Blending Caribbean and Italian Flavors with Chef, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Nik Fields

Cuisine Noir Magazine. September 2020.

Chef Nik, better known as “Nik the Chic Chef “or “Foodie with a Cause,” has merged her passion for food and life.  Over the years, she has gained national recognition for her amazing culinary art skills having prepared cuisine for celebrities such as Jess Hilarious, Supa Cent, Angie Stone, Vivica Fox, Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold and Snoop Dogg. Fields is possibly the only Black chef with her own olive farm and a collection of infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. In the past few months, she introduced a new line of syrups and is planning to open a retail store and café.

Fields grew up in Brooklyn, New York, with her Caribbean-American parents who instilled a love for food in her since she was a little girl. She earned a culinary arts degree and traveled to Italy in search of culture and good food. However, her parents discouraged her from working in the culinary field as they did not consider it to be a glamorous career. Fields earned a master’s degree in finance instead, worked at a bank and excelled in her field. She had a family and continued to show her love for food by throwing parties and family dinners.

Create Your Own Path

At age 43, once her daughter graduated from college, Fields decided to pursue her life’s dream in the culinary arts. “I already had the skills and just needed to brush them[up]. I needed confidence to face the competitive environment,” she says.

Chef Nik Fields
Pictured/Photo credit: Nik Fields

Fields also wanted to use her business skills and create her own path in the culinary world. Instead of working from the ground up, she co-created Chic Chef Co. in 2016. She purchased olive groves in Italy, produced olive oil and introduced 15 organic, salt-free and hand-mixed seasonings. “Think of it as a healthier version of Goya. It’s easy, delicious and doesn’t require any cooking,” adds Fields. She recently introduced a line of honey-based organic simple syrups under Chic Chef Co. that come in flavors such as mango lime, jalapeno and lavender vanilla. The products are available online and in select retail stores. Next, Fields is working on a line of sorbets.

When asked what does it takes to create one’s own product line, Fields says, “It takes a lot of testing, trials and errors. You want to pick a product you can stand behind. I have an appreciation for Italian culture and add my spin on it with my Caribbean background. That’s new and unique.”

Fields plans to open a flagship store in January of 2021 in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. The location will also feature a community garden, a restaurant called Chic Chef Co. Marketplace and Café and a private tasting room called Culinary Vibe where Fields will host cooking classes, private dinners and events.

Dish by Chef Nik Fields
Pictured: Rice dish by Chef Nik Fields | Photo credit: Nik Fields

Through her books, this culinary trailblazer also wants to teach others about reducing food waste, the importance of food sustainability and how food stimulates mood and sexual drive. Her third book, “The Chic Chef Approach Volume III: Waste Not Want Not,” releases in October 2020.

Returning to One’s Roots

Fields continues to give back to her cultural background in the Caribbean. Every year, she travels with her team to the island of Hispaniola (an island divided into the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic), where they fund clean water programs and help villages build private wells. Her nonprofit organization, Waste Not Want Not (WNWN, Inc.), encourages households and restaurants in the U.S. to limit food waste. They hold seminars for kids and adults in Arizona to teach them about food waste and how to grow their own gardens. “My culture teaches me to help as many people as possible and not to discriminate among the community.” Fields says she plans to mitigate hunger by offering free meals to the homeless populations in Phoenix.

The pandemic has not slowed down Fields and her efforts to help everyone eat better, save money and drink clean water. She adds, “The downtime allowed me to have more focus than before. I learned more aspects about my business and [will] be ready for when the world opens up again.”

Learn more as well as shop with Fields at https://www.chicchefco.com  and follow her Instagram and Facebook for updates on new products and the opening of her flagship store.

~ Written for and published by Cuisine Noir Magazine. All rights reserved.

Ultimate Spa Retreats in Phoenix

For One Travel. October 2018.

With its luxurious resorts offering exclusive experiences, Arizona attracts travelers who want to not only hike, bike and explore the sunny outdoors by day, but also unwind with good food and soothing spa treatments in the evening. The state’s dazzling desert scenery is the perfect backdrop to refresh, recharge, and get away from the stresses of everyday life. Phoenix is one of the easiest cities to get to in Arizona and you don’t need to drive far to experience the desert, spa, and city life. Here you can get a Thoachta healing by a Native American shaman, meditate in a tiki hut, watch the sunset in the desert botanical gardens and detox your mind, body, and spirit in just a weekend.

Here are a few unique experiences in and around Phoenix so you can have the ultimate spa getaway. Continue reading on One Travel’s Going Places

Namaste! Everything You Need Know to Find Your Inner Peace at a Yoga Festival

For CheapOAir Miles Away. April 2017. 

I have been doing yoga off and on for my entire life, but I still didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived at the Sedona Yoga Festival. It was early March and I was slated to attend all three days of the self-described “consciousness evolution conference,” where participants gather in the iconic red sandstone desert of central Arizona every year to partake and celebrate yoga, music, and spirituality.

