Chaundrea Simmons earned both her undergraduate degree and her MBA from Ohio University then set out on a career in human resources. But something always was tugging at the Glenville native—the urge to cook.
“I just kept getting fired,” Simmons laughs at her corporate experience. “When I experienced months of unemployment, I would cook for people. But I never thought about it as a career—I thought it would help me through and pay my rent.”
Hibiscus Strawberry PopsiclesAs a vegan for the past five years (and a vegetarian for 10 years) Simmons specializes in making homemade vegan meals from scratch. Three years ago, she had an awakening after getting laid off from her last job as a high school counselor and decided to go into the restaurant business.
“I realize now that this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” Simmons says. “I just decided to bet on myself.”
Since making the decision to pursue cooking, Simmons has been creating and catering vegan three-course dinner parties and brunches around Cleveland to gain experience and eventually open her own restaurant. She now lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood and was in negotiations for a restaurant space on Cleveland’s east side when COVID-19 hit, and the landlord cut off communications with her.
But she didn’t give up on her dream. Simmons has been working as a personal chef, waiting for the business and restaurant worlds to reopen. Then, two weeks ago, she met the curators at Current—a creative community space in 78th Street Studios designed to uplift budding young adult creatives through collaboration and amplifying their voices—about creating a brunch and artist exhibit.
With that conversation, plans began for BRWN SGR BRUNCH, a collaborative event this Sunday, Aug. 8in the Current studio. The event features a vegan brunch made by Simmons and the artwork of artist Tai Gomez-Curtain.
Simmons says she and Gomez-Curtain realized they made a good pair from the moment they met. “We didn’t know each other from a can of paint, but we just hit it off,” Simmons says. “We’re really excited to do this event together. We’re buddies now.”
The three-course brunch begins with Mexican Doubles, which are grilled flatbread with refried beans, corn salsa, and avocado cilantro crema; followed by a second course of Rasta Pasta made with pasta, peppers, mushrooms, and coconut milk; and a third course of Maple Sugar Pinwheels with cardamon and gingerbread spice.
Simmons says there will also be mimosas with fresh juice and guava and ginger cocktails.
BRWN SUGR BRUNCH will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Current studio, 1300 West 78th Street, suite 101. The first course will be served at 11:15 a.m. Tickets are $45 and capacity is limited to 30 people.