By Luke Elder
As a 6-foot-7 center at Roberto Clemente high, Lawrence Rowell is hard to miss. He towers over his classmates and teachers, and does the same for most of his competition on the court. With his high school basketball career coming to a close, Rowell is faced with the burden of a heavy question: what now? Presented with scholarship opportunities from Kennedy King and Wright College, it looks like that future will involve more basketball.
“I can’t wait to play at a high level,” Rowell said. “I never thought I was going to be able to.”
Though basketball can pave the way for academic opportunities, Rowell’s heart is torn between two passions: basketball and culinary arts. To ‘cook’ someone is a slang term for beating an opponent in basketball, so Rowell hopes that college will bring cooking in two ways.
“I’m not sure which is more important to me yet,” Rowell said. “I’m going to keep cooking while I’m in college. Kennedy has culinary, but everything is paid for at Wright.”
Blessed with two unique talents, the doubters have always come for Rowell. Not becoming a starter until his senior season, he was told by teammates and coaches that his height is undeserved; that he’s tall for no reason.
“They said they could do better with my height, or tell me I’m no good.” Rowell said. “I’m just here to prove a lot of them wrong.”
Despite proving his worth on the basketball court, his dreams don’t necessarily involve points or rebounds. Rowell began to cook at just four years old, after watching his family make breakfast in the kitchen.
“Every Sunday morning, my father would make me pancakes, grits, and a ton of sausage and eggs,” Rowell said. “Every time, the smell of the food would make me so happy. My dad and my auntie inspired me to cook.”
At just ten, Roval began to consider culinary arts as a career.
“I started to make big meals for my family,” Rowell said. “It would be so quiet at the table, all you could hear was forks and spoons hitting the plates. Everyone would tell me how good the food was.”
When Rowell isn’t on the basketball court, you can find him manning the grill at family cookouts or making meals for friends. He’s skilled at cooking many different styles of dishes, but he wasn’t willing to share any of them.
“I like to cook seafood, breakfast and soul food.” Rowell said. “A detailed recipe? A lot of them are secret recipes for generations.”
Rowell speaks about the intricacies of cooking like an academic does a research paper, or a conductor does a symphony. It’s almost like his persona switches as he begins to speak.
“I always loved the idea of how some flavors mix so well together,” Rowell said. “How one small detail can change how a dish tastes.”
There was a time when neither basketball nor culinary arts were in the cards for Rowell, after struggling early on academically. He never liked to study, but found academic success in high school.
“My grades weren’t always this good,” Rowell said. “I hated school–I would do the work, and not turn it in just because it was so boring. That changed in sixth grade when my auntie had a talk with me. She really changed me. Since then, good grades. I just want to make my family proud.”