Artwork and murals

Most days Emily LaForce can be found in a chef’s coat working the line at River Oaks restaurant.

But on her days off, this talented sous-chef can often be found on a ladder painting a mural on the side of a building.

LaForce says she has been painting all her life; her passion for cooking grew from a need to earn a living.

Both mural painting and cooking appeal to her artistic side. “I really like plating a dish,” she said. Part of her job at River Oaks involves creating the daily specials. “I get to be creative and come up with four dishes every day.” Each, of course, is beautifully and creatively presented on the plate.

One of the things she loves most about painting murals is the calm. “Being outside on a day like today is so nice,” she said on a recent Sunday while she was putting the primer coat on the Saltwater Crab mural. “It is so calm compared to the kitchen, where it is so hectic and crowded.”

About six years ago, she set out on a cross-country journey with the goal to paint a free mural in every state. It didn’t quite work out as she planned. “I only made it to two states,” LaForce said.

After a brief stay in California, she eventually moved back to her hometown of Memphis. The year was 2014. She got a job as a line cook at The Five Spot, a small cafe behind Earnestine & Hazel’s. It was there that she met The Majestic Grille owners Patrick and Deni Reilly. Soon thereafter, LaForce went to work in the kitchen of The Majestic Grille.  

It was under Patrick Reilly’s tutelage that LaForce learned the skills to move beyond a line cook toward a career as a chef. Two and a half years ago, she went to work for Jose Gutierrez at River Oaks. Over time, she worked her way up to sous-chef. She admits that when she first started working in restaurants as a teen, she never dreamed that being a chef was in her future.

She’s been able to create a balance to allow her to now have both her old love (painting) and her new love (cooking) in her life.

Most of her murals have been for restaurants.

One of the first ones she did in Memphis was the mural at the Meddlesome Brewing Company tap room in Cordova.

“I was holding a beer koozie with the logo in one hand while trying to paint it on the wall with the other hand,” she recalls.

Today, she is more precise in her painting. She creates a sketch and converts the measurements to fit on the wall.

One of her latest murals is at Saltwater Crab. She is creating a colorful wall-size version of its logo.

Her work can also be found at the front entrance to Fleming’s Steakhouse. The mural at this East Memphis restaurant is a chalkboard painting of a cow and a wine glass. 

Once she finishes the mural at Saltwater Crab, she hopes to finish a portrait of her boss for the restaurant. “Jose keeps asking me where it is.”   

Article from Jennifer Chandler The Commercial Appeal