In honor of Black History Month the “Celebrating Our People” series will be showcasing a few of Proof of the Pudding’s talented Black American chefs and managers and their contribution to the culinary industry. We are dedicated to sharing their personal journeys through the world of food. Join us in celebrating the outstanding contributions of these black hospitality and culinary POPstars!
POP: Chef Hill, thank you for taking time to chat with us and share your experiences during this special month. To start, what have been the adversities you faced when you began your career as a chef?
CHEF HILL: While understanding that adversities are more about my own perception of a particular thing, I did notice early on that women in the professional kitchen space seemed a little inferior to men. This was not my own thinking, but how I would watch some male Chefs respond to women in the kitchen as if they were less qualified, and how those women Chefs would seem to accept this treatment, and respond with nothing but falling into line with what the male Chefs requested. I would notice that women would get different types of culinary tasks than men, such as preparing the salad or appetizers for parties instead of fabricating and preparing large quantities of meat for example. I’ve even witnessed women cry and experience extreme frustration over this.
POP: How did the adversities affect your career?
CHEF HILL: It was never my own belief that men were superior to women in the kitchen. After all, it has been us women in the kitchen since the dawn of time, preparing and creating meals for our men and our families. Women were the first, true Executive Chefs in my mind. Seeing and experiencing the shift once I got into the professional kitchen however, made me realize that I would always need to be empowered as a woman in the kitchen, and that I would also need to empower as many other women that came through the kitchen feeling inferior. I would place myself in areas where I took the more challenging culinary tasks. I would come in early and sign my name beside the tasks that most men would normally do. I pressed through by simply inserting myself. My experience allows me to be able to be a beacon for women to stand up in their power in the kitchen, and in life.
POP: What has been your motivation for staying in the industry?
CHEF HILL: Tyler Perry once said, “that thing you do best, that takes the least of your effort, is your gift.” This has been my motivation. All things food and parties have been my gift since birth. Why not choose this for my career? After all, it’s never really like work when you’re doing what you love. This is my lane.
POP: What do you love about working at Proof?
CHEF HILL: So many things! I’m competitive by nature, so I actually chose Proof, not vice versa. Proof is THE BEST and I wanted to work for THE BEST. I didn’t want to work for some lackluster, underperforming company who over promised and under delivered. I had just quit my lucrative business career to gamble my life on going to culinary school in another state, so I was not going to waste my gamble working for a “second best” company. I researched before I took an internship with Proof. I looked up all the higher ups and their business backgrounds, checked for awards and accolades, and I watched any videos I could find about the Chefs and the company. So ultimately I love working for Proof because their mentality is like mine, they’re PROVEN GO-GETTERS!! And to top it off, the name matches the company, the Proof IS in the Pudding!
POP: How long have you been with POP?
CHEF HILL: Since January 12, 2015. I started on an internship from Le Cordon Bleu, and got hired once my internship was complete.
POP: When not cooking for others, what’s your favorite dish to cook at home?
CHEF HILL: Shrimp Étouffée.
POP: When eating out what is your favorite restaurant?
CHEF HILL: My faves are Pappadeaux, Gu’s Dumplings, and Noodle.
POP: Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
CHEF HILL: My grandmother Carrie was a Chef. I watched her do this my whole entire life. She fed elementary school kids for her entire career while running her own catering business. She was amazing!
POP: What ingredient best represents you and your culture?
CHEF HILL: An ingredient that represents me well is Sweet Chili. Sweet, Spicy, and Bold!! Subtle, but powerful! Easily adaptable.