Rising Star Chef Tristen Epps of Red Rooster Overtown - Biography

Miami, FL

February 2021

Unlike most teenagers who flip burgers for minimum wage, Tristen Epps actually liked his part-time job at McDonalds; it allowed him to get out of the house for a while and, even better, make people happy. Raised by a single mom who traveled for her military job, he learned to feed himself early on. In 2009, he graduated from Johnson & Wales’ Charlotte campus and began a string of hotel kitchen jobs with The Ritz-Carlton, Westin Hotels & Resorts, The Four Seasons, and The Greenbrier. There, he ascended from the apprentice program to tournant in 2012, working closely with certified Master Chef Richard Rosendale, who delivered rigorous, classical training. In 2014, Epps was a contestant on ABC’s The Taste, where Marcus Samuelsson became his on- and off-screen mentor. Epps was a finalist on the show but gained something arguably more prestigious than the win: the sous chef position at Samuelsson’s Red Rooster in Harlem. Samuelsson encouraged Epps to represent himself on the plate—from his Trinidadian background to his military brat travels—which gave him the confidence to open the farm-to-table Cooks & Captains as executive chef in 2016. When Samuelsson needed an executive chef for Red Rooster’s Miami offshoot, Epps returned to the Marcus Samuelsson Group and moved down South in 2020. The restaurant stays true to Samuelsson’s style but is enriched by the essence of Overtown, a historically Black neighborhood, and Epps’ global vision as a chef.