How is what you learned in 4‑H helping you become a leader in the culinary world now?
LL: 4‑H has taught me those soft skills you need to lead, like commitment and follow-through and responsibility. For example, my website, Son of a Southern Chef, requires my dedication and commitment. I think some people think it kind of happens organically, but there’s actually a lot of work that goes into it. So I use those skills every day.
It has also given me opportunities. Being a youth board member gives me a platform that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I’ve met other board members I would not have gotten to meet otherwise. I’ve also worked for the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., where I was learning about the farm bill or speaking one-on-one with the secretary of agriculture.
Your father was a chef and a restaurant-owner, and you learned a lot from him. You even called your website “Son of a Southern Chef.” In what ways was he a role model for you when it comes to leadership?
LL: My father was a business-owner all my life. He only ever worked for himself. He had a sense of confidence and leadership that I took for granted for many years.
He taught me about believing in yourself, believing that your dreams matter, and believing that you’re capable of pursuing your dreams. My dad barely passed high school because in his senior year my oldest brother was born. That was a real challenge for him, and he overcame that. He didn’t relent. He went to work, and then he started his own business when he was, like, 22.
He showed me a lot about being a man— what a man looks like today: Someone who takes care of their family, who provides, who is a good listener, who is a good father. He was just second to none, and that’s the kind of dad I want to be for my kids one day.