Chef Leon: Flavorful Dream Unfolds
For Tallahassee up and coming young chef Leon Brunson, it seems that the universe is unfolding as it should. Known to many as simply Chef Leon, this 26- year-old is super excited to see his flavorful dream happening sooner than he expected.
His first restaurant will be opening in a mere matter of months. Leon’s will be in a charming cottage. The idyllic setting is at the end of a quiet lane surrounded by moss-laden oaks with lovely Lake Ella as the backdrop. There will be a Dutch door where the lake walkers can grab a quick bite to go. Others can choose to sit inside for a more relaxed fine dining experience, complete with wine and music.
He took a breath and a break one recent morning to sit outside near his cottage and speak quite candidly about his past. Then he continued sharing just as openly about his present and future.
Leon Brunson grew up in Panama City, Florida and matured in Tallahassee, Florida. He is Afro-Latino, born of a black father and Mexican mother. They are dedicated to one another and lovingly see each other through health issues and all of life’s other challenges.
Leon has a degree in culinary management and a degree in neuroscience. He has enjoyed cooking in restaurants, for private events, and on social media. Here are excerpts from our interview.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
First is the joy of creativity as I play with the blending of flavors. Food is a specialized expression of intention, purpose, and patience. Then there is the personal interaction. Satisfied smiles are one level. The next level is the stories they share with me as they are enjoying a quality meal.
What are your other passions?
I like exercise, cleaning, planning projects, and travel. But my biggest one is music. Growing up I played sax and guitar, attended band camps, and sang in a choir. I like karaoke and a wide variety of musical genres; my favorite is indie. For 16 years I have played an arcade game called Dance Dance Revolution, in which I am ranked 9th in the world and 6th in the USA.
Can you say more about Tallahassee and about travel?
The people of Tallahassee are genuine and caring. They want one another to make positive changes and to thrive. There are lots of great parks, natural beauty, historical college campuses. Plus, there are wonderful coffee shops and breweries.
I have been to Seattle and Japan and would love to visit both again. One place where I had a lot of fun was Daytona. I spent time at a hotel on the beach just kicking back and taking time to appreciate being with friends. A place I haven’t been yet that is on the top of my bucket list is Morocco.
What are a few things that most people do not know about you?
There are some general things, such as my favorite dessert is coconut cassava cake, and my favorite movie is The Terminal. There are next level things, such as I envision becoming more involved in community development. I want to help educate young people of color on taking the best routes to reach their dreams. Then there is the deepest stuff, like I believe in being open about even the most uncomfortable issues. I wish we could all talk honestly and easily about race, health, mental health, and love.
I’m on a journey in search of that special someone I could dedicate my cooking to…I’m a good and determined chef…but …two things. I know I need more practice and I know I will be at my best when I fall in love.
What makes you an exuberant and loveable person?
Positivity and kindness are my best qualities. I look forward to each new day. I respond well to most situations. I believe that being my most authentic self is what brings the greatest happiness.
Any final thoughts or message for the world?
I believe in envisioning what you want, planning for it very carefully, then taking proper action through many small steps. Hopefully, some of those steps may lead you to come visit me at Leon’s. I would love to meet you and see how we may inspire each other with great conversation while enjoying music and food.