A chef could be defined as an expert in the field of the culinary arts. A chef might be characterized as a trained professional who transforms food into edible art.
But “chef” hardly defines a 24-year-old who would overcome traumatic life-changing events, learning culinary skills to help overcome tragedy.
“I have worked extremely hard to overcome the adversities I was exposed to at a very young age to graduate from high school, and take it a step forward,” Jibriel Saunders said.
Saunders, a 2013 Peoria High School graduate, said his affection for cuisine started when he was kid. He said it was a way to temporarily “escape” the childhood trauma, which had taken hold of his life.
“My brother and step-brother were gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Oakland, California,” Saunders said.
Saunders said the killings prompted his family to relocate to Arizona. He said that after moving to Arizona the family received further catastrophic news.
“Within a year after we moved to Arizona, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Saunders said. “During my mother’s battle with breast cancer, my sister was diagnosed with leukemia.”
Saunders said by the time he was 10, his brothers were dead. He said he knew he would soon be without his mother and sister. He said it felt like his whole world was falling apart.
Saunders said the family kitchen was where he felt liberated from sadness. It is where he developed a genuine passion for cooking—feeling that carried over into his teens.
“I really found a passion for culinary as soon as I got into high school,” Saunders said.
He said Peoria High School Culinary Arts teacher Barbara Saltzman-Carey inspired him to further refine his skills.
“I learned so much from the teachers at Peoria High School. I greatly appreciate them and the Peoria High School culture,” Saunders said. “As an institution, they won’t let you fail.”
Saunders said that after graduating he accepted a scholarship to Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale. During his time at EMCC, Saunders studied culinary arts under the watchful eye of former White House Executive Chef Jon Hill.
These days, Saunders has a lot on his plate. He is a full-time chef, actor and community activist.
Saunders said Bombay’s Creations, his private chef company, was thriving before Gov. Doug Ducey announced the stay-home order.
“If anything, I’m even busier than before the coronavirus pandemic. Bombay’s Creations has had a steady increase in home catering deliveries,” Saunders said. “I always chase my dreams, but now it’s like my dreams are chasing me.”
Saunders works hand in hand with several nonprofit organizations. He feels strongly about being actively involved in constructing social change through the culture of food.
His smiling face was seen passing out school-grown vegetables to kids and families during Peoria School District’s grab-and-go meals program after schools closed due to COVID-19.
“We reached out to Jibriel to see if he could help us,” Peoria nonprofit Zuri’s Circle co-founder Kimberly Muhammad said.
“Chef Jibriel harvests our garden at Peoria Elementary School. He teaches students about the garden and different ways they can utilize the gardens’ fresh vegetables,” Muhammad said.
Additionally, Saunders is a mentor for the Peoria anti-bullying nonprofit You Matter Too, said CEO Nicole Mayfield.
“Chef Jibriel teaches kids the aspect of planting positivity and watching it grow,” Mayfield said. “What Jibriel brings to the table is absolutely awesome.”
Saunders said his mother’s inspiration continues to guide him. He said her constant examples of unconditional love bring to mind the importance of helping others.
“It’s not about being financially rich. Because, if you ask me, I am rich. I have a rich mind and a rich soul.” Saunders said.
For more information on his chef service, visit bombayscreations.com.