FOOD & MIXOLOGY The food ministry of Chef Alexis Hernandez
“How fast can you carve a turkey? How