself through the love of food and sharing it with her friends. Her philosophy about food is that it can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating.
In addition to catering, The Tie Kitchen offers a “Cooking with Friends Experience”, in which five to 10 friends can create delicious dishes as well as fond memories together. In this interactive experience, you’ll laugh and learn alongside your BFFs while sipping wine. If you have a passion for food, this class gives you the opportunity to discover how fun and rewarding it can be to share that hunger with friends.

Q & A with Chef Alejandre Richards

Where did you grow up and when did you move to Tucson?
I grew up mostly on the Caribbean Island of Barbados, since that is where my lineage lies, but I have spent a lot of time in foreign countries before I headed home to the United States. I moved to Tucson on November 9, 2009.

When did you decide to become a chef?
Becoming a chef turned out to be a necessity. I started out my journey just wanting to learn new things, to explore. I have owned a marketing company, Matrix Media Consulting Group, for 30-plus years now, but when the pandemic started the world changed overnight. The only entity marketing anything was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I had to pivot, and fast.

I rebranded and opened The Tie Kitchen, utilizing my cooking and marketing skills. I wrote seven cookbooks in three years and became one of the most popular and sought-after personal chefs in Tucson.

What is your signature dish? What do people love about it?
Although I am well versed in many genres from around the world, believe it or not, my favorite dish to make is Mac ‘n Cheese. Why? It’s simple. It reminds me of home. What does everyone love about it? It is made in a way that you’ve never had before, and yet it’s like coming home after a long time away and feeling like you never left.

What is your cooking philosophy?
My cooking philosophy is “Cooking with Love”. There is nothing more pleasing than putting your heart into a dish and watching the recipient enjoy it to the max.
Name a cooking tool/gadget without which you can’t live.

Everyone must, and I repeat must, have a can of air. It will clean every crease and crevice you never knew existed.

What was the genesis for opening The Tie Kitchen?
Truth be told, the kitchen makes me feel close to my mom. She was my role model. I’ve watched my mom make these recipes a thousand times, and not once did I ever see her take a measurement. I have the best childhood memories, especially of the Christmas holidays. Cooking, baking, spending time with family and listening to calypso and reggae. The entire street was practically family, which made things quite interesting. The house was a hub, and everyone would visit. You could hear the kids in the street, the men under the streetlights playing dominos and drinking rum. Christmas service at 4 a.m. with traditional hymns followed by more food than we could eat. Definitely my favorite time of the year and some of the fonder memories of my mom. She would be so proud.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Personally, I just love a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs. You simply can’t go wrong.

As a caterer, what food and drinks are trending now?
Trends are determined by a number of things, e.g. time, place, people, influencers, so it might vary. In my world, charcuterie boards are all the rage. As a personal chef, I need the space to create, so nine out of 10 of my clients will give me the latitude to do so. They choose the region of the world they would like to explore, and I surprise and delight their palates.

Can you give us an example of a menu you’ve created for a dinner party?
Hors d’oeuvres: Caprese Sticks Drizzled with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Starter: Carrot Ginger Soup
Entrée: Tuscan Chicken over Linguine
Dessert: Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake

What was your inspiration to start a community garden?
Three years ago, when we were on the cusp of the global pandemic, I asked if the collective was prepared for major catastrophe. Folks laughed, they told me I was fear mongering, yet here we are.
I purchased a few plants and started a community garden. Things were extremely cheap then, so it was good timing. I grew as much as I could. I didn’t know where this was all going, but if you were in need and lived in my area, this would be your garden as well. If there were older adults who needed meals, I harvested the garden and cooked for them.
Since I was using my own money when I started, I figured that as big as my online following was, surely, I could ask them for help, right? Well, I was right and in our first campaign we raised $5,000 to expand the garden. The garden is now almost 4 years old, and it is still funded every season by my online community. Once a month we harvest and create meals, delivering them to seniors in their homes.

If you could invite anyone to dinner at your house, someone living or deceased, who would get the invite and why?
I would invite my mom to dinner. She passed over 30 years ago. She is the reason for who I am and who I strive to be.

What’s on the menu?
Cou Cou and Flying Fish. It’s a Caribbean recipe and something that she herself always loved to make.

What would you discuss?
There are so many things that I would love to tell her that I never got to simply because I always thought I would have more time. Not to mention, she would totally get a kick out of the idea of me cooking. She would be surprised and happy in a good way. Makes me smile!

Is there a dress code?
No dress code needed. She would always say, “You are welcome at my table. Just come as you are.”

What advice do you have for someone who wants to host a memorable dinner party?
Don’t try to do it all yourself. Hire someone. If you want to impress your guests, spend all of your time with them. Tell stories and more importantly, listen to theirs.

What are some of the things you are most thankful for in your life?
Most importantly, I am thankful for my wife, who is the driving force in my life. I am thankful that I have been given the inspiration and ingenuity to serve. I am thankful to the people who surround me. They support and encourage me in everything I do.
I’d like to thank the community of Tucson for keeping me uplifted and busy, by ordering as well as recommending my services Also, for all of the media coverage which has led to so many accolades and to my success.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
“Never trust a skinny cook.”

Hatch Pineapple Salsa

Cilantro, chiles and pineapple make this salsa a barbecue staple. Top all your barbecue favorites with this sweet and spicy chili-pineapple salsa.

1 ½ C fresh pineapple chunks
2 (4-oz) cans Hatch chiles, diced
¼ C red onion, finely chopped
¼ C fresh cilantro
1 to 2 seeded Fresno chiles
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Toss together pineapple, Hatch chiles, red onion, fresh cilantro, Fresno chiles and lime juice. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve on grilled hot dogs with cooked bacon and melted pepper jack cheese.

Connect with Alejandre Richards and The Tie Kitchen at 520-348-5420 or Follow The Tie Kitchen on all platforms @TheTieKitchen.

Suzie Agrillo is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine. She focuses on writing about the arts, inspirational people and the human connection. Connect at [email protected].