In 2009, private chef and entrepreneur Kayla Greer was asked to create a menu for a special party in celebration of a show on VH1. At the time, she was a week away from graduating culinary school at Los Angeles Trade College of Technology, ready to cut her teeth at cooking and catering to musicians and athletes. Now, 15 years later, she has launched her own consulting practice called The Saffron Agency, and has developed an artisanal all-purpose spice blend.
The 33-year-old chef hails from the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles and is now based in Larchmont Village, and has worked with a number of clients during her career, including members of the NBA (Ryan Gomez, Deandre Jordan) and the NFL (Vaughn Miller, Melvin (Ingram), and personalities in entertainment (Demi Lovato, Diddy, Dam Dash, Justin Bieber, Jane Ecko, DJ Mustard, YG, Future and the late Nipsey Hussell).
Greer says the turning point in her career came when Drake posted it on his Instagram account, during a three-year period of working with him and even traveling with the rapper on tour. “That was a big moment because I feel like it was when a lot of people started to realize I was really doing this.”
Jarir spoke to The Hollywood Reporter About life as a private chef, the flavors that inspire her and how clients’ tastes have changed over the years.
How has growing up in Los Angeles and being a part of this environment affected you and your career as a private celebrity chef?
I was educated at home by choice in high school, so I was able to land a bunch of different jobs. I had a job at Jamba Juice, and soon learned that I don’t mind being in a kitchen environment and working with my hands. This shaped my decision to become a private chef fairly early on; I went straight to culinary school.
As much as I work with celebrities, I just [knew] I wanted to become a private chef and work with celebrities, especially musicians because I really enjoyed music. Honestly, living in Los Angeles and knowing so many different people, word of mouth has just traveled.
How do you define your taste and cooking style?
I like that the food is really fresh. I am very picky when it comes to food quality. I shop a lot at farmers markets, Erewhon and Grove farmers market when there are no local markets. I think my flavors are pretty simple: salt, pepper, citrus, spice—I mean, I’m from Los Angeles, I love tacos, I’m used to eating Mexican food. We used to eat fresh and delicious food [here]So I feel like this comes up a lot in my food because I use a lot of garlic, onions, cilantro and fresh herbs. Kind of like modern soul food.
What led you to develop an all-purpose seasoning, and how was that process?
The idea behind it was basically [I’m triggered] The way I used to run around town and work every day. I’ve slowed down too much. I was doing this [job] For 15 years, but I’ve tried to come up with many different ways to make it easier, especially traveling with spices. I started to realize I always use the same stuff, so I decided to just mix them all up. And after the second try, it was perfect. It mainly consists of dried parsley, chili flakes, onions, garlic, salt and pepper. These are [the ingredients] I think the delicious food taste should be like; I feel like it’s a solid base for food seasoning. And it gives the food a really rich and pleasant color and a new kind of appearance.
Spices were really made to help people cook and to make their food taste better. A lot of the pre-mixed seasonings on the shelves right now are either too light or too salty, but this seasoning is the perfect medium – you don’t really need anything else when using it.
The plan for me is to come up with more flavors. The can is like a small paint vase, so you’ll eventually be able to stack it as soon as other flavors appear, and each flavor will have a different color. It will simplify everyone’s lockers and counters.
How do you balance artisanal cooking and spice with your other job, The Saffron Agency, and your role as the creative executive chef at The H.Wood Group’s 40 Love in West Hollywood?
For my agency, I interview younger chefs and chefs who want to break into the industry and who might need help finding work and I screen them. I’m trying to help these chefs and these new chefs find jobs. I get calls all the time asking if I was available, and if I wasn’t, if there was someone I could refer. And that’s really what happened.
At 40 Love, I’m basically the Creative Director and Executive Chef. I’m the face of the brand, so I develop recipes, the menu, and I work regularly to maintain quality control as well as bring in new items. It’s a sports bar, so we open our doors after 4am, and [I’m done] I cook for most of my clients by then. So it works.
Where does your inspiration come from when you’re creating a menu trend and developing new recipes? Do you think about the place and the audience?
I definitely think about three main things: where we are, who we are, and who our customers are. Then I wrap it all up with who I am as a person, and I try to give that to the restaurant. I think about what I like [to eat], what my friends and people around me love. I feel like I had to do many things on the go as a private chef, develop a menu, and get something fixed [at 40 Love] Every day is definitely different, because I’m used to going to work and making breakfast, lunch and dinner – I’m just constantly innovating. For some of the menu items, I’ve had some of the dishes I’ve prepared for customers who have had great feedback: one of them is the Kale Caesar salad. I’ve made this salad a few times for clients and for parties, and everyone always loves it; It’s one of those things that people really know me for.
Over the course of your career, have you noticed a change in food trends, especially in terms of the dishes your customers order or the ingredients they gravitate toward?
I feel like people [in general] They are more interested in food than ever. And they like to see creativity, they like to see ordinary things evolve. Many people take the basic dishes and put a spin on it.
[My clients] They care more about their health, and dispense with many things such as beef and chicken. Especially since I’ve been working with a lot of athletes for a long time, since they were younger now, I always see them start cutting out meat and bread, and really lean towards seafood and vegetables. I think that’s definitely the biggest trend right now: more restrictions on food and people becoming more aware of what they are eating.