Scottsdale, Arizona. -Chef Kenny Woods watched closely as DeAndre Ayton raised his fork to his mouth to eat the familiar dish of Caribbean sea bass, snappy rice, peas, lime coconut salad and spicy mango jam made to taste just like Mama’s.
Cooking amazing meals is a common occurrence for the celebrity executive chef at Fox Restaurant Concepts in Arizona, which serves more than 50 restaurants across the country. However, in this particular case, Woods was challenged to replicate the aforementioned Caribbean dish from the family recipes of Andrea Ayton, Ayton’s mother. And when Ayton smiled after a few bites, Woods knew for sure that he had cooked a meal to the heart of the Phoenix Suns, a meal that will now raise money for a local charity.
“I was confident he’d like it,” Woods told Andscape. “I knew I got the rice flavor after testing the recipe 10 or so times. I took lots of notes and photos when Andrea taught me how to make it. I’m sure she’ll love it. After the DA’s feedback, he told me the rice tasted identical to his mom’s. He was shocked.” And it was blew up.”
Andrea Ayton has used Jamaican-Bahamian food to not only feed her family, friends, and the less fortunate, but also to show love and family heritage. Earlier this year, Ayton and his mom came up with the idea to raise money for an Arizona charity through their delicious food. The representation groups at Ayton Innovate and WME Sports contacted The Henry, a popular restaurant near the Suns training facility often frequented by the players.
The Henry was thrilled to team up with Aytons for a charitable opportunity to add the dish to their menu starting Wednesday at Henry And the Stop cooking locations in Arizona. With every meal purchased, 10% of sales will be donated to A helping hand for single mothersthat helps families of low-income single mothers. Billy Williams, a customer service representative for Ayton, said the meal would be on the menu through January before it was changed by Aytons, and the partnership would continue through April.
Eaton said it was an “honor” for his mother to not only bring the family plate to Suns and Arizona fans, but to help a charity she was passionate about.
“It’s crazy to know my mom has a whole plate in a restaurant that’s so high value,” Ayton said. “It’s different. My mom never had me in the kitchen, so being in the kitchen with the chef teaching me how she cooked her dish was different. That’s what my mom is. She was a giving person when we came back to Nassau and we had nothing. If I were out with my friends from All over the block, not only does she call me to dinner, she invites everyone over to dinner. She feeds everyone’s children and provides food to bring them home.”
“It’s definitely a winning dish. We think it’s going to be a best seller. We hope that’s the case so we can raise as much money as possible to help single hands,” said Hayden Wolfen, director of marketing for Fox Restaurant Concepts.
For 20 years, Helping Hands for Single Moms has helped hundreds of single moms earn college degrees, with a graduation rate of nearly 80%. Helping Hands for Single Moms has helped 335 single moms earn college degrees and 190 nurses, according to program chief executive Chris Kaufman.
Kaufman hopes that helping Aytons will educate more people about Helping Hands for Single Moms, which could spark more interest in the donation and partnership.
“It didn’t surprise me that they came up with this idea to raise money with this unique dish,” Kaufman said. “Who we are at Helping Hands for Single Moms and our motto is going to be there in all of these restaurants. That’s how you grow as an organization. Someone sits down at dinner, they see information about the organization and maybe they’re interested in helping single moms, maybe they’re a single mom, maybe they got married a single mother, and their sister may have been a single mother or illiterate single daughter.
“And all of a sudden, they’re drawn to our organization and what we do and what we do on our website. That’s going to be a huge benefit to us financially. But when I think about what it means to us to be associated with Fox Restaurants and what can come of that event, I can tell you as a CEO for about 20 years to Helping Hands for Single Moms, this is a great opportunity for them.”
Kaufman said Ayton and his mother have worked with Helping Hands for Single Moms for several years now. Aytons hosted lunches and dinners and gave out grocery gift cards and Puma sneakers to women participating in the organization. In December 2021, Andrea Ayton received the Helping Hands Single Mom’s Mom, My Hero Award for her charitable work. Andrea Eaton was too shy to speak, so Eaton spoke for his mother.
“Our hearts go out to the single moms,” said Andrea Eaton. “My mom was a single mom. I think it’s so good to give back to them, especially the kids. I met some moms. They’re good people. I met the man responsible for her. He’s doing a good job. That’s why we choose them.”
“At the time I got the award I was shy because there were so many people. One-on-one, I’m not. But with the crowd, no. I just said, ‘Thank you,’ and didn’t make a speech. Deandre spoke to me. But it was so overwhelming and beautiful.” .
A proud Ayton added, “Now she has a platform where she can really show what she can do. She’s proud of that. That’s her passion. Something for her. Caring. She doesn’t really have a job. But her job is caring.”
To help The Henry’s chefs prepare the dish, Andrea Ayton went into the restaurant’s test kitchen on August 25 to teach Woods.
