Food is the way to many of our hearts, well at least mine, but has cooking ever been a great escape for you? Grabbing random ingredients from all around your panty and refrigerator, then creating a masterpiece strictly based off of a taste you’ve experienced once before… If so, you have something in common with The Culinary Diva himself, Cordell Robinson. Cordell’s upbringing included a single mother and six children, and while she didn’t have much time to cook her quick meals included pb & j and Spam. So he began to watch his aunts as they cooked and asked questions – when he had the opportunity to finally put those tools to use, he did and he continued to progress in fall circumstances. Whether Cordell was in the US Navy when he had one burner to create magic or when he was stationed in Spain testing out unique ingredients and food, he made it work.
Cordell would not stop, with his loving heart and constant desire to give back – he would create his own world of paying it forward with his foundation, Shaping Futures. In this process he would target an unserved area in East Africa, Tanzania to provide items for orphans in need.
Cordell Robinson is an overall gem and we couldn’t wait to find out more about his many ventures in an exclusive interview below.
Your story of discovering your love for culinary art is beautiful, how were you able to take what you were visually learning and apply it?
I was visually learning from watching my aunts and great aunts and figuring out how to conceptualize into dishes. I would taste what I created and make sure it matched that taste from the dishes I had. Though I asked questions about what ingredients, sometimes I would have to use what was on hand since my mom did not have much money to splurge on different seasonings. I think that really helped me be creative with my dishes.
Would you say cooking is a form of release for you? Also, what is your favorite dish to cook in that moment?
Yes, my cooking is a form of release for me. I run a successful cyber security firm and a foundation which occupies a lot of my time and energy but when I get up in the morning the first thing I think about is what am I going to make or even laying in bed at night, ideas for dishes that come to me. My schedule is busy, so time is of the essence. I prepare ahead by starting my day by prepping for dinner or meals for other days and it centers me. I know that I will be making a meal that I conceptualized and it will be delicious because of the love I took time to put into it.
When I am stressed my favorite dish is to make jerk chicken or a lasagna of some variation (regular, eggplant, zucchini, bolognese style, vegetarian, etc). For the jerk chicken, the spices take me back to my Jamaican roots and the heat I put into it gets the endorphins going. For the lasagna, it is like a big food hug, hot, bubbly, comforting, and a taste explosion.
How did your foundation, Shaping Futures Foundation come about?
My foundation Shaping Futures kind of started without me realizing it was something I had a passion for. I have always paid it forward because I am grateful for all of the many blessings. I would do annual toy drives during the holidays, donate money to different organizations, and always there to help when I can. One day I was talking with one of my best friends and she mentioned to me that when she was in East Africa, particularly Tanzania that there was a great need there. I did some research and found out that there is not much of an American presence in as Tanzania, it is mostly in West and South Africa. I have a pioneer spirit and felt that I can make some great strides to help orphans in that region, so I started the Shaping Futures Foundation. My goal at first was to collect donations and send to different orphanages, but then I started to really think about the best way to make strides and changes for the greater good. I put together a trip to explore Tanzania, asking lots of questions with the intent on building, and opening the first All Girls American School in East Africa, Tanzania Zanzibar. I gathered a lot of data and just so happened I was able to meet the President of Zanzibar who is in full support of my vision and efforts which was another sign that this was meant to be.
In what ways have you been able to spread the word about your foundation and continue to make strides in Tanzania?
I have been able to spread the word about my foundation through my website, my publicist Tara Thomas, social media, and I will be releasing a mini documentary on my initial trip to Tanzania to give a visual of the beauty of the country but also the systemic issues.
How has the impact of Shaping Futures Foundation been so far?
Shaping Futures Foundation has had a great impact thus far as we provided lunch on occasions to caregivers at Howard University Hospital during this current COVID pandemic to show appreciation for their sacrifice, dedication, and hard work during these times while utilizing minority owned restaurants to provide the food. We flew over 270 pounds of donations to Tanzania where we provided clothing and shoes to orphans at orphanages and orphans in a village that other families took in when their parents passed. We were able to present our mission and goal to the President, he was very impressed and gave us the access and leverage to navigate accordingly and get the support (permits, provide employment to locals, etc.) we need to build our school. Shaping Futures Foundation now has a presence and expectation in Zanzibar which I plan on honoring and building a state of the art school to start the path of eradicating poverty.
What can we expect next from you?
A state of the art all girls secondary school and technical training center in Zanzibar once funding is raised. A cooking/culinary show on network TV that shows my amazing skills and going into kitchens around the world and having pointed conversations with chefs about their food. A cookbook that will have a mix of simple recipes that will help those that are not so keen to being in the kitchen and some complex recipes that challenge cooks that like to think outside of the box.
For more information on Cordell:
Images provided by Tara Thomas Agency