Chef Mel has always been passionate about food. She’s also made it her personal mission to make food fun and sexy. Mel Alafaci, also known as ‘The Happy Chef’, is expanding her growing empire to the U.S. in hopes of showing Americans how to make dinner more daring.
A longtime believer that happiness can be spread through delightful meals, the cooking school founder, chef, cookbook author, and YouTuber prides herself on creating recipes that are as easy as they are impressive.
Culinary Quickies, Chef Mel’s first cookbook, made a global splash by winning the International Book Award, also landing a top finalist spot in the US. Today, she’s hard at work on a companion volume of simple and seductive recipes.
Among the qualities that have made Chef Mel a smashing success are her carefree manner, easy smiles, excellent kitchen shortcuts, and surprising sense of humor. She’s also a pro at making cooking accessible and complicated ‘cheffy’ concepts easy to grasp and execute for even kitchen first-timers.
“I want to share hope and joy with my cooking. We can cook with love and enthusiasm every day, especially armed with all of my shortcuts,” Chef Mel said, “We can make our family, our hot date, or our judgemental mother-in-law impressive meals created from simple, inexpensive, everyday ingredients.”
The chef’s aim is not to produce culinary geniuses but rather to inspire absolutely anyone who is lacking ideas in the kitchen. She claims that some of her favorite signature dishes are not only sexy but require no actual cooking at all, such as her killer cheese platters.
Behind the Apron
Chef Mel isn’t a native Australian. She was born in Zimbabwe and immigrated as a young adult, opening the doors to her first — and still top-rated — Vanilla Zulu Culinary Adventures cooking school.
The school teaches courses on a variety of cuisines and employs six chefs, 14 assistants, and serves 300 people each week at their on-site, interactive cooking school.
She began to grow her brand more seriously and internationally a few years ago, stepping away from the school and starting a YouTube channel while hosting pop-up events around the world. Her first events in the US got such an incredible response that she knew she had a future here.
“I hope to bring my culinary lingo, simple, clever cooking fun into American kitchens next,” she said.
Love, Happiness, and Confidence
To Chef Mel, the recipe for successful cooking is 50% serving. She says that only half of it requires cooking skills. The rest is how you sell your meal to family and friends, talking about it with confidence, plating it with love, and happily interacting with it.
“Always start with the basics, and then add flair and personality to the dish. A beautifully prepared and presented dish can be cheap and easy, but it certainly doesn’t have to look that way. Suppose you’re cooking dishes that stress you out and make you hate cooking. In that case, you are cooking the wrong thing,” Chef Mel said, “By gaining kitchen confidence, you will actually enjoy cooking again, you’ll start to succeed…and live happily ever after in your kitchen.”
All About Plating
Chef Mel always brings the focus back to plating your dishes with panache throughout her platforms. To her, there’s no point in making delicious food if it doesn’t look its most attractive.
“The right plating makes your meals look ten bucks more expensive. Of course, they don’t have to actually be expensive, but you can even make a humble sweet potato look pricey,” she said.
She shows a passion for making simple ingredients look sexy and sumptuous throughout her book and YouTube videos, sharing the plating secrets of mixing colors, textures, and style. “Use beautiful bright colors and refine your presentation with a sexy plate. For example, I love the color of a slate slab against pink parma ham. It just pops,” explained Chef Mel.
Chef Mel is sure to be a hit with American chefs looking to make their sandwiches sexier, their farfalle more fun, and their steaks far, far more sensual.