By Cillea Houghton
NASHVILLE, TN — For Chef Cleveland Shearls, cooking unites his two passions in life, people and food.
Growing up in Alabama, Shearls was instilled with a passion for cooking by his mother and grandmother. “I can remember her with this cast iron skillet, and I thought it was amazing that she was really doing a magic trick cooking an egg and bacon in the pan at one time. That picture always stayed with me,” Shearls described of his grandmother. “She didn’t even have to say a word, the food did it all.”
Shearls followed this passion to the Art Institutes Culinary Arts School in Nashville and upon entering the job field, he quickly advanced to sous chef at Café Fontanella and helped launch Nashville’s City Winery location. “I worked hard, even through adversity and crew members who didn’t think that I was really able to do the job. It was so hard to where it almost made me re-think what I was doing. But the love kept me in,” he explained.
Shearls was leading a nearly 20-person team at Café Fontanella when he decided to start his own personal chef business in 2014, The Lost Spoon, offering personal in-home chef services and online meal preparation in addition to catering private events. He’s worked with a range of clients including Senior Pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III and former Tennessee Titans players Chris Hope and Brandon Harris.
“There’s nothing like waking up every morning knowing that I’m going to cook for someone no matter who it is. I care about food so much, I care about people, I care about the way it affects people,” he said. “It never gets old when people say ‘that’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten in the world.’ That’s like a million dollars every time someone says that. That makes you work even harder, that makes you care even more.”
Shearls is in the process of starting his own food-based ministry, Feed the Corner, that will supply meals to the homeless and struggling families. He also volunteers with the Family Fund Foundation where he mentors young men and teaches them how to cook and hopes to open a home for battered teens, using his culinary skills as a way to expand his mission of helping others. “A lot of times people don’t understand that when you’re chef, it’s not about just putting food out, it’s really about being able to reach someone. It’s about who you can help, who have you impacted at the end of the day,” Shearls said. “I show love through my food. I think that’s the best way I can express myself without words.”