So what does a top-tier celebrity chef order when he finally gets a chance to relax and go out for a bite?
"Believe it or not, I love a nice cheeseburger," Chris McLean says. "Everyone laughs when I say this."
McLean is one of a few local chefs buzzing on social media, with his colorful platings of seafood and other culinary faves. But when it comes to his personal food choices for a night on the town, McLean prefers to keep things simple. The Virginia Beach native studied at the Culinary Institute of America and has now amassed more than 16,000 social media followers and cooked for some top stars, including rapper Future, singer Bobby Valentino and MTV's Wild'n Out star Nick Cannon. Inspired by other young black chefs, such as J.R. Robinson, owner of the Washington, D.C. restaurant Kitchen Cray, McLean describes his cooking style as unique and creative. Charlotte locals seem to agree.
We sat down with the up-and-coming Chef McLean to find out what's cooking.
Creative Loafing: Of all the things you could order when you go out to eat, your favorite go-to choice is a simple cheeseburger? What goes on your burger and why is this your top choice?
Chris McLean: Cheeseburgers are something I rarely ever make, so just to be able to sit back and enjoy something so simple that I don't cook very often is amazing. My perfect burger is seared to perfection and topped with barbeque sauce and scratch made cole slaw on a freshly baked bun. If it doesn't have all of those elements then I won't eat it.
Your customers go absolutely crazy for your salmon alfredo pasta. Could you walk us through the ingredients and tell us what you think makes the dish so special?
My salmon alfredo starts with a homemade creamy alfredo sauce made with heavy cream, mozzarella cheese and smoked gouda. The salmon is started on the stove and finished in the oven. That process allows me to basically sear the salmon for color on the stove and then finish it in the oven. I always season the salmon with fresh garlic and herbs and top it of with Old Bay.
What everybody really wants to know is about your celebrity cooking experiences. Could you describe the most memorable one?
Well, I actually cooked for MTV's Wild'n Out cast's yacht party, and it was far from a normal day on the job. First of all, it was on a Monday. I remember thinking to myself, 'Who parties like this on a Monday?' (laughs) The second thing I was wondering was, 'Why aren't these guys at work?'
But it was totally amazing. I set them up with a buffet with chicken and shrimp dishes, crab cakes and shrimp cocktails, lobster macaroni and cheese and a fruit table. Once I set the food up, we partied all day and it was the best event ever. I'll definitely be remembering that experience for a long time to come.
Follow Chef McLean on Instagram @ChefChrisMcLean or visit ChefChrisMcLean.com.