Chef Gason Nelson has made his way from being a cook with the U.S. Army to being the personal chef for Saints football star, Reggie Bush.
Many soldiers make it their passion to serve their country, but for Gason Nelson the army helped him discover his true passion.
Growing up as a military child, Nelson spent his adolescence at Fort Polk where his father was stationed. After graduating high school, Nelson decided to follow his father's lead and joined the army as a cook.
"That's really where I learned how much I loved to cook, and it became my passion," Nelson said.
Now known as Chef Gason, Nelson has excelled in his love. After serving five years with the Army, Nelson returned to his hometown of New Orleans where he enrolled in culinary school. There, he honed his skills and was even awarded the prestigious James Beard award two years in a row.
After culinary school, Nelson looked into the many options open to him, but found his true enjoyment in being a private chef.
"To know that someone has requested you specifically to prepare their food and to have them send for you is such a great feeling," Nelson said.
Nelson has traveled to such cities as Atlanta and Los Angeles to prepare meals that he said don't typically fall into any one category. "I do a lot of different things and don't have just one type of cuisine that I make," he said. "I love traveling because then it gives me the opportunity to learn about the different regional techniques."
Nelson's popularity grew by word of mouth and he soon found himself hired to be the personal chef for Aaron Brooks of the New Orleans Saints. Like everyone else, however, Nelson experienced hardship when Hurricane Katrina struck the "Big Easy."
"I lost my home, everything," he said.
The Saints were uprooted to San Antonio and Nelson himself moved to Houston. "I just really spent some time trying to figure out what my next move would be, what I would do for my future," he explained.
And it so happened, as the light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter for the New Orleans football team, so it did for Nelson, and a phone call from an agent brought him back to his hometown.
"The Saints drafted Reggie Bush, and I got a call for the chance to be his personal chef," Nelson said. Nelson immediately claimed the opportunity and prepared a "demo meal" to be considered by Bush.
"After that demo meal he hired me on the spot," he said.
Since that initial meal, Nelson has spent his time serving the football star, but has also had the opportunity to seek other incredible opportunities on the side.
"I still get the chance to cook meals for other people and events, even though I am [Bush's] chef," Nelson explained. "It's really a great thing because some people don't like for you to do that. They want you to cook exclusively for them, but he lets me do other things."
Nelson has spent over 20 years as a chef, and he said that each morning he still wakes up in disbelief over his good fortune.
"Every morning I wake up and pinch myself, I am just so happy," he said. "Some people hate to go to work, but I love it. It may be stressful at times, but there is nothing else that I would rather do."
While Nelson is perfectly content at this time, he does admit that in the future he may venture to other avenues of his cooking career.
"I have often been asked about releasing a book, and I have to say that it is something I am thinking about exploring," he said.
For now though, Nelson is focusing on enjoying his job and continuing to educate himself on the newest food creations.
"I love to experiment and try new things. I am always reading books or on the internet looking for new ideas."
Nelson's advice for other aspiring chefs is simple. He swears by two rules: personality and presentation. "If you can present it well, you've got them," he said.
Nelson encourages other lovers of all things culinary to follow him on twitter and facebook. They may also contact him about recipes, menus or cooking tips via his Web site: www.chefgason.com.
Leesville Daily Leader