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Shawn Niles, also known as The Fat Pastor, is from Yakima, Washington in the Pacific Northwest. As a career pastor, he never saw his life shifting to full-time culinary work, but that's exactly what happened in 2016. 

Having moved from Yakima to Freehold, New Jersey in 2002, Shawn's culinary world blew up. Suddenly, he was exposed to foods from around the world that he had never experienced before. His job as a children's pastor had him rent a room from a medical doctor - Karabi - from India who would cook for him delicious foods from her region several times a week. Some time later, Shawn then moved in with a man from Italy who also loved to cook. The man - Ralph - loved to make anything Italian and would often share his food and stories. 


During his time in New Jersey, Shawn also met his future wife, Tenielle. She and her mother had moved to the US from Trinidad, and her mother would cook them dinner almost every night. Amazing Trini cuisine - roti's, curries, stewed chicken, pelau, etc. And of course, Shawn would take it all in. 


After getting married, Shawn and Tenielle moved to Hilo, Hawaii to be assistant pastors at a small church on the Big Island. The people of Hawaii were so generous, and shared and taught Shawn many of their cultural meals. During their time in Hilo, Shawn's father passed away which created a desire to be closer to home. 


Shawn & Tenielle moved back to Yakima in 2006. Shawn felt like his eyes were opened up to the Pacific Northwest in a whole new way. All of his experiences, from East Coast to the South Pacific, would influence Shawn's take on the food that came from his home region. 


As Shawn continued to cook for fun and for entertaining guests, his passion and skills grew. He and Tenielle created a bucket list in 2011, and one of the things that Shawn wrote down was that he wanted to cook for Gordon Ramsay before he died. He had no idea where that small dream would take him. 


In 2016, Shawn was given the information for tryouts for Gordon Ramsay's MasterChef. On a whim, he and a friend traveled to Portland where Shawn tried out. And over the course of the next few months he continued throughout the process, and found himself flying to Los Angeles to compete on the show. 


Shawn walked onto the MasterChef stage, and lived out his dream of cooking for the incredible Chef Ramsay, along with Christina Tosi and Aaron Sanchez. He was tasked with making fried chicken against a competitor - Yachecia Holston - who would eventually become his best friend. While Gordon Ramsay fought for Shawn's dish and fought for him to hold onto the white apron, it was ultimately Yachecia that won. But not before hearing words from Chef Ramsay that would change the trajectory of Shawn's life: 


"Shawn, you're a passionate man. And it's clear that you were born to serve your community; but it's also clear that you were born to cook - don't stop!" - Gordon Ramsay


Upon returning to Yakima as one of the top 40 home chefs in America, Shawn realized that maybe there was more to cooking than just fun. He had been working on a social media blog for several years called "The Fat Pastor," and decided to capitalize on that idea. The name "The Fat Pastor" came from Shawn's ministry background, and also from the culinary concept that fat is where the flavor is. Thus, The Fat Pastor was born as more than just a blog, but now as a business. 


And the first order of business was to do something in the community to make a difference. Urban Kitchen was formed, a business and culinary school for youth in Yakima. This free school would work to teach students culinary and business skills twice weekly for 4 months, and then allow students to run their own restaurant concept for 3 nights. It was a big success with lots of backing from the community. 


From there, as an effort to help raise support for Urban Kitchen, Bite Club was born. Bite Club would also become a big success as the nations first legal underground dining club. People in Yakima were excited to be part of something that gave them access to chef plated meals with wine pairings in unique settings. 


Over the course of the next few years, lots of opportunities would show up for The Fat Pastor, including local catering, World Food Championships, magazines, restaurants, trips out of the country with world renowned chefs, and another stint on national television with Netflix's Best Leftovers Ever. He also partnered with the local production company, The MD Network, and together they are currently developing a 52 episode television show that highlights the amazing food and beverage industry of the Yakima Valley. 

While Covid had a huge impact on The Fat Pastor, it didn't shut the efforts down. Still moving forward and growing in opportunities, The Fat Pastor looks forward to many more years of service, and growing ways for people to experience the amazing world of food - locally and abroad! 



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