Graduation time is upon us and many students are preparing to begin a new journey in their lives. Ashland High School's 2017 graduation will be held this Saturday, May 20 at 10 a.m. in the school's gymnasium. This year's guest speaker is celebrity chef Jernard Wells.
Chef Wells was the runner-up on Season 12 of the hit show Food Network Star. This accomplishment along with multiple wins on Cut Throat Kitchen have made Wells, aka "The Chef of Love," a favorite among viewers. Chef Wells is an Amazon bestseller cookbook author for his book "88 Ways to Her Heart." As a celebrated chef, Wells has worked with many famous celebrities including Paula Deen, Steve Harvey, Lady Antebellum, Heart, The Premier and First Lady of Bermuda, Baby Face, Star Jones and Reuben Studdard to name a few.
Wells is an Ashland native and graduated from Ashland High School in 1998. While growing up in Ashland, Wells' father taught him how to maneuver through the kitchen before passing away when Wells was young. To help support his family, Wells began a restaurant out of his family's kitchen during his junior year at Ashland High School. It became successful within a couple of months.
Wells' mother, Gwendolyn Willis, is still living in Ashland; his sister, Marquita Williams lives in Olive Branch; and his sister LaTonya Bryson lives in Memphis, Tennessee. Wells also has a great-aunt who currently resides is Ashland.
Wells has successfully opened restaurants in Memphis and has been named a recipient of the Patrick Clark Honor Chef of the Year, Travel Fiery Flame International Chef of the Year, and March of Dimes Signature Chef Gala winner. Chef Wells also has a popular spice line, Le'Chef Amours Haute Cuisine, which is sold nationwide in Whole Food Stores.
Wells is involved in the "Culinary Fight Club" where he serves as, not only host, but as the franchise holder of the Southeast region. Chef Wells and the organization both are sponsors of the nonprofit organization, Fight 2 Feed, which strives to feed the homeless in the country.
Chef Wells says that his speech to the Ashland High Class of 2017 will be mostly about "being persistent and getting out of the box." He says, "I want to talk to them about the importance of being persistent and to never give up regardless of where they come from. 'Getting out of the box' is a phrase that I often use in response to the popular phrase 'think outside of the box' because when you are thinking outside the box the problem is you are still in the box. If you really want change and want to accomplish things you must think beyond what the eyes can see. It all started for me with an imagination and a dream. Honestly, I didn't even have an idea of how, but in staying persistent and going for what I wanted, I accomplished many things. That is the message that I want to give to them."
In addition to speaking at the graduation, Chef Wells will also prepare a dinner for the seniors Friday, May 19 at the award's night and dinner starting at 5 p.m. in the school's cafeteria.