A nostalgic jambalaya recipe by Virtue Chef and Top Chef Contestant Damar Brown – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Damar Browns top chef The journey began when a producer on the show contacted him on Instagram and encouraged him to apply.

“To be honest, at first I wasn’t even sure if it was real,” says Brown, chef de cuisine at Virtue in Hyde Park.

He wasn’t sure if that’s what he really wanted, but he spoke to his mentor, longtime collaborator and owner of the Virtue, Chef Erick Williams. Williams convinced him to take the opportunity, Brown said, and his application was accepted.

Brown has made it well into season 19, which ended on June 2 this year — just one episode short of the finale. He said he enjoyed the experience, calling it “an incubator for rapid creative growth.” Brown was even voted the “fan favorite” of the season. That was a confirmation for him.

“A lot of people told me to smile more and be more excited and talk more. I’m not the most talkative person … and traditionally that doesn’t make for good TV,” says Brown. “But I couldn’t really help but just be myself, and I think that resonated with a lot of people.”

before his top chef Success Brown had years of experience in the restaurant business in Chicago. Originally from the southern suburb of Harvey, Brown began cooking as a child, around the age of 7 or 8. all the house smelled and lasted long.”

“I grew up with a single mother. My grandmother was in the house and I was an only child,” says Brown. “Well, I think they had me in the kitchen to avoid trouble and to keep an eye on me. But at some point I realized that it doesn’t bother me that much.”

Brown says that while he was learning to cook and watching his grandmother wash collards or cook beans a certain way, he really learned about the story.

“I was taught about southern flavors,” he says. “Things that I found delicious, or find delicious today, are actually flavors and ingredients that people ate because that was available to them … That’s all this relative space of why we do things the way we’ve done things, and.” why we do things we do things that i think are fun to connect these dots and search these timelines.

After going to culinary school, Brown had to figure out his next steps.

“Honestly, I wanted to work for a chef who resembled me,” says Brown. “I didn’t have a lot of options back then. Happily, [former River North restaurant] mk was very close to the school and i knocked on the back door, the sous chef opened and i saw chef williams.”

Brown worked under Williams for seven years, and eventually the two reunited to open Virtue, a South American restaurant. The representation that was important to Brown in his early days in the industry they brought to Virtue. The majority of Virtue employees are black.

“We’re hiring within the community, and I don’t think there are a lot of high-end restaurants on the South Side. I think the people of Chicago are still divided because of redlining,” Brown says. “I think if you’re a young black chef and you look in the windows of all these high-end restaurants, you don’t see a lot of yourself, which for you can mean maybe you’re not as welcome there, maybe you fit.” not in there, whether that is the case or not.”

Brown hopes his work will help combat this idea and show aspiring young black chefs that high-end kitchens can be a place for them.

“I find [Virtue] is one of the few restaurants like this in Chicago, and I hope we continue to build on that to transform the look and feel of some of these restaurants,” he says.

At Virtue, Brown says he and his staff work to create a dining experience that is “creative in flavors you wouldn’t necessarily expect.”

“There’s something for the adventurous eater or for people who like to eat more fully and cleanly,” he says. “It’s all very intentional, very warm, very nostalgic flavors.”

Nostalgia is a factor in the chicken and andouille jambalaya recipe that Brown shared with WTTW Food. (See below.)

“When I was a kid, my mom used to make jambalaya. And of course it was the boxed version of Zataran,” says Brown. “I remember how that smelled or what the box looks like. So playing that out in my head makes me happy.”

Brown says he has long experimented with jambalaya ratios. It’s always a dish good for entertaining, like at parties or a pot luck, he adds, because it’s easy to make ahead of time and can sit for a while without the flavors changing. It’s also good for a busy cook.

“I’m also really into stews,” Brown says. “I really don’t want to wash a bunch of dishes, so I put a lot of effort into thinking about how to do it all in one pot.”

Executive Chef Damar Brown, Virtue Restaurant & Bar


4 cups medium diced andouille sausage
4 cups finely diced onion
2 ounces of butter
2 cups finely diced celery
2 cups diced green peppers
1/2 cup chopped Fresno peppers
1/2 cup minced garlic
4 cups rinsed brown rice
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cups medium diced chicken thighs tossed in Cajun seasoning
8 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp of your favorite Cajun seasoning
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Louisiana Brand Hot Sauce
2 bay leaves


1. Cook the andouille in a 6 liter saucepan until all the fat comes out. Remove the andouille and add the onions and butter to the remaining fat and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are deeply caramelized, about an hour.

2. Once onions are caramelized, add celery, green peppers, Fresno peppers, and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant.

3. Add rinsed rice and tomato paste to saucepan and toast over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

4. Add the diced chicken, previously cooked andouille, broth, spices, hot sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer until liquid is almost completely evaporated and absorbed, about 30-35 minutes.

5. Once almost all of the liquid has been used, taste the rice. Adjust salt and spices to taste. When the rice is just done, place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and turn off the heat. Leave to rest for 10 minutes. After it rests, you should have delicious jambalaya!

Note: Just before you add your lid, when you taste the rice when done, check your seasonings as well. You may want to add more salt or spices. Do this before the lid pops open.

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