JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — He’s known as a beast in the kitchen.
Jacksonville Chef Kenny Gilbert’s flavors have taken him to kitchens across Hollywood, including cooking for Oprah. There’s a possibility he’s cooked for you too.
Gilbert’s curiosity in the kitchen started as a kid in Cleveland. His love for good food and good people landed him in the River City.
“It’s something that’s in my DNA..it is just a part of me, I grew up around it,” says Gilbert.
After culinary school in Pennsylvania, it was off to kitchens around the world. He landed in Jacksonville, just up the way from St. Augustine where Kenny’s mom is originally from.
His return to Jacksonville birthed the popular Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen, which was closed before the pandemic.
Gilbert says he wasn’t afraid of the next chapter but rather inspired and fueled for something new.
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Just as the pandemic started, Chef Kenny was on the search for his next big project; a new restaurant in Jax. That’s when Oprah gave him a call.
“To check in on us,” said Gilbert. “To see how we were doing during a pandemic.”
Oprah is a big fan of Kenny’s Chicken biscuits. So much so, she even posted an Instagram video praising his food, as he cooked for her to ring in the new year of 2022.
When Oprah called him, Gilbert said he felt an instant spark of inspiration..
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“I feel like that was kind of God saying you already have something right in front of you just take it and just run with it.”
That inspiration went on to birth his new upscale community-style Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar in Historic Springfield.
One of his latest successes, Silkies came during a time when a lot of businesses understandably struggled during the pandemic.
Gilbert says he’s grateful for the community’s support and encouraging property management, who believed in his vision for the restaurant.
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But Gilbert also said it’s a prime example of not being afraid to enter new territory and pushing towards your dreams.
Now, the Chef is expanding his flavorful universe. He’s recently come out with a line of spices already on local store shelves, called Chef Kenny Gilbert’s Ultimate Spice Blends. He also has a cookbook in the works for 2023.
“What’s your message to other aspiring Black-owned businesses or Black-owned restaurants to get where you are today? If they’re thinking, I want to be there, I want to make that happen,” asked Action News Jax’ Chandler Morgan.
“My advice is never give up. You know, if you have a dream, speak it into existence,” said Gilbert. “No one has ever been super successful and not had any kind of challenges. My best advice is just to keep pressing on.”
For more on Silkie’s Chicken & Champagne Bar visit https://meetatsilkies.com/.
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