Originally published 3/10/2017 at 06:00a.m., updated 3/9/2017 at 01:49p.m.
Meet Shamarie James, the executive chef at Roland Park Place, a full-service, nonprofit continuing care retirement center in Baltimore, which offers independentliving, residential care and comprehensive skilled nursing care to the city’s senior community.
Over the past six years, officials at the nonprofit say James, a Kingston, Jamaica native, has helped transform its dining community. He has worked to boost morale around the kitchen, and the
residents love him for his creative take on cuisine, especially the Jamaican dishes he creates and the daily specials.
James has the full support of residents, staff and management for his latest mission to win the Mason-Dixon Master Chef Tournament, scheduled to begin in June at Points South Latin Grill on
Thames Street in Baltimore. The multi week, single-elimination tournament is designed to showcase some of the DMV’s finest executive chefs and restaurants.
Until then, James says he will continue to focus on the 200 residents he cooks for at Roland Park Place, where he’s cultivated an atmosphere of endless possibilities and satisfied tastebuds.
“Transforming the dining community at Roland Park Place was a joy for me. It gave me the chance to infuse my experience and culture in our everyday dishes by ways of using fresh seasoned ingredients and products,” James said. “I also got to know my residents likes and dislikes through my meet and greets.”
James up in St. Catherine Parish in Kingston and moved to Baltimore five years ago, after a short stay on Bald Head Island in North Carolina where he worked as a sous-chef.
“I started cooking at the age of seven, working in my great-grandmother’s restaurant in Jamaica,” said James, who went on to study at the Providence, Rhode Island and Denver campuses of
Johnson & Wales University.
“I honed my culinary chops working as executive sous-chefs at a variety of country clubs and restaurants,” he said. “I have a love for the dishes I grew up with. The residents love when I create them for the menu. My top dishes include ackee and saltfish which is my national dish, escovitch fish and curry chicken.”
James believes a win as the Mason- Dixon Master Chef will take his career to the next level.
“I want to win this competition for many reasons. It would be a good look on my company, Roland Park Place, as we would be the only retirement community in the competition. It would also
give me and my culinary staff exposure and help me advance my passion for cooking,” he said.
With a schedule that’s already busy, James said he doesn’t mind the extra work.
“Most days, I’m helping mentor, getting the food ready and talking with residents. When we are short-staffed, I volunteer to work, including holidays,” he said. “Some days it’s easy, but other days it’s a challenge, but I love what I do and would not have chosen any other career path. Making people happy and pleased through my dishes gives me true joy.”
And, what happens after a long day? James says he makes time for his friends and family, and especially his four-year old daughter for whom he is a role model. She also wants to be a chef.
“Being of a different race and having a different culture has always been a challenge for me, but it has never stopped me from going forward and it still won’t,” he said. “Hard work is the key. I know what it takes to be at the bottom trying to make a difference. But most of all, work hard and aspiring to be the best at what you do. The sky's the limit. Nothing is never too hard to do or accomplish. I did it and am still doing it.”