It was my first time at anything like that before and I was plagued with questions. How many hours in a day can I survive doing yoga? What if I can’t balance on my head and bend myself into a twist? Is it OK to drink alcohol when you are on a yoga retreat?

Thankfully, the theme for this year’s festival was “Get Out There” meaning let go of old behaviors, wake up to your intuitive guidance, and step into the power of a collective community.

So if you’re thinking of going to a yoga festival, as well (of which there are MANY around the world), here are a few things I learned at Sedona and you need to consider before your ultimate yoga getaway…

Read the full article on CheapOAir Miles Away

How to Plan the Perfect Road Trip This Summer

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Summer is the perfect time to take a family road trip and explore the majestic landscapes of the U.S. From canyons and glaciers, to beaches and national forests, road trips are a fun way to experience nature and countryside in all its glory. No matter where in U.S. you live, there is always a scenic highway, back road or trail waiting to be discovered.

You may think planning a road trip involves less work and money, but that depends on many factors. A well-planned road trip involves a little research beforehand.  Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1.  Deciding on the route. A road trip is usually not about reaching the destination, but about enjoying the journey and the many sights you will get to see along the way. Often times, when we are driving we tend to take the fastest highways, thereby missing lesser-known spectacles. You may want to look for scenic roads along your route by visiting the website of the National Scenic Byways Program.

2.  Choosing your transport. Depending on the size of your group, you may want to rent a RV, car or minivan. If you plan to add a lot of miles, it may be cheaper to rent versus drive your own car. Having a fuel-efficient vehicle will save you a lot of money too. Make sure to check your insurance policy and roadside assistance coverage before leaving home. Keep an extra set of keys, tires, basic repair tools and safety kit. Take your own GPS to avoid an unnecessary rental fee.

3.  Where to sleep. Now is the time to call up your friends in small towns whom you could not visit for these years. Homestays, travel exchange programs and campgrounds are fun and affordable ways to spend the night during your road trip. If you prefer more private dwellings, look for vacation rentals by owners, bed and breakfasts or motels. Since you will not be spending a lot of time in your hotel room, your main criteria when choosing your accommodation should be comfortable clean bedding and a hot shower.

4.  Feeding your belly.  While passing by hundred of signs for fast food and highway restaurants, you may get tempted to eat more burgers and fries on this trip. Keep in mind that eating healthily while on the road is even more important especially if you are prone to carsickness. Some people eat more purely out of boredom of being stuck in the car. It’s best to visit a grocery store and pick up fresh food, sandwiches and snacks. Instead of the usual road trip munchies, stock up on granola bars, carrot sticks, grapes nuts, and water.

It is always fun to stop at roadside farm stands and farmers’ markets for lunch or snacks. You may want to sample what the vendors are selling as they are part of your road trip experience. Often times, you may come across apple orchards, strawberry fields and peanut farms that let you pick your own for a minimal price. If you have time, try it out as a group activity that will allow you to get moving, enjoy the outdoors, and gather farm to table snacks for the road.

Of course you still want to visit restaurants and diners frequented by the locals so you can get a real taste of the town. Avoid going to branded and chain establishments and seek out locally owned businesses so you can support them along the way.

5.  Technology on the road.  It’s best to carry a cellphone with car charger in case of emergencies and to call for reservations. You can carry a separate GPS or download Maps (free) or Tom Tom ($30) applications on your phone. Carry a fully charged Bluetooth device if you plan to talk on the phone while driving. If you have an iPod, create a music playlists for your road trip beforehand.

These days there are hundreds of smart phone applications created specifically for road trippers. From finding the cheapest gas station, nearest national park, highest rated hotel or restaurant to interactive maps, you can end up spending more time looking at your device than through your window. Just be careful not to text while driving.

If you are looking for ideas for your next road trip, here are the top 10 drives in the U.S.:

1. Pacific Coast of California stopping at Big Sur and Carmel
2. Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park
3. Seward Highway in Alaska
4. Napa and Sonoma wine country in Northern California
5. Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana
6. Road to Hana on the Maui island of Hawaii
7. Red Rock Scenic Byway in Sedona, Arizona
8. Mount Rushmore, Badlands and the Black Hills
9. Route 66 from Arizona to Chicago through the Grand Canyon
10. North Carolina’s Outer Banks Highway

Lastly, you may encounter traffic delays, untimely stops or severe weather. There may be friction among the group sometimes. Allow yourself to be flexible and stay calm, reminding yourself that you are on vacation. Be spontaneous, have fun and enjoy the uniqueness at each stop of the way.

A drive through scenic Arizona

DIWYY

Visitors who come to USA often overlook the state of Arizona unless they are visiting the Grand Canyon. Contrary to popular belief, this 48th state in the United States is not a barren dessert. In fact, it has one of the most diverse landscapes, contemporary restaurants and some of the country’s finest art and architecture.

