Jonathan Harrison is all about lending a hand. The Alabama-based private chef who competed in Chef Gordon Ramsay’s “Next Level Chef,” making it to the top 10, recently traveled to Poland with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which provides meals in response to humanitarian, climate and community crises.
“We went with World Central Kitchen to help feed the Ukrainian refugees, and we made 2,500-4,000 meals a day. We just did what we could to make people's day a little brighter,” said Harrison. “We were 12 miles from the Ukrainian border, in Przemyśl. At one point the trains were dropping off 60,000 people a day in this little city of 40,000. It was amazing. It’s such a beautiful country, and the food was incredible. Experiencing Eastern European cuisine was very cool. I really enjoyed my time there and getting to give back and help as much as possible.
“It was probably one of the most formative experiences I’ve had, at 30,to have your perspective rocked so much. I got to meet a number of refugees with some pretty intense stories. I plan on working with World Central Kitchen whenever needed. I met people from Spain and Vietnam and the UK and France and people from one end of this country to another. Everybody was there with this common goal, and there was one positive goal in mind. You were there to bring light, positivity and hope to somebody else. It was a fulfilling thing to do, while filling someone else's cup as well.
Harrison said cooking for others is his love language. He loves cooking, but he also loves seeing the smiles and the effect it has when people taste his food.
“We're all given different gifts, different things we can or want to do. I think the best way to use those gifts or those desires is to help other people and to affect other people positively with those things. We have to use that skill for good whatever way we can. If that’s me cooking you a steak, I really don't see the issue,” he smiled.
In the months since his stint on “Next Level Chef,” Harrison has been busy with business clients in Birmingham and families on Smith Lake, to name a few.
Of his personal chef gigs, he said, “My goal is to make life a little bit easier for you. I want to make your vacation an actual vacation where you don't have to think about what to cook, the store, or what's coming up or what you need for dinner or lunch or breakfast. You don't have to get up and press ‘go’ on the coffee pot; I'm there to do that for you. I think people really enjoy it because it really does take just such a large part of the day off their plate.”
Harrison is aware he’s living his dream.
“When I was a kid, I pictured myself being someone who flew places and did this. I try to be as present as possible. I think it's so important to look around and acknowledge where you are. This is how I imagined my life. I'm trying to stay as cognizant of that as possible,” he said humbly. “Last year, I would've given anything to be doing what I'm doing now. And I’m not even close to where I want to be yet. I’m still working on it!”