Meet Chef Tomica Burke, owner of TomCookery, a New York based catering service that offers unique comfort dishes inspired by her Southern and the Caribbean roots. Tomica found her way to the kitchen professionally after having spent many years as an attorney and Congressional Staffer. Tomica, left the corporate hustle and bustle to pursue her true passion as Chef and Owner of TomCookery, which she launched earlier this year. Influenced by her Bajan and Southern roots, Tomica’s dishes offer a fresh take on catered cuisine, with flavors reminiscent of her grandmother's table. I had the pleasure of meeting Tomica at her NYC Sip and See event and I was wowed by both her delicious creations in the kitchen and her warm personality. If you're looking for a unique dining experience for your wedding celebrations you'd definitely want to check out our one-on-one with Chef Tomica Burke!
Tell us about how you got started in the culinary industry?
My path is a nontraditional one. Although I always loved to cook, and frequently hosted parties and catered events for friends, I chose to pursue a career as a lawyer. It was during my third year of law school that I started taking classes at the Institute for Culinary Education, and thus began the double life I led as a lawyer with a passion for cooking. I continued to host parties and share food with friends, and soon I was given the opportunity to work with a caterer during his busiest season. When I received my first check, I knew that I could pursue a culinary career full time. I left my job at a prestigious New York City law firm, and focused my energy on TomCookery.
How would you describe your culinary creations?
Be prepared for an indulgent experience. If you are enjoying my food you’re celebrating something special, and that’s exactly how you’ll feel when you take that first bite. Each dish is decadent and made with the best ingredients possible. Have you ever seen someone do a little dance while they’re eating something they really enjoy? That’s my goal every time I put together a dish.
What is the inspiration behind your dishes?
The menus are influenced by the two cultures that make me who I am, but my palette has evolved from experience. My mom’s family hails from the South, while my Dad is responsible for my Bajan roots. By using elements from both cuisines, I have developed distinct flavors that make you feel nostalgic, warm and satisfied. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.
Do you have a signature dish?
Each dish is special to me, but if you ask my friends and clients, it would likely be my fried chicken biscuits. It’s a thin sliced chicken breast which is battered and fried to a golden brown. The breast is served between a homemade biscuit with a dollop of creole remoulade. There’s something about the combination of textures - the fluffiness of the biscuit, the crispiness of the chicken and creamy remoulade that make this a crowd favorite. I love the fun food trends taking over cocktail hour – poptails, even mini pancakes. If you’re a couple looking for a modern idea for cocktail hour finger food, then I’d recommend our chicken biscuits.
What should brides and grooms look for when selecting a caterer?
Of course it’s important to do your research; read reviews not only for the quality of the food but how easy they are to work with. You should also make sure they are able to prepare a variety of different foods, a caterer with range will be beneficial when you’re looking to add your own spin to their menu.
What tips would you offer to brides and grooms who are looking to create a menu for their wedding and related events?
Review your guest list and get a sense of your crowd that’ll be dining at your wedding. No one knows your friends and family better than you, so describe your guests to your caterer. Share what they like to eat, their age group, and then provide your own wish list of what you would like served on your special day. Don’t be afraid to ask for customized dishes or things that are not on the menu, if you feel they will appeal to your guest’s palettes.
What would a TomCookery wedding menu look like?
I’d steer clear of the typical banquet foods. Although these dishes are safe, they are also very expected. Some of my top picks are pan seared snapper fillets with avocado salad for lighter fare, or a garlic roast pork and jerk brisket carving station for a heavier option.
In addition to weddings and events, TomCookery offers several a la carte items, including desserts, to save you time when hosting an event. For more information visit Tomcookery.com and be sure to keep up with Chef Tomica and what's cooking in her kitchen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.