Samford named James Briscione, a Samford Alumni and former Food Network Celebrity, as the University’s Culinary Advisor in a press release on Sept. 26. Briscione made an appearance in the Caf during family weekend before the announcement, where he cooked and served gnocchi for students and their family members.
Wade Walker, Samford’s Director of Business Services, stated in Samford’s press release that “with the addition of Chef James, it shows we are committed to making our dining service program the best it can possibly be.”
The culinary advisor role includes teaching students, training staff and helping develop the menu in the Caf.
“President Taylor and Wade Walker have both shown how committed they are to elevate the student experience at Samford and were champions of creating this new role,” Briscione said. “We do hope to see this as a long-term position that may grow throughout the years.”
Briscione described the recent upgrade to the caf as an “incredible transformation” in both appearance and quality of food since he was a student at Samford. The renovations left him amazed and “jealous of today’s students” who have access to the newly improved Caf.
Briscione studied at Samford in the 90s and early 2000s. He started as a sports medicine major with plans to go into orthopedics or athletic training but switched his junior year when he committed to becoming a chef and started studying nutrition and dietetics.
“I always look back on my years at Samford very fondly,” said Briscione.
At Samford, Briscione was very active on campus, spending his time hanging out with his hall mates and fraternity brothers, playing intramural sports and studying abroad, where he spent the turn of the millennium on the London Bridge. He started working at Bottega his junior year and was able to graduate a semester early to “focus my time in the kitchen with Frank Stitt.”
After his time at Samford, Briscone worked as a chef both in the kitchen and in front of audiences.
Briscione then moved to New York City, where he had a friend who auditioned to be a judge on a new show called “Chopped,” Briscione ended up being suggested as a contestant for the show; he was interviewed and then cast in the first two pilot episodes. From there, he competed in season one of the official series, leaving as a champion and returning in season two to win a second time.
Briscione would then “circle the orbit of Food Network,” where he appeared regularly as a guest host and judge.
“To this day, competing on shows is always nerve-racking. Adrenaline-fueled nervous energy keeps me up late the night before filming and fuels me through shoot days (along with copious amounts of coffee),” Briscione shared. “It’s a new thrill and personal challenge every time. While you are competing against the other chefs, I always feel like I am competing against myself as well- did I make the best choices with ingredients, did I put the flavors together in the right way, could the presentation have been better? If I do all of those things to the best of my ability, I feel good walking out of the kitchen- win or lose.”
Briscione not only spent time cooking but also worked with his wife, Brooke Parkhurst, writing cookbooks. “She was already a very talented and accomplished writer. She was writing one of the top blogs in NYC and was a media darling,” he shared.
They ended up writing their first book of several, “Just Married and Cooking,” which “is a chronicle of all the things we cooked, ate and entertained with while dating and in our first year of marriage.”
Part of Briscione’s role will be doing a teaching kitchen which “is one of the cornerstones of this program.”
“I am so excited about this new position as Culinary Advisor, [and] create truly unique and engaging experiences for Samford Students.”