Female Chef Series

Chef Michelle Hilson

San Francisco, the city by the bay. My favorite food city in the states, by far! I've been fortunate enough to work with some of the best in the city. Today I get to add to this list. I am meeting up with a chef from Atelier Crenn who I have been slightly stalking for some time. 

Can you tell me about your background and how you started in the food industry?

“Well I grew up in Miami Florida and everyone there is super colorful. I think growing up around this environment I was always drawn to art. We moved to California when I was in high school where I was studying art, drawing and painting. So that’s direction I went in when I got into college. During this time I was working in restaurants and realized I wanted to create an experience for people through art which I can do through food. 

My family is Italian. Growing up we always cooked as a family. My grandmother taught me how to make pasta. So when I was in art school cooking was always relaxing for me. It was then that’s when I decided culinary was what I wanted to do.

I went to culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. After school I worked at Nine bark w Matt Lightner then came to Atelier Crenn where I get the pleasure of shopping at all the markets.”

What inspires you?

“This might sound cliche but giving people an awesome experience and coming away with something. I love getting emotions from people.”

Who do you look up to?

“My Family! My Dad and Mom are the greatest people on the planet. They’ve always been super loving and supportive.”

What are your feelings with being labeled a “female chef”?

“It doesn't bother me. A chef is a chef is a chef and doesn’t matter what your sex is. But I will say being a female who is a chef working for another chef who happens to be a female as well is a pleasure. This is especially true coming from the kitchens I worked in before.”

What kind of advice would you give to a young aspiring chef?

“Take every experience no matter what restaurant they were going into as a learning experience. Get the most out of it even if it isn't the place they ultimately want to be working in.”

If you weren’t a chef what would you be doing?

She laughs “Honestly probably be a yoga teacher and explore the world. See a bunch of crazy things and beautiful people”.

How would you describe your style of cooking?

“Well being Italian and growing up in an Italian home that’s what I tend to lean towards when I cook. That’s what I know and comforting. But working for a French chef at Atelier Crenn I get to see really beautiful French food that’s artistic, playful and creative. And ultimately that what I want to do whether it’s French or Italian.”

If you could have anything, what would your last meal be?

“That’s easy. My family and I went to Rome and ate in the little whole in the wall place. I don’t even remember the name but they served fresh homemade Tagliatelle pasta with a wild boar, fresh olives and olive oil. Obviously there was a lot of wine and bread and a lot of happy Italian people. So that dish would be my choice.”

I could tell Michelle was very happy to be working and experiencing everything Atelier Crenn had to offer. Her enthusiasm and passion is infectious. If all the upcoming chefs are like her we are in a good place. I look forward to eating your food my friend. 

a votre santé mon amie!