Meet Chef Jernard Wells, aka “The Family Chef,” a celebrity executive chef, best-selling cookbook author, and award-winning TV host from Atlanta. Chef Jernard has appeared on numerous Food Network and Cooking Channel shows, and is the host of “New Soul Kitchen” and “New Soul Kitchen Remix” on CLEO TV. He has been featured on “The Today Show,” and “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” among others, and is a James Beard House Honored Chef.
Chef Jernard grew up in the South, and he prides himself on creating dishes that reflect his Southern heritage as well as his travels around the world. His latest cookbook, “Southern Inspired, My American Table” features more than 100 recipes that are a reflection of his family’s Southern heritage and culinary roots.
Chef Jernard believes that cooking and sharing delicious food brings people together — it’s what he calls “the ultimate unifier.” Get to know Chef Jernard and take a peek at a few of his favorite recipes — and then give them a try from the comfort of your own kitchen or the suite’s kitchen on your next Margaritaville Vacation Club vacation.
Get To Know The Family Chef
Chef Jernard shared his answers to some questions about his cooking, the city of Atlanta where he lives, and (of course) his travel tips and preferences.
What are your must-have kitchen tools/gadgets?
A cast-iron skillet, chef's knife, wok, pressure cooker, and a wooden spoon.
What’s your favorite dish to cook?
I have two! Rosemary and mint lamb chops, and smoky seafood mac and cheese.
What’s your favorite dish to eat?
New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. Check out my cookbook, "Southern Inspired" for my unique family recipe.
How long have you lived in Atlanta?
Can you explain the Atlanta food scene and how it has evolved over the past few years?
Atlanta’s food scene is one of the most diverse cultures of cuisines that I've had the privilege of eating. The cuisine prepared in Atlanta continues to evolve year after year blending the fusion and foundation of Southern cooking, which is the stepping stone to great food, and merging its roots with flavors from around the country. Atlanta leads the charge when it comes to brunch and inspires the palate from Asian cuisine to French fine dining — regardless of where you’re from. When you come to Atlanta there's always an open seat at the table, showcasing something you love.
What’s your favorite non-food-related thing to do in Atlanta?
I love to relax at some of Atlanta's best jazz clubs and connect with friends at exclusive cigar lounges in the city.
What are some hidden gems or off-the-beaten-path activities visitors should plan for on their next trip to Atlanta?
There are so many qualities I love about Atlanta! While in the city, experience the World of Coca Cola. From there, take a journey to Stone Mountain — it's an amazing climb up and the view is well worth it. I've completed it five times. Now for relaxing, cruise on over to Jeju Sauna Home of Well-Being — it's truly an escape from the ordinary. Feeling like art? Check out the Woodruff Arts Center. Looking for excitement? Take a short trip to the Battery, which has everything from eateries and movies to bowling — and (might I mention) is home to the Atlanta Braves.
What’s your favorite vacation destination?
What’s your No. 1 travel tip?
Order a Passport ID to have as backup in your hotel room, in the event you lose your identification card. That way you have a back-up to get home and/or if you need funds wired to you.
What advice would you give travelers looking to try local fare on their next vacation?
I always suggest experiencing the area you’re visiting. Explore the land — that is how you get the true essence of your journey. Break away from commercial dining and try restaurants recommended by locals. Ask the locals where they dine, and that is where you will find the true culture of your destination.
Rave Recipes To Try
Chef Jernard is a regular featured chef at Florida’s annual South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Chef Jernard featured three of his signature recipes at the 2023 event, each of which are also included in his most recent cookbook.
Jerk Beef Ribs
This custom spice blend is Chef Jernard’s personal take on Jamaican jerk — a spicy marinade that’ll have you yearning for the beaches of the Caribbean (and a blended adult beverage to cool it down with). Serves 6-8.
1 ½ tsp each dried thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, dried parsley, ground ginger, dried mustard
¾ tsp each ground white pepper, cracked black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
6 pounds short ribs
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except the ribs to form a paste.
Rub the ribs with the paste on both sides. Place the ribs on a large rimmed baking sheet or platter. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the grill to 350 degrees F. Grill the ribs for 20 minutes, flipping them a few times during cooking so that char marks form on the outside.
Lower the temperature of the grill to 325 degrees F and continue to cook until the internal temperature of the ribs register 145-150 degrees F and the meat is ready to fall off the bone, about 35-40 minutes more.
NOLA-Style BBQ Shrimp
Using a combination of hot sauce, cajun seasoning, crushed red pepper, and cayenne pepper, Chef Jernard really brings the heat to this classic New Orleans dish. He recommends pairing it with garlic bread and chilled white wine. Serves 4-6.
4 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup each minced garlic, your favorite hot sauce
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp each dried thyme, crushed red pepper
1 tbsp each light brown sugar, paprika, cajun seasoning
2 tsp onion powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
2 pounds jumbo shrimp, deveined but unpeeled
1 large lemon, sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the Worcestershire, hot sauce, brown sugar, thyme, and spices. Allow the seasonings and sugar to cook down and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the shrimp to the pan, making sure to coat them evenly in the sauce. Lay the lemon slices over the shrimp. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through.
Remove the bay leaves and serve with your favorite garlic bread.
Georgia Peach Hot Chicken Sandwich
The Chef Jernard version of this Georgia classic uses the soft flavor of Georgia peaches to soften the hot chicken’s fiery burn. They don’t call it Hotlanta for nothin’. Serves 6.
Pour vegetable oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven to no more than halfway up the side. Prop or clip a deep-fry thermometer so that the bulb is submerged in the oil. Heat over high heat until the thermometer registers 350 degrees F. Alternatively, you can use a deep fryer.
Put the chicken in a large bowl and season with salt and white pepper as desired. Add the heavy cream and hot sauce and mix to coat.
In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and cayenne.
Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the chicken breasts from the liquid and dip them into the flour mixture. Shake off any excess flour and gently lower the chicken into the hot oil. Working in batches, fry until the breading is golden brown and the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F, 12-15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the rack.
Meanwhile, to make the spicy butter, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining spicy butter ingredients and bring to a boil. Let the sauce reduce for 3-5 minutes.
Put the fried chicken in a large bowl and gently toss with the spicy butter.
To assemble the sandwiches, spread mayo on each half of the buns, place pickles on the bottom, top with a chicken breast, and add a slice of canned peach. Serve right away and enjoy!