Most flights come into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, which is also the largest city in Arizona. The landscape here is that of lower dessert, which means it has dry open fields and giant cactuses. There are also a few mountains in the backdrop. Located 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain is a Phoenix icon that also acts as a directional reference guide, as it can be seen from everywhere in the city. Hot air balloon rides are very popular here. You can fly with Rainbow Ryders and enjoy views of the Sonoran Desert while floating in the sky and sending greetings to earthbound folks below. Days are long and dry here, so golf resorts are very popular in the spring and fall.

Adjacent to Phoenix is Scottsdale, a city of 200,000 people who love to eat, be outdoors and admire art. Old Town Scottsdale is a neat area with more than 100 galleries that encompass a wide range of artistic expressions from traditional bronzes such as George-Ann Tognoni’s trio of galloping horses to contemporary and experiential such as James Turrell’s SkySpace at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Leisurely stroll through the art district, waterfront and SouthBridge, taking a break at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria for lunch (the best New York style coal brick-oven pizza) or for something more local, try The Mission, an Old Town favorite spot serving delicious Modern Latin cuisine.

Stay at the The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa which will make you feel like you are on a cruise ship rather than a dessert resort. With a water park, two swimming pools, golf course, spa, adventure center, yoga and cooking classes, there is something for everyone to do. Also recommend the Fresh Start Renewal Vichy Body Therapy at the Agave Spa (located at the Westin); followed by dinner at Daseo, an award winning Latin Fusion restaurant serving muddled drinks and ceviche of fish that arrives daily to the restaurant at the same time as the chefs do!

Take a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, a winter camp of the famous American architect, built in 1930s. Wright and his apprentices created Taliesin West out of the desert by gathering rocks from the desert floor and sand from the washes to keep the design in balance with the surrounding environment. This architectural masterpiece is best enjoyable with a tour guide, who will share hilarious stories from Wright’s colorful life.

In the morning, drive towards Sedona, which is roughly two hours from Scottsdale. On the way, you will see how the landscape changes as the tall cactus begin to disappear and are replaced by small shrubs. Spend a few minutes at the Montezuma Castle National Monument, a 20 room cliff dwelling built by Sinaquas (Ancient Indian Tribe) over 700 years ago.

In the next 10-15 miles of your journey, you will see a dramatic change in your surroundings. Mountains covered with green wild grass and low lying shrubs would suddenly give way to iron rich red rocks. This is when you will know you have reached Sedona. Watching the impact of Earth’s changes over millions of years over this area will leave you feeling insignificant. Once covered by sea, there are traces of coral still visible in the upper parts of the rocks. It is the only place in the world known to have four vortexes, or high energy points ideal for meditation and spiritual practices. Take a hike to each location and see if you get that tingling feeling!

In Sedona, you will find abundant spas, healers, psychic readers, and yoga and meditation centers. Explore the Uptown, a short stretch of restaurants and shops, where most tourists tend to hang out. Take the Sedona Trolley Tours (every hour) that takes you around the key places and gives you a good overview of where everything is in the city, as well as the history of the area. Stay at the Enchantment Resort (if you can afford it); otherwise just visit their terrace restaurant around sunset. It is a beautiful, quiet and peaceful spot to watch the rocks and the star studded sky.

Sedona gives away to the city of Oak Creek where you can see how a water source can miraculously change the surrounding into lush green. As you drive through the winding roads going up the mountains, you will pass through Coconino, the largest Ponderosa Pine Forest of the Colorado Plateau.

45 minutes later, you will reach the historic city of Flagstaff at an altitude of 6,000 feet.  Perhaps best known for its Indian reservations, it is a great place to explore the Native American culture. Learn about the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, Kaibab-Paiute and Hualapai tribes that have been here for hundreds of years. Visit the Northern AZ Native American Cultural Trails. Flagstaff was thefirst city to pass a night ordinance which explains the interest in exploration of space at Lowell Observatory.

If you enjoy skiing and winter sports, this is a great affordable destination, but if you miss the winters, Arizona Snowball is a year-round snow playground. The famous Route 66 once ran through the city and its romances are still found. Explore some of the old landmarks or celebrate the Mother Road heritage at the Annual Route 66 Days Festival each September.

End your Arizona adventure at the south rim of the magnificent Grand Canyon, one of the wonders of the world. After passing Flagstaff, the wooded green curtains would suddenly open up to a powerful and inspiring landscape spanning 277 miles in length and 1 mile in height. Here you can spend an entire day hiking, soaking in the views and taking photographs. There are also river rafting trips, mule rides and guided hikes available in the park.

The most amazing part about Arizona is that all these changing landscapes can be found within a 4-hour driving distance. You should plan to spend at least couple of days at each location, but even a long drive through the state is awe-inspiring!