We’re looking back on some bright moments in a difficult year, and asked each member of our team to name a few of their favorite stories. This is one of L. Malik Anderson’s.
Award-winning Chef Ace Champion creates intimate cooking experiences among friends, family members, and sometimes colleagues throughout Green Bay.
“Typically, it’s always family. Sometimes I do corporate events but it’s a group of people that all know each other. They’re usually drinking and having a good time,” he said.
Champion offers personal in-home cooking classes, corporate cooking classes, public cooking classes, and most recently a virtual Zoom class. He focuses on shopping techniques, food cost, recipe development, and nutrition. He also demonstrates his culinary skills on his hit television show “Cook Like A Champion,” available to over 20 million households across the United States, Canada, in Africa, and throughout the Caribbean.
“My motto is if you do an event with me and you don’t remember me 10 years from now, I didn’t do my job,” Champion said.
In July, he participated alongside nearly 70 other renowned chefs in Al Roker’s Great American Sandwich Relay on NBC’s Today show to set a Guinness World Record for the most people in an online sandwich-making relay. He gave a classic New Orleans sandwich a little Wisconsin comfort by making a shrimp po’boy with a remoulade topped by pepper Jack cheese and coleslaw.
It wasn’t Champion’s first time on the show or making sandwiches. He shared his “Bacon Mac and Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches” after winning the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship last year.
Originally from Louisiana, Chef Champion grew up immersed in the state’s vibrant food culture and as a result, specializes in Cajun/Creole cuisine. His culinary experience includes Certified Meat Cutter, Executive Chef, Event Coordinator, Personal Chef, as well as Cooking Class Instructor.
Champion found a passion for southern and creole cooking at a young age, and also found success on the football field. He followed his passion for cooking after a fifteen-year career as a semi-professional football player.
Champion first learned to cook while working as a dishwasher at a truck stop.
“The chef at the time didn’t want to make my food so he’d sit back and make me do it,” he said.
Champion said one of the earliest dishes he made that he was most proud of was gumbo. The meaty-seafood dish reflects the blend between African, French, Spanish, and Indigenous cooking traditions within Louisiana Creole culture.
“Gumbo is a staple in Louisiana and it’s one of those dishes that takes five hours to make,” he said.
The chef moved to Green Bay after a friend convinced him that there might be great opportunities for someone who specializes in Cajun/Creole cuisine in Wisconsin. Champion decided to bet on himself and take a chance in the Midwest.
“When I first moved out here, I had the opportunity to open up my own restaurant but at age 30 I ended up having a stroke,” he said.
He felt devastated. After all, Champion was also an athlete. He focused on improving his health through shifting his mindset and making some lifestyle changes.
“I came to the conclusion that the number one cause of my illness was stress,” Champion said. “After I had a stroke, my wife is a massage therapist and she turned me onto a documentary called ‘The Secret.’”
In 2010, he began culinary classes while working full time as a chef at the now-closed Plum Hill Café in Kaukauna. The father of three earned his culinary arts degree with honors in the accelerated program at Fox Valley Technical College in 2012.
“I started doing these charity events and started donating cooking classes for a cause. Then, these charity events would ask me to come up and speak,” Champion said.
Then, he realized his story was motivational. Champion has donated classes to over 75 charities in the last four years.
“I realized my purpose wasn’t just to cook food and put it in people’s mouth,” he said.
Champion believes through teaching the world everything he can about food, he helps them improve their mind, body, and soul. Each of his events is a unique experience.
“We all know that when you eat, that releases endorphins in your brain,” he said.