Eats, Rhymes & Life: Spend An Hour In The Kitchen With Chef Jarobi White
Words + Photos by Scott Heins for Okayplayer
It’s 6pm in Harlem and Jarobi White is on fire. Sputtering oil and flames leap out of a saucepan and onto his right hand, but it only takes a second for him smother it with a metal lid. “Got it coming got it coming!” he yells as the kitchen bustles with aproned bodies. It’s a half hour to dinner service and the hip-hop star-turned-chef is in his element.
“The kitchen is where I excel,” Jarobi says, carefully plating chicken over sauteed collard greens. He offers me a taste and it’s delicious, tender, perfectly seasoned. The plate is one small part of a six course tasting menu he created especially for Blujeen, a new American eatery in East Harlem that invited Jarobi to take over its kitchen as a part of its extended Black Chef series.
Before anything having to do with A Tribe Called Quest–before the sold-out shows, People’s Instinctive Travels…, and his partial exit from the group, Jarobi had already found a life for himself as a cook. His parents, split up, worked long hours and were rarely around to prepare proper meals. In his own words, he became friends with Julia Child, Justin Wilson and the Frugal Gourmet; “Those were my playmates,” he says as he rinses fresh lettuce.
When he was 14, Jarobi lied about his age to get his first restaurant job in New York City. Soon he was working the entire line, handling the tasks of three cooks all by himself. When his high school friends played hooky to party at home he’d collect spare change and run off to the store, then come back and cook a meal for the whole clique.
Now, Jarobi primarily cooks for strangers, and does it with no less love. He’s found his professional groove as a journeyman chef, doing brief tenures in kitchens in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles. 2015 has been a banner year for him, thanks to the rise of his culinary company Eats Rhymes & Life and the new phenomenon that is Tribe Taco Tuesdays–a semi-regular roving restaurant takeover that sees Jarobi and a revolving cast of DJs throwing the ultimate hip-hop food fete. The series was born out of his love of LA’s streetside taco scene and the #TribeTuesday trend on social media and now pack Brooklyn back patios and dancefloors to capacity. It’s summer trend that proved so popular it’s continuing into the fall.
>>>Get to Jarobi’s Tribe Taco Tuesday event November 17th (tonight!) in Brooklyn