Ilbersalle Fallon, Catering Chef / Niella Catering

“It’s just something I did, when I hung out in the kitchen. Or I’d find myself outside, fishing. If you catch it, you clean it and eat it”, Ilbersalle Fallon recalls of his childhood in Nebraska. He’s been cooking since he was young, around 7, and found refuge in fishing and the outdoors while growing up. Cooking has been his main creative outlet for the past ten years, taking him from state to state.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

Fallon started his culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, Florida and has spent time in the kitchens of Disney and the House of Blues. After graduating in 2007, he stayed in Orlando for another year before moving to Oklahoma to help open a new restaurant concept, an “amalgamation of everything I’ve learned - the House of Blues style with an Italian bistro concept”. He then moved forward in his career to cook for the student body of Oklahoma Panhandle State University, which taught him the speed and tenacity to cook for the masses.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

After realizing he needed more in his education, he moved down south to Houston to attend the Art Institute briefly. Houston is where he found solace in another creative outlet, poetry. He began to attend poetry slams and network with other artists, finding time to bring baked goods and treats to events he attended. Niella Catering took two more years to come to fruition and by this time he had moved to Austin, following his wife’s move to attend the University of Texas.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

“You get a sense of home with Niella Catering”, Ilbersalle says when he mentions his work and family. Niella Catering, named after his daughter, is a pursuit of bridging the gap of the creative community, having worked with local artists like Hakeem Adewumi and Moyo Oyelola. Fallon is a self-proclaimed filmophile and has now filled his calendar with catering on film sets along with helping Joi Chevalier with The Cook’s Nook, which is a culinary incubator that provides help and production space for aspiring cooks in the community.

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

photo credit: hakeem adewumi

Ilbersalle is one of the several chefs featured in the inaugural Taste of Black Austin event on January 31st. When he speaks of African culture in food he says, “This is so unprecedented and so necessary”. Tickets are still available.