Woods had all the poultry, sea bass, and other ingredients she needed to make the dish. When she first started cooking, she didn’t have measuring cups, teaspoons, or other measuring tools. I calculated by feeling what it considered the right amount of spice.
“I was a little nervous. But they were cute, so I felt a little bit relieved,” said Andrea Ayton. “I don’t measure up. In my house, we cook a lot of food. When I went to the test kitchen, they had a lot of things to cook. I ended up cooking a lot that day, especially the peas and rice.
“There was fish, so I took two. With rice and peas, there was more than one [the] the quantity i need. Coleslaw was just fine. I wanted some bananas on the side, but they didn’t keep it up. He. She [came] It’s really good.”
Woods wrote it all down in a notebook. He realized that Andrea Ayton’s hands were about the size of his own, which helped him calculate the amount of spice needed. She also gave Woods a family history lesson while preparing food and said Woods did a “very good job” recreating her food.
“Andrea highlighted every ingredient, telling me the history of the produce, the spices, and the seafood,” Woods said. “She eagerly began cooking each component of the dish, often slowing down to explain what was happening. My favorite part was holding my hand and stirring the rice pot to show me how it should be cooked. This took me back to cooking as a child with my grandmother. She told me the first ingredient It’s love.
When teaching our chefs, we explain the history of the dish and how to make it with love and passion every time. Each executive chef is trained hands-on in how to make the dish, and then they teach the chefs and cooking teams. We also created a step-by-step video so all chefs can refer back to the cooking process If necessary “.
Andrea Ayton has Jamaican roots and is a native of the Bahamas. She came to the United States with her son as he pursued his dream of basketball. After playing high school ball in San Diego for two years, Ayton moved to Arizona in 2015 and played for Phoenix Hillcrest Academy, University of Arizona, and Suns.
Ayton was the first pick in the 2018 NBA draft. His father is Alvin. Andrea is the mother of three siblings, Tian, Horace and Serenity; aunt, Jackie Dixon; a friend, Anissa Evans; and his young son, Deender Ayton Jr., and other loved ones now all live in the Phoenix area. With the support of his family, Ayton has become one of the best young adults in the NBA. As a restricted free agent last summer, Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million maximum offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers, but the Suns matched the offer.
While Ayton’s contract situation was stressful for Ayton and his family, his mother said their prayers were finally answered. She also added that the blessings they receive will eventually become blessings for those less fortunate through their charitable efforts.
“I am grateful,” said Andrea Eaton. “There is a saying we prayed and God saves.” We pray people. I know God will come for Deandre and that’s what he did. We have a lot of giving to do. Lots of things to do. We are here to bless those who need help.”
We forget that Thanksgiving is coming soon. Every Sunday is more like a Caribbean Thanksgiving with the Aytons.
Andrea Ayton, with Dixon’s help, gets up early Sunday morning to cook a huge Caribbean meal during what she describes as “happy time.” The menu included fried chicken, grilled chicken, goat curry, red fish, tilapia, shrimp, oxtails, white rice, macaroni and cheese, steamed vegetables, fried brown rice, peas, callaloo, fried bananas, steamed cabbage, special Caribbean fruits, Rum cake and pound cake. Yes, all of it.
They’re tasty enough to feed 20+ people and take home on a plate wrapped in aluminum foil. The family takes turns dining at the homes of Ayton, his mother, sister and aunt. She has also cooked for The Suns and University of Arizona players.
“I feel like I’ve never left home,” Ayton said of Sunday dinner. “It is a home full of family and friends. My mom cooks for everyone. We are listening to music. Everyone is there all night. We just enjoy being around each other, the culture, and that vibrating like it’s back on the islands. never changed. Everything stays the same. Every Sunday whether you are there or not.
“It invites everyone. It doesn’t make it an early game or a three o’clock game. Whoever’s in the game is going to come home. My agents, the financial advisor, the people I work with. Everyone’s there in the house. This is where people understand why I’m the way I am when They see how I act with family and friends. We don’t take anything seriously.”
Ayton says Sunday dinner usually starts at 4 p.m. and lasts until about 10 p.m. The dinner theme also includes reggae and dancing.
“A lot of reggae and people doing old-school dances,” Ayton said. “Some of the dance moves are traditional. People get drunk from the food. It’s the energy. We’re in America, but we feel energized, like we’re on the islands. It’s a different energy. It’s like home. It’s different.”
When Aiton is able to attend, it is customary for his mother to make his plate first with all his favourites. He loves fried and baked chicken, macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetables, turkey legs, fried brown rice and rice and peas on his plate with his “special food”. His young son started a new tradition by eating his father’s dish.
So why would he eat Aiton first?
“He’s the one that works. That’s why I need to make sure he’s eating,” Andrea Eaton said. [beforehand]. Therefore, I chose the best food for him first. that’s fair “.
Ayton said, “It’s a mountain to me. It’s her son’s painting. She makes it so proudly for all to see. And my child eats off my plate. He wants everything off my plate.”