Meet Phi Beta Sigma’s Top Chef Jeffrey Morneau
By Tanay Hudson
Sigma frater Jeffrey Morneau defeats the stereotype of men in the kitchen being an anomaly. The 28-year-old is the head chef-in-charge of his own
catering business, Chef Jeff Catering, where he prepares delectable desserts and enticing entrees for patrons to devour. He has been called on by celebrities like Chef Roble, Rashidah Ali of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop, Pepa of Salt-N-Pepa, and most recently by singer Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert of the Cleveland Cavaliers to bake a three-tiered red velvet cake for their baby shower.
Like Morneau’s smile, his menu is charming with dishes like Jambalaya, Macaroni and Cheese, South Beach Shrimp and Grits, Blue Velvet Waffles, and Vanilla Caramel Hennessy Cake.
The Brooklyn-born-Queens-raised culinarian has been steaming and searing Haitian specialties and other dishes ever since he can remember under his mother and aunt’s wing, so it was only right that he start his own catering business in 2007.
Morneau wasn’t always the boss though. He took on jobs that still allowed him to whip and whisk, but they fell short of his dream. While working at John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, New York in food service, he began to cater orders on the side. He knew his way around the kitchen, but had a hard time with the business side of things, like putting in orders for utensils and needed catering tools.
“I had to start from scratch,” said the York College graduate. “I really didn’t have any guidance. I just took my chance and went for it.” Business also wasn’t booming right away though, which almost deterred him. “I felt discouraged when business wasn’t heading in the right direction. I couldn’t support myself, so I began to look for work in other fields.”
But he had become weary of being just an employee. “I realized working for someone else isn’t for everyone. I was born very independent and I didn’t take reproach and direction well.”
While attending York College, he decided to take on Chef Jeff Catering full-time and began serving scrumptiousness for college events around New York City. Once word traveled through the collegiate circuit that Morneau was the go-to man for tantalizing tastings, the orders poured in.
Morneau’s best friend of 15 years, Tasia McLeod, knew he would flourish as a CEO. “When he worked in an office setting he would always finish his work early and get bored,” said McLeod. “So you could tell by his drive that he needed to work for himself.”
His cookery was a hit, but he still needed some assistance. Fellow Sigma Abdul Karim Abdullah was impressed with Morneau and wanted to make sure he met and exceeded his potential, so he began to mentor him on how to improve customer service and facilitate business deals.
“At the time he knew he had the talent but he didn’t know what he could do with it,” he said. “I let him know I believed in him and kept supporting him with ideas and different opportunities.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Chef Jeff’s been living his dream for almost a decade and has no plans in leaving the kitchen. He has even kicked off his own brunch series and developed an annual Valentine’s Day cooking class in 2015 for baes who bake and braise together.
As of one New York City’s rising chefs, Morneau will continue to blend the ingredients of success that will propel him to his pinnacle.