Catholic Executive Chef Jim Churches (With a Recipe for ‘Asian Flash Bang Shrimp’)

Chef Churches is a very busy chef, who also leads an active Catholic life.

Chef Jim Churches
Chef Jim Churches (photo: Jim Churches)

Poised in his tall chef’s toque and white executive chef’s coat, Jim Churches strikes an impressive pose that shouts “amazing chef.” Indeed, his photo appears on several sites sponsored by the Land O’ Lakes Dairy Foods where he works as the corporate chef and culinary sales manager. No one can deny that he must whip up some amazing foods and oversee a busy kitchen.

Raised in Michigan outside of Detroit, Chef Churches now has more than 27 years of experience in professional kitchens, including producing fast casual foods and working in family restaurants. And Churches credits both his mother and grandmother for his cooking passion. “My grandma always had amazing food,” he said, “and she was always surrounded with food at her house … and we would not be allowed in the kitchen while she was still doing her cooking. … Grandma did traditional food very well.”

All that good food inspired Churches to start cooking when he was in the sixth grade in home economics classes. “Since then, I laser-focused on school cooking classes,” he said, working with family dining through high school. “I went to Schoolcraft College in Michigan with culinary classes led by Certified Master Chefs.

While attending college, Churches worked at the Dearborn Inn in Michigan until he realized that doing the breakfast pantry classes in the morning and then working in the kitchen until midnight was not worthwhile. He then was hired by the now-defunct J.L. Hudson Department Store that had fine dining in their stores. “They asked me to be the lead cook,” he said. “I was working hard on the line and I was getting schooling so I could figure out how to order and over time I became the chef de cuisine and eight months later, I became executive chef.”

Churches was then hired by Aramark, a national food-service company, and worked as the executive chef for three different properties, including corporate fine dining and food/beverage operations. After several years and working for other companies, Churches was hired by National Food Manufacture as their corporate executive chef.

A very busy chef, yes — but Churches also leads an active Catholic life. Churches credits his father for his Catholic faith. “I grew up Catholic until the third grade,” he said, “but my mother took us elsewhere and my faith focus changed. When I got married, that is when I came back to the Catholic Church. … I think it provided building blocks to life and help people choose to be a good person and act well in society.”

Indeed, the public can easily understand his faith by watching this Catholic chef’s April show. “With the show,” he said, “although my faith is private, I think it shows an example you can set. And the reason why I got there was because I donated a dinner party for 10 to the Brighton Pregnancy Center, a community of support in Michigan.”

“I am still learning and growing in my faith,” he concluded.

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Recipe: Asian Flash Bang Shrimp
Jim Churches, CEC, CCA, AAC

Serves 3 to 4

  • 2 cups mayonnaise 
  • 2 cups sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 1 cup cornstarch 
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, and deveined 
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, for garnish 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, sriracha, and lime juice and mix well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the cornstarch and flour together and toss in the shrimp until the shrimp is covered. In a large skillet, heat the oil to 350 degrees, and deep-fry the shrimp for 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from the oil and place the shrimp in a medium-sized bowl and toss with 1 of the mayonnaise mixture and until the shrimp is nicely coated with sauce. Place 1/4 cup of Asian slaw on a plate and place 8 to 10 shrimp on the slaw. Repeat until used up. Garish the shrimp with the green onions, cilantro, and green and black sesame seeds, and serve.