Food & Drink | April 1, 2022 11:19 am

Rick Ross’s Former Personal Chef Is Now Serving Her Next-Level Fried Chicken to the Masses

Go pick up Chick’n Jones in Miami Beach — or try her recipe for Hot Honey Truffle Chicken at home

Amaris Jones at her new restaurant
Amaris Jones at her new restaurant
Amaris Jones

There was a time when Amaris Jones would wake up at 5 a.m. to field calls from Rick Ross — and no, it wasn’t a dream. The rap star would merely be calling to ask her to come over and make him his morning beet juice.

“Some mornings he’d call me and be like, ‘Can you be here in an hour?’” she recalls. “And then I’d get there, and there would be 20 people that I had to cook for.”

It was par for the course for Jones, who, long after her two-year stint as the Grammy-nominated Biggest Boss’ personal chef, still sometimes calls herself the Biggest Chef — a title well-earned, if a bit oxymoronic. After all, it was in large part thanks to Jones’ work that Ross dropped 80 pounds.

It’s not diet food that Jones is bringing to Miami with her newest undertaking, an upscale fried chicken joint dubbed Chick’n Jones. It is, nevertheless, thanks to the many hats Jones has worn over the course of her varied career — estate manager for Sean Combs, lifestyle guru, and even real estate pro — not to mention her natural ability to see windows opening wherever a door closes, that she is now forging forward in this new adventure.

Jones first arrived in Miami as a regional property manager for a major real estate investment trust company. When the business folded, Jones landed on her feet, pivoting, instead, into lifestyle management, which led her to meet industry pros from the world of music and entertainment. She found herself frequently facing off with similar requests: folks asking, upon their arrival in her adoptive city, where the best place was to listen to jazz and eat soul food.

“There weren’t really that many places in Miami,” she recalls. “I would tell people: ‘You know what? Just come to my house, I’ll make the food, we’ll listen to some music, and we’ll pretend that this is a restaurant.’”

Soon, people started telling her that it was time to stop pretending, and in 2012, she followed their advice, opening South Street, a neo-soul restaurant that doubled as a live music venue specializing in blues, R&B, and jazz. When, despite its celeb-studded evenings, the restaurant closed after just a year, Jones wasn’t discouraged.

She gives French Montana, a South Street regular, credit for introducing Rick Ross to her food. Newly ascribed to Crossfit, Ross needed a chef to help with the culinary side of his weight loss challenge, and Jones was more than up for the task.

“My challenge was really to get him to enjoy healthier versions of what he was used to,” she says, noting she swapped cauliflower for mashed potatoes and removed pork from his diet, using tons of spices and very little salt to make the healthier dishes moreish — not just for Ross, but for his entourage.

“When I cooked for him, it wasn’t just cooking for him,” she says. “His friends and all the people who worked with him in the studio had to work out with him, and then they all had to follow my diet.”

After the two-year contract was up, she and Ross parted ways amicably.

“We have developed this actual friendship over the years,” she says, noting that she has catered his daughter’s birthday party and cooked at his home in Atlanta.

“The end of January was his birthday, and so I catered his brunch,” she says. “If he’s in town and he needs something, he’ll call me.”

But Jones was also ready for a new challenge — something inspired by not only her star-studded background but also her roots. Jones, after all, was not always destined to be a chef to the stars, but she knew one thing from a young age: She loved to eat good food. Growing up in Philly, she recalls, her father ran one of the first Black-owned storefront churches in the city, and on his days off, he would often take her to Chicken George for a special treat.

“I was always blown away by just the flavor of that chicken,” she says. 

Recalling, too, the work her mother did cooking for her father’s congregation to raise money for the church and feed the community, always relying on the best ingredients she could find, Jones wondered if there wasn’t a new pivot in the cards: a fast-casual fried chicken establishment with quality ingredients at its core.

“Something like Chicken George, inspired by family and their menu,” she notes, “but I wanted to make it even more elevated by just using really great ingredients.”

At Chick’n Jones, the fried chicken starts with antibiotic-free birds and organic flour. The chicken is seasoned with mustard and herbs and fried in the highest-quality frying oil she can find.

“We do have some fries, because everyone loves French fries, but we have a really great kale salad, and people can either get their chicken grilled or fried paired with that,” she adds, noting that the menu is rounded out with a sweet potato biscuit with cinnamon honey rum butter — a staple of her South Street menu — and grilled green tomatoes instead of fried for a slightly healthier touch.

And that’s not all. Jones is currently working on a gluten-free option, and she’s even recently partnered with TiNDLE, a vegan chicken company that allows chefs to season and bread the patty to their tastes.

“I kind of want to get that LA vibe, that curated menu where you have something for everybody,” she says. “Just to understand people’s needs and wants without really compromising the flavor and the taste.”

And for Jones, there is no place better than Miami to be building her new brand.

“I’ve been here almost 20 years,” she says. “And I’ve seen a great trajectory of just really serious chefs opening restaurants here.”

While there have always been phenomenal local flavors in Miami, she notes, “what I’m really loving is that there’s more Black chefs like myself who are opening restaurants that are catering to influences from the African diaspora.”

And with the growing influx of new Miamians, she adds, “people are really finally starting to take Miami seriously as a food town.” 

“Before it was like a party town in the sun,” she continues. “But now, in the last five years, I feel like it’s starting to blossom.”

Hot Honey Truffle Chicken and Garlic Chive Waffles
Hot Honey Truffle Chicken and Garlic Chive Waffles
Amaris Jones

Hot Honey Truffle Chicken and Garlic Chive Waffles

Last year, Jones featured two recipes on Food Fantasies on the Oprah Winfrey Network, one of which was this hot honey truffle chicken and waffle — a decadent, luxurious iteration of the modern soul food that has become her signature.

Ingredients:

  • 6 organic chicken tenderloins
  • 2 organic chicken drumsticks
  • Safflower oil, for frying

Chicken Marinade

  • ⅓ cup pickle juice
  • ⅓ cup pickled jalapeno juice
  • 1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 tablespoon Lawry’s season salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard

Sauce

  • ½ tablespoon unsalted European or French butter
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup chopped Vidalia onions
  • ⅓ cup sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ½ Wild Cherry Pepsi
  • 1 teaspoon white truffle oil
  • 1 can club soda

Seasoned flour

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Lawry’s season salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the marinade: blend all of the ingredients until smooth. Place into a plastic bag or glass container, add the chicken, and marinate up to 24 hours.

For the sauce, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter, add the chopped sweet onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned (3 to 5 minutes). Put the onion and remaining ingredients (except the truffle oil) in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer the to a small bowl. Once cool, add the truffle oil.

Combine all of the ingredients to make the seasoned flour. Set aside.

Remove the chicken from marinade and pat dry. Add a little marinade to the flour mixture, and dredge the chicken on all sides. Set on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before frying.

Fry the chicken legs at 350 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the interior temperature of the chicken reaches 165 ºF. Remove and dip the chicken into the honey hot sauce. Remove and transfer chicken to a wire rack, and repeat for the chicken tenders.

Fast Garlic Parmesan Chive Waffles

  • 4 cups Buttermilk Complete waffle mix
  • ½ cup sautéed minced onions
  • ½ cup chopped parsley and chives
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 1½ cups water

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Preheat the waffle maker, grease it, and using a ⅓ cup measuring cup, make 6 waffles.