Chef Antwon Brinson recently participated in the HBO Max Series The Big Brunch featuring Dan Levy. Where is Antwon Brinson now? Below, check out his story and mission to empower people & build community in the kitchen!
I was born in the small town of Niagara Falls, New York. I had the good fortune of growing up in a household fueled by pure passion. My mother was a dedicated foster parent who raised over 250 kids. Reflecting on my childhood, my mother’s love and passion-based drive taught me the importance of self-initiative and pursuing one’s dreams. And, even at an early age I knew I wanted to do something that would have a positive impact in our world. I just lacked the experience and spark to help shed light on the best path forward for me. Thanks to a supportive high school cooking instructor who helped me build skills and self-confidence, I developed a love for the culinary arts and for the connections that were built in the kitchen.
Upon graduating from high school, I wanted to expand my occupational skills and pursue a formal education in the culinary arts. In 2001, I began my professional training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. In 2006, I enrolled in a rigorous three-year apprenticeship program under several Master Chef’s at the legendary Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. One of my greatest achievements at Greenbrier was managing the resort’s 44-acre farm production kitchen where I was fortunate to learn, inspire, and be inspired by so many wonderful and skilled people. I was also fortunate to be the first apprentice to ever launch a new restaurant concept at the legendary resort within a year of completing the program.
In the years following my tenure at the Greenbrier, the lens through which I learned about food, cultures, and communities expanded greatly. I spent years working at prestigious restaurants like the St. Regis in Kauai, Hawaii and the Westin in Palm Springs California. I also spent time traveling and cooking throughout the British and US Virgin Islands and in 8 different counties. These immersive experiences provided exposure to a broad array of cuisines and cultures.
By the time my family and I moved to Charlottesville Virginia in 2016, I had successfully built a career in the culinary arts. Along the way, I also found great fulfillment in building teams, teaching, and inspiring others. So, I was excited to help launch a new concept in Charlottesville and looked forward to building a team from scratch. However, I soon realized that finding skilled staff was going to be a much larger challenge than I anticipated. Few job applicants had either the occupational skills and softer “life” skills, let alone both.
I have a slogan that I often share with others – it is “reach one, teach one.” Put another way, to teach somebody, you must first reach them physically and emotionally. With “reach one, teach one” as a guiding principle and recognizing a huge need for a skilled workforce in the hospitality industry, I founded Culinary Concepts AB in March 2018 to create a mission-based business that empowers people and cultivates individuals’ passions and abilities by teaching life skills through culinary arts.
Since founding Culinary Concepts AB, I have worked with public and private organizations to develop custom and inclusive programs that leverage the culinary arts to teach both occupational and life-changing soft skills. Our partners range from hospitals and private schools to municipalities and criminal justice systems. To date, we have the honor of helping over 100 students learn important both soft and occupational skills as well as set long-term career goals. Importantly, we helped place many of our students into new jobs with our employer partners.
In November 2022, Antwon was one of 10 chefs featured in the HBO Max series called The Big Brunch (#TheBigBrunch) featuring Dan Levy. Levy serves as judge along with Sohla El-Waylly and Will Guidara. The series’ eight-episode first season pits 10 chefs against each other for a cash prize of $300,000.
There is a Einstein quote that states…“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts can not necessarily be counted.” This quote aligns with my personal mission to continue to inspire students across the country to pursue their dreams. I pursue this dream through Culinary Concepts AB where our mission is to “empower people and build communities in the kitchen.” Beyond Culinary Concepts AB, I devote personal time to supporting local organizations through board, committee and advisory roles. And, I love mentoring high school students who are looking for career pathways in the food and beverage space.
I currently reside in beautiful Charlottesville, VA, with my wife and three boys. And, I love spending time with my family and friends, especially in the kitchen!
NONPROFIT AND VOLUNTEER WORK
My passion for helping others is something that is echoed across the nation with most non-profits. I invest my time giving back with different non-profits to educate and motivate all people.
Currently, I serve on the following non-profit boards and/or Committees:
Piedmont Workforce Network
Charlottesville Area Community Foundation
Black Professional Network
CATEC Community College
Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center