Chef LaTasha Stevenson is the executive chef at Strathmore in Bethesda. She is preparing for a breakfast event scheduled for 80 guests. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Chef LaTasha Stevenson is the executive chef at Strathmore in Bethesda. She is preparing for a breakfast event scheduled for 80 guests. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda can be proud of Chef LaTasha Stevenson, who creates menus that satisfy a wide range of palettes. Trained at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and with southern and Caribbean heritage, the executive chef oversees menu development, food prep, and a staff that creates deliciousness on a plate for venues under the Strathmore umbrella.

“I really fell in love with cooking around age 14,” Stevenson said with a smile. “Just being around the kitchen with my grandparents and different church auxiliaries, I knew all the people at church. That’s where all the older people were.”

We met Stevenson while she was preparing for a breakfast event for 80 people. Several quiches were already done, and she was chopping vegetables for more. It’s a typical industrial kitchen with pots hanging from above, large-sized utensils, and metal cookie sheets. Everyone is focused on a task. Touring the pantry revealed large containers of ingredients. What was not seen was the breath of the work done from this kitchen.

Stevenson and her team prepare food sold at “Allegro Kitchen,” the eatery at Strathmore’s primary venue that opens for dining 90 minutes before show time. That means patrons can take in dinner and a show. The team prepares food for private functions held in the music hall building and events at the Strathmore Mansion, including weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and tea parties. At AMP, the Strathmore venue at Pike & Rose in Rockville, food and beverages are available to people attending performances and for private affairs like retirement, holiday, or business events.

“After attending culinary school and working professionally, it opened me up to so much more of the culture of food and cuisine. Everyone’s America is different,” the chef said about her ability to create for various taste pallets.

Not afraid to insert her southern and Caribbean flavors into her dishes, Stevenson will test some of her creations on Strathmore staff who work outside the kitchen. That means experimenting with spices and curries with a West African, southern, or Caribbean influence.

“Learning more about myself and my culture really made me dive and research into a different realm of food and culinary,” said this chef who really knows food.

Working in a butcher shop is also in Stevenson’s background. That is where she learned how to break down and understand the fabrication of meats and to fillet fish. She had to send back an order because she could tell it was not fresh by just running her finger across the fish. Stevenson also warned about another protein, cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is usually coated with flour to prevent sticking.

She has been able to adapt food choices in response to special dietary requests. For another recent breakfast event, the group did not want a lot of protein, so Stevenson prepared parfaits made with vanilla yogurt and house-made cherry-almond granola with blood orange pieces and honey. The next course was a trio of toasts, including a cherry-ricotta French toast casserole, in-house smoked salmon on rice toast, and Caprese toast with avocado, tomato, and mozzarella cheese topped with a balsamic glaze.

Creating enjoyable dining memories is Stevenson’s vision for her role at Strathmore.

“I can create my own recipes and menus to serve food that speaks to me and that comes from my heart,” said Stevenson.

Find out more about Strathmore at www.Strathmore.org.

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Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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