By Jayvon Brown
Christian Bowman, commonly known as “Chef Cbo,” isn’t your typical chef. He’s the private chef of four-time NBA All-Star, Jimmy Butler.
Chef Cbo’s story to becoming a private chef represents faith, persistence, and good fortune. He started cooking at age 12, when following his mother while she cooked in the family kitchen and having an uncle who liked to cook led him to cultivate a passion for cooking at an early age. As a senior in high school, he enrolled in a culinary class. Enrollment for the popular course regularly filled up, so he barely gained a seat. During the semester, a teacher favorably noticed his cooking skills and entered him into a cooking competition. In the competition, he won second place. As a result of taking second place, he earned a culinary scholarship. That was a turning point for him. After graduating from culinary school, he began taking cooking seriously.
Eager to take a leap of faith to cook professionally, Chef Cbo juggled two jobs before becoming a private chef. To showcase his cooking skills, the social media savvy chef regularly posted pictures of his cooking dishes on his Instagram account (@ChefCbo). One day, Jimmy Butler’s personal trainer came across Chef Cbo’s Instagram account. Butler’s trainer sent a message about the opportunity to cook for the All-Star forward, who was visiting Los Angeles for a couple of days. Chef Cbo agreed. After a brief introduction where he met Butler for the first time, chef Cbo recalls, “Jimmy did not say much.” He cooked breakfast for Butler. In particular, the breakfast included French toast with a strawberry and blueberry sauce, turkey bacon and country style potatoes. Though Butler did not speak much, the chef says he did not feel nervous cooking for a big name like Jimmy Butler, because other NBA players had tried his food in the past and gave him the thumbs up.
Chef Cbo believed cooking for Butler was his opportunity to become a private chef. He was correct. Before the start of this past NBA season, Butler offered him a job to become his private chef and move into Butler’s Minnesota residence. Chef Cbo agreed, and moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota to help Butler meet his nutritional needs. He works closely with Butler’s personal trainer in crafting in-season goals that satisfy Butler’s calorie intake. In particular, Butler’s calorie intake varied through out the season, so Bowman tried to cook creative meals meeting his needs as he rehabbed from injury for part of the season.
Life as an NBA personal chef brings unique issues. In particular, as a private chef, he states, “you live the lifestyle of the athlete, and go through the schedule of the athlete.” For instance, Butler is currently the topic of intense trade discussions around the league, so Chef Cbo says he has to, “be prepared to leave to another city at the drop of a dime.” Because Los Angeles is Chef Cbo’s hometown, he says, “I would enjoy Butler playing in LA.”
There’s more to being a private chef than just cooking. He and Butler have forged a friendship, stating they have become brothers during his time as Butler’s chef. Growing up in the inner city and playing basketball during his youth, Chef Cbo finds he relates to professional athletes who have similar upbringings and background as him. Chef Cbo has cultivated relationships with many of the league’s best talents. For example, he’s cooked for former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and five-time NBA All-Star, Kyrie Irving. Similar to a highlight reel or game film for an athlete, Chef Cbo’s Instagram account showcases his ability and wide ranging palette in the kitchen. Discussing how others can become celebrity chefs, he mentions the importance of utilizing Instagram for business purposes. He advises other aspiring celebrity chefs to “continually post your work on Instagram, be passionate about cooking, and creativity is important.”
Creativity is apart of his cooking style. “I view cooking as an art,” he said. He derives his creativity from many different sources and is “not confined to a recipe book.” Instead of following a step-by-step process to cook, he considers how he can make a dish better, or provide a unique aspect to the food. “I do not want to have to cook the same thing twice,” he says. Functionally, his cooking style seems similar to Kyrie Irving’s electrifying crossovers that often leave fans asking, “wait, how did he do that?” Instead of following a recipe or procedure, Chef Cbo lets the creativity flow. And it’s paying off.