10K80 by Valerie Cruz October 26, 2022
It’s only right for the Executive Chef and Co-Founder of Shmackwich, a food brand all about obscenely delicious gourmet chop cheese, to be named Sibnavus Cheeseman.
Chef Sib, as he’s better known, has over a decade of culinary experience and a pretty rad origin story with his passion for food born out of early experiences that helped shape his life.
His introduction to cooking came just at the tender age of 4 years old. On a 13-acre farm in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica where he spent his early years, Chef Sib remembers watching his dad kill a goat for the spring equinox.
This experience allowed him to appreciate and understand the intricacies of food preparation at a young age.
“That moment was when everything changed for me. The experience was so visceral and pure that I became instantly infatuated. The smells and taste were nothing like I’ve ever experienced before and in many ways, I’m still chasing that feeling.”– Sibnavus Cheeseman
Initially, Sibnavus did not consider a culinary career. Though when he was younger, he worked at restaurants out of school to support himself.
He studied and loved fashion photography. However, he was always drawn to the culinary world. Mainly due to being surrounded by people who were creative and passionate about the culinary arts.
“A lot of my friendships were formed on the floor of a restaurant or in the kitchens, and dish pits tucked away in the basement. Serving and meeting celebrities and masters of their craft was an optimum part of my person development.”– Sibnavus Cheeseman
When Sibnavus moved back to New York, he was introduced to the NYC restaurant culture. Specifically, at Dallas BBQ, Carmine’s, Old Dante’s, Milon on St. Marks, and Wo Hop.
The fast-paced, high-energy environment shaped not just his culinary journey but his life in general.
After a few years, Sibnavus decided to go full steam in the culinary direction. He started by learning how the hospitality industry worked by going through every level, working his way up.
He held various positions but almost always found himself in the kitchen, tapping in and learning from the professionals.
Sibnavus eventually landed his first Executive Chef position at Gran Electrica, a restaurant specializing in Puebla and Oaxacan regional cuisine.
Chef Sib’s culinary technique and philosophy are greatly influenced by his travels in Mexico and growing up in New York. He also draws inspiration from many mediums: visual arts, music, architecture, film, and life.
He realized early on how cultures borrow from each other. Sibnavus found that collaboration enriches and diversifies people, art, and food.
This understanding led him to better integrate his Afro-Caribbean roots with his delicious creations. He also attributes the success of his brand Shmackwich to his practice of collaboration.
When starting any project, he is reminded of a specific Confucious saying: There is no progress without collaboration. For him, it means working together is the way to move forward.
It is Chef Sib’s belief that everyone in the industry has a common purpose, which is to bring people together through food.
In years of working in restaurants, he observed how competition hinders them from reaching that goal. Thus, he works to eliminate competition and promote collaboration in the industry.
“When starting Shmackwich, that was the principle that we hold above all. It’s time for more co-working. I believe that’s the only way to truly succeed.“– Sibnavus Cheeseman
Chef Sib’s passion for cuisine is also matched by his mission of food sustainability. His philosophy is zero waste, always aiming to use every ingredient to the fullest extent.
He also chooses to acquire local and domestic products sourced from farmers that have ethical practices.
“As a chef, I have the opportunity to impact my environment on a micro and macro level.”– Sibnavus Cheeseman
Sibnavus Cheeseman credits the longevity of his culinary career and the success of Shmackwich to his philosophy of collaboration and willingness to learn new things.
Hence, Sibnavus encourages all aspiring chefs to pull inspiration from different sources.
Inspire and be inspired by others. Nothing is new: no dish, no flavor profile, no concept. Everything has been done. So let go of ownership and embrace the ideas and input of others. Everything we do is an interpretation of what was done before us.– Sibnavus Cheeseman