Chef Jay Recalls How His Newfound Approach To Work-Life Balance As A Culinary Artist Was Reshaped By A Health Scare

Sometimes a simple seed planted during our childhood can lead us to live out the life of our dreams, but beyond that, there are life experiences that ultimately carve out what the future looks like and this story is a prime example of both.


For Jay “Chef Jay” Craddick, this moment came by way of his father who posed the question of what he could see himself doing every day, something that he loved so much that he’d do it for free. While his dad asked him this at the tender age of 9, it didn’t resonate until later on in life when he decided to take that thought a step further, enrolling in culinary school to pursue a career in the industry.


“The first aha! moment for me was when I became a chef at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead,” Chef Jay recalled in an exclusive interview with aspireTV. “It was really like, ‘I’m doing this.’ I had the opportunity to speak to and cook for celebrities and stuff like that so that’s really what made me take it more seriously.”


As a professional in a space where people who look like him are far and few between, Chef Jay also dived into some of the biggest lessons he’s learned throughout his culinary journey.


“Professionally, I would say that I’ve learned to stay consistent. Consistency is the ultimate key to success, but also so is paying attention to your body,” he said. “We’re in a capacity where we work so hard, but we love doing it so much that we’re not paying attention to the health portion of that. I found that out last year.”


“I had an embolic stroke last year and it put me down. I couldn’t walk or talk. I had to learn to do all of that over again,” Chef Jay continued. “So my approach to this is still being passionate, but I’m also very health conscious now about what I eat when I take my breaks, and making sure that I’m not overworking myself. To be in this industry and get the best out of it, you’ve got to love it. It can’t be perceived as just a job, but more or less it has to be perceived as something you love to do.”


Today, his love of cooking continues to take him to greater heights as the Executive Chef at Humble Baron Bar, the co-founder and chef at Cigars, Cuisine and Cocktails, and the host of aspireTV’sTwisted Dish.”


“It’s always been a dream of mine, but never something that I took a deep dive into. It was just one of those thoughts of, ‘I would love to be on TV,’ type of things,” Chef Jay shared. “When the opportunity presented itself, I was elated and ultra-excited. I love the experience. I love the people at aspireTV because they’ve made me feel so comfortable and at ease knowing that this was my first time doing this… they allowed me to be in my comfort zone and to be myself.”


While he is living the career of his dreams, Chef Jay also took a moment to acknowledge that the path to working in the culinary arts field for Black men is not always easy.


“Opportunities come with boundaries and limits because of the color of our skin, but I’m praying that with future changes and like-minded people such as myself, that we are determined to come together versus being crabs in a bucket,” he shared. “And creating a platform where we can stand flat-footed, but also allow the upcoming generations to have something to stand for when it comes to this industry.”


Although he’s conquered and cultivated some of the most amazing recipes in the world of culinary arts, Chef Jay recalls how mastering his grandmother’s biscuits was a top moment for him.


“Those biscuits are life to me,” he exclaimed. “And the reason I say that is because whether it was summers with my cousins at my grandmother’s or uncle’s house, someway or another, those biscuits ended up on a table. And there’s so many memories that are connected to those biscuits when it comes to being raised with and spending time with my family members.”


As he looks ahead to the future, Chef Jay aims to continue making waves through his work at Humble Baron Bar, which is also the longest bar in the world, and bringing more attention to that and taking up space alongside brands like aspireTV.