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20-year-old St. Louis celebrity chef caters Winterfest

Juwan Rice started his JR's Gourmet business at 14 years old. Now, he's catering St. Louis Winterfest downtown.
Credit: Pepper Baker

ST. LOUIS — Juwan Rice helps his Grandma Mumzie place the food they cooked together for Thanksgiving dinner, a bond they've shared since he was six years old.

"I was always by her side, always asking a bunch of questions in the kitchen. She's kind of taught me and trained me along the way and taught me everything she knew," Rice said.

When he was 13, his mother Annetta Thomas started bringing his pastries to her colleagues, turning his talents into a career.

"From there people were like okay how much would he charge for me to have these at my next birthday party or my next anniversary or something like that, and then that's really the point where I realized something that I do for fun could be turned into a business," Rice said.

"As a single parent, you never know the impact that you're making on your child or if you're doing things the right way or if they're missing out on something because they don't have a male figure that's consistent and so just to see what he's accomplished at 20, even at 14 when he wanted to start his business," Thomas said.

For the last seven years, he's made a name for himself with his JR's Gourmet catering business, being featured on the Food Network, competing at the World Food Championships and now a featured caterer at Winterfest downtown St. Louis at just 20 years old.

The Gateway Arch Foundation, JR’s Gourmet and Pure Catering STL are working together to cater the Winterfest event.

"We're doing a really awesome take on urban street food this year. We have things like totchos, so it's not normally nachos it's tater tots and everything we're making on this truck is from scratch," Rice said.

Raised in North St. Louis County by a single mother, Rice hopes his journey inspires people to follow their dreams.

"I think one of my biggest goals is just to be an influence to people who kind grew up in the same thing that I grew up in. From the city, didn't really have much, but I'm blessed. Honestly, I'm blessed, yeah," Rice said.

Rice is now working to release his own seasonings. 

For more information, visit Juwan Rice's website.