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'Milkshake' Singer Kelis Dishes On Becoming A Chef

Her mother played a big role in getting Kelis into food.

Her milkshake brought all the boys to the yard, and now her sauces are better than yours.

Kelis Rogers made waves when she screamed on our TV screens on her 1999 single “Caught Out There,” in her then-trademark blonde and cotton-candy pink curls. But it was her 2003 mega-hit, “Milkshake,” that brought all the fans to her yard. Since then, she’s collaborated with some of the music industry’s greats: Pharell, Björk, and Calvin Harris, among others.

The 2003 "Milkshake" is Kelis' best-selling single. Now, the singer wants her sauces to take the spotlight.
The 2003 "Milkshake" is Kelis' best-selling single. Now, the singer wants her sauces to take the spotlight.

Six albums later, the singer has stepped out from the music studio and into the kitchen to cook up some Tasty projects.

Wait a minute: Kelis is a chef?

During the height of her success, frustrations with her record label led her to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in 2009, which the singer said was somewhat of a natural transition for her, since she’s a foodie at heart.

“For me, food, like music, was always a big part of my upbringing. Being from New York, where some of the best chefs and restaurants are, and having travelled the world as an artist, I was able to experience cooking on a global scale,” the Harlem, NY-born Kelis told HuffPost Canada.

Born to African-American jazz musician Kenneth Rogers and Chinese-Puerto-Rican fashion designer Eveliss Rogers, Kelis said that her parents and cultural upbringing influenced both her musical career and her foray into food.

“Both of my parents inspired me to become who I am today, and in many ways I still live in both spaces. My mom was in catering, so I was always in the kitchen from a young age, which is where I learned about the meticulous ways of expressing yourself and art with food,” she said.

“And my dad was a musician. A lot of what I learned growing up was from them, and it’s only allowed me to be more well-rounded as an artist. Attending culinary school was something I always wanted to do and it was during an off period in my touring that I decided to pursue this.”

Kelis graduated from the famed culinary school as a trained saucier, and went on to launch a sauce line, initially called Feast, in 2013. It debuted for retail under the Bounty & Full insignia in 2015. In between, she hosted her own cooking show and wrote My Life On A Plate.

While transitioning from one career to the next, especially during record label disputes and rumours of a rocky marriage to rapper Nas — her now former husband with whom she shares a son — Kelis said she never feared making the leap into the food industry.

“Deciding to explore an additional interest in food was never something I was scared by. Most of the travels I was doing at the time was based around my interest in learning about food and cultures in various parts of the world. It was definitely an interesting experience attending school as an adult, since it has a nostalgia when you’re a child, which was probably one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said the saucier.

Watch: Kelis explains how she cooks for kids. Story continues below.

During this time of transition she was surprised by how much everything she had experienced in her life prepared her for culinary school and a pivot into this career realm.

“(I learned) to go after what I have interests in, and that art can be expressed in many different ways, through music, food, culture, travel — there’s endless ways to learn more about yourself and the world around you,” she said.

While life transitions may not always be easy, they can open up a world of possibilities and discoveries about both yourself and the world. The singer-turned-chef’s advice to those wanting or undergoing new pursuits?

“Go after what you want to do and what you have passion for. If you have a real talent, that will naturally progress, but the experience that you get for trying something new will be some of life’s most valuable lessons.”

Kelis will demonstrate her cooking skills at the Harbourfront Centre’s BRAVE: Secret Lives, Second Chances festival on July 11 at 8 p.m. in Toronto.

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