New York, NY – From the high rises of Lower Manhattan to the Boroughs of North Philly, the pleasantry of great herbs and spices linger in the mist like a summers breeze. Today, we follow that lingering aroma to the kitchen of one of the most influential celebrity chefs on the Eastern Seaboard, “Mrs. Shawnae Dixon”. Mrs. Dixon, whom we will refer to by her trade name (SayGrace) wears many hats; Wife, Mother, beloved Daughter, but, it’s her anointing of culinary mastery that maturate in the delight of the masses. An amazing chef? Yes! To know her is to love her; however, to know her grind gives elevated significance to each signature dish she prepares. Today we will attempt to unravel the unapologetic passion that compliments SayGrace God given gift.
To be exact, it was at an early age that SayGrace stumbled upon her passion. Her father, ran a youth basketball league in Staten Island which provided the platform. From there, it soon became apparent that was all the sunlight Shawnae Dixon needed to churn a penny profit into an enterprise. From a need came the opportunity of supply meets demand providing players and spectators alike with concession type foods; hamburgers, hotdogs, etc. Not only did Shawnae excel, but surprisingly the preparation and love exerted resulted in a signature touch, which later became the motto behind the brand,Say Grace.
Celebrity Chef: Humble Beginnings
What makes a great dish? Some would say it’s in the art of the cuisine, while others would argue it’s in the preparation and delivery. However, SayGrace would agree with both of the above assumptions but would put emphasis on the love of culinary that must derive from within to create great dishes. For this main reason, it’s a contemporary approach that affords SayGrace the ability to grow from a ground roots standpoint, while keeping her pulse on the taste and desires of the masses. Cookbooks, talk shows, and restaurants are all in the cards for SayGrace; however, it’s by Faith that ensures her those things will come in due time. As for now, the good old fashion method of word of mouth has organically propelled SayGrace into the conversation of the great chefs sought by celebrity clients.
So how does one become a Celebrity Chef?
To be called to a post or position is a great honor. In the culinary field, the title of Celebrity Chef has become a covenant of sorts, much as that of a four star general or perhaps a doctor. Ask yourself, “what distinguishes a doctor or a general in the capacity of their respective professions?” One would have to conclude the decisive factor has to be they are both an authority in their field. The same could be said of a celebrity Chef. Contrary to belief, the title comes by ways entrusted to those with a passion that outweighs obstacles. Many love what they do, however, a calling into the desires of the heart must be met with an undeniable exertion of sheer will. So to place the correct question in the right context would be to ask, how a woman with a Bachelor’s and two Master’s degree in education transformed from teaching children with disabilities to running the kitchens of the power elites? The answer is simple; by fate, Mrs. Dixon found her purpose! It’s a purpose-driven passion confirmed by faith that leads the way to a powerful testimony that from conception to “Say Grace”, shall we eat?
The year was 2012, newly married and 10 years into a fulfilling career, Shawnae seemed to be living the ideal life. Little did she know that her life as a teacher would be flipped upside down. Sometimes God has to shake up your circumstances for you to find your purpose. The shakeup in Shawnae’s life came in the form of Super Storm Sandy. Hurricane Sandy was one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season causing nearly $75 billion in damage and claiming 233 lives. Through God Grace, the storm passed over the Dixon family without physical harm; however, it left the family homeless for thirteen months. It was at this juncture that Shawnae made a breakthrough by way of adversity. Blessed with a new home and a newly born child, it was suggested by her husband Jason that Shawnae stay at home and take care of the children. It was at this juncture that Jason provided his entire paycheck and told Shawnae to make her dream a reality. The Rest is History
In 2014, the in-house operation gave birth to a small catering business (SayGrace), which to even her surprise, outgrew its expectations. Can you say cup runneth over? The garnered success and savory aroma from the SayGrace brand eventually lead to Shawnae being asked to debut her holiday savory cupcakes treats on Fox Network in the Philadelphia area. From the Fox Network, SayGrace has gone on to film with the Food Network, catered to the stars, and has become a permanent fixture on New York City radio stations. She is a welcomed caterer and private chef to Power 105.1FM, Hot 97.1FM, WBLS, DTF Radio, Break N Chainz Radio 91.3FM (Philadelphia), Jack Thriller’s Internet LIVE Podcast, Wazzup Media Group, Charlamagne tha God, TT Torrez, Angie Martinez (Queen of NY/Hip Hop), DJ Self, DJ Clue, Maino, and so many others.
What makes SayGrace a sure shot with celebrity guest and industry elites?Today’s typical celebrity chef /caterer follow a format that results in providing cookery advice and demonstrations via mass media. Although that would hold true for the most part, Shawnae takes pride in what has built her clientele from day one! The good old recipe of word of mouth! Since the early 19th century, the demand for chefs with impeccable dishes has been desired by the modest of elites to even perhaps royalty. The misconception that a great meal has to cost an arm and a leg is a strong point Shawnae adamantly defends as she drives to provide wholesome food that brings value. As a matter of fact, it’s the core principle of providing elevated dishes on a budget that has brought the attention of celebrities. SayGrace was developed not just to cater to the celebrity crowd, but from a premise that teaching people the importance of kitchen safety, the pros of going organic, and as a ministry to provide nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. Those very principles have sustained SayGrace as the forefront of her “business plan.”
Mrs. Dixon coordinates several yearly ministry events preparing wholesome foods to serve the community free of charge. She wishes everyone who is fed to experience the taste of “home on Sunday.” SayGrace dedication to the development of Staten Island through her community efforts has fostered great relationships with, Senator Diane Savino and Councilwoman Debi Rose from the Mayor’s office. She believes that there should be no gaps in building an empire; and understandably so, Shawnae continuously shows her commitment to bridging the gap by holding cooking instructions for children and adults in order to broaden professional platform and versatility.
Shawnae Dixon (SayGrace) Legacy Implications
With signature dishes from baked macaroni and cheese, soulful fried chicken, to her delicious oreo cornbread, it’s a glare of elegance that accompanies the taste that has become desired my many. In the past 15 years, African Americans have just begun to receive the notoriety and credit for the contributions to the American food culture. Dating back hundreds of years ago when many African American women were either slaves or maidservant, the recipes’ and labor of their culinary skills were shifted or ignored in the face of racism and bigotry. Recently award-winning food journalist Toni Tipton-Martin wrote about the topic in her new book, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks. The book presents a perspective and even a platform that encourages women of color such as Shawnae Dixon to pursue such entrepreneurial endeavors such as SayGrace. In the 1800’s the saying if you own Sally, you own her recipe reminds us of the narrative that reflects the lost art of the culinary influence black women possess in our culture. Since Melinda Russell published the first African American cookbook in 1855, it’s been pioneers such as Mrs. Dixon whose recipes have inspired the way we prepare food today.
Work cited from Thisis50.com