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Historically, the restaurant world can be a tough space for women. Thankfully, strong female chefs are breaking the mold left and right in recent years, setting the stage for even more strong female chefs to follow. Enter Star Maye, who’s not only pushing past tired stereotypes — she’s obliterating them. A Black, gay, female chef who also happens to be a military veteran, this trendsetting, talented woman has recently taken over as Executive Chef of Hillsboro Village’s coffee + CBD + restaurant phenom, Anzie Blue. Her résumé is a laundry list of local high-end hotspots, from The Palm to City Winery. Now, flexing her culinary muscles at Anzie Blue, she’s delivering delicious dishes from her renowned Nashville Hot Chicken Dip and deviled egg flight to her down-home shrimp and grits. Please welcome Anzie Blue’s Executive Chef and this week’s FACE of Nashville, Chef Star Maye. 

Three dishes from Anzie Blue, created by Executive Chef Star Maye

Check out these three gorgeous dishes from the Anzie Blue menu, created by Executive Chef Star Maye.

Where did you learn your exceptional culinary skills?

I’ve been cooking since childhood. My very first memory of it is when I was about 5 years old — I was a little kid standing on a stool stirring grits with my grandmother. In my family, food is at the heart of everything. If someone dies, it’s food. If someone gets married, it’s food. A baby? Food. Anniversaries? Food. Every significant thing that revolves around family also revolves around food. So food is my heart.

What is your signature dish?

My award-winning shrimp and grits! I also have three signature dishes [on the Anzie Blue menu] that you’re not going to get anywhere else. There’s “The King” (a peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich, deep-fried in beignet batter and topped with blueberry compote), the Nashville Hot Chicken Dip, and the Deviled Egg Flight, which is five different flavored deviled eggs on a board. The Nashville Hot Chicken Dip is delicious! I came up with it at 3 o’clock in the morning. I had some hot chicken leftover from somewhere else, and I’d had too many drinks, and I thought, I’m going to make something with this. I turned it into that dip, and I was like, “America deserves to try this.”

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Star Maye in the Anzie Blue kitchen, looking at an order ticket

“I come from a small town with a large family, which is one style of cooking,” says Star of her culinary background. “Then, I have a fine-dining background and a catering and banquet background. Taking all of those influences and marrying them at Anzie Blue is great. I’ve often thought, ‘I would love to do that at my own place,’ and now I have the opportunity to do it.”

Is there a secret ingredient that you’re drawn to putting in your dishes?

The seasoning brands that I use are localized to where I grew up. I like to bring where I’m from to where I am. I’m from a very small town in Alabama called Repton. It’s inside of Conecuh County, and Conecuh is the sausage that we use at Anzie Blue. That sausage is a breakfast fixture where I’m from. I don’t remember a breakfast in my life without it.

I also try to use as many local products as possible. I truly believe in supporting small businesses. Belle Meade Bourbon is a big thing on our Anzie Blue menu — it’s very underrated, delicious, and it makes the quality of the things that I cook even better. I also use TC Craft Tequila in a lot of things, like my pineapple salsa for our island burger. We use Crieve Hall Bagels exclusively at Anzie Blue. It’s one guy in a 500-square-foot place, and I support him.

Do you have mentors who have inspired and driven you?

Being a female chef 20 years ago was very difficult — much more difficult than it is today — so I didn’t have a lot of people going out of their way to show me things. I was the person in the background trying to look over their shoulders to see what was going on, so I’m kind of self-taught. I’d like to think that I’m a leader for other females, but I didn’t really have that when I was coming up in my career.

I didn’t have an opportunity for many cooking influences outside of my family, but my grandmother was pivotal. I’ve seen her cook things thousands of different ways. When I went to cooking school, they just taught me the proper names for it. I didn’t even realize she was making these beautiful French sauces. She didn’t know either! She’s still alive and lives in Alabama — she’s 93 years old and a firecracker. To this day, I still call her for recipes!

Executive Chef Star Maye in her Anzie Blue chef's coat.

“It’s not easy to work on a hotline and put out massive amounts of food each night,” says Star, “but I have a passion for cooking. It didn’t matter how hard the journey was; it wasn’t going to deter my passion for it. I tried to soak up as much information as I could.”

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Do you have any advice for other up-and-coming female chefs on the challenges they might face in a male-dominated culinary world?

Be true to yourself. Sometimes the goal is to break you. So, if you’re always true to yourself, it makes it easier for you to transition in and out. I’m always quiet in the beginning. Nobody ever understands I’m as fun as I am for at least two weeks! But in that two weeks’ time, I’m a sponge. So, that’s the main thing I would tell any female chef walking into a new job. Number one, just be you. And number two, be a sponge.

On a local level, where do you go if you head out for dinner?

I like to go and see what new things are out there and what other chefs are coming up with because the culinary world is constantly changing. I’m also that person who enjoys a good Southern comfort meal at home with my son and my girlfriend. I’m a Southern girl, so smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes, and white beans are the perfect meal for me. I’m a beer enthusiast, so I love Fat Bottom Brewing. We go there pretty often.

Star Maye in the Anzie Blue kitchen, cooking.

With an emphasis on locally made ingredients, Star is supporting other mom-and-pop Nashville businesses.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My attitude determines my altitude. People ask, “How are you always in a good mood? Why are you always smiling?” It’s because I don’t have a reason not to. I could sit here and think of 577 reasons, but that would be more effort than it would be for me to smile and go on.

Faith, family, and friends notwithstanding, what three things can’t you live without?

Shrimp! My drums — I play drums outside of work, and they give me my sanity. And peanut butter and jelly. Someone asked me, “If you had to pick one food to have for the rest of your life, what would it be?” My answer is, “a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” You can do so much with peanut butter and jelly. That’s why I have “The King” on my menu.

Thanks for the interview, Star, and thanks to Mary Craven Photography for the photos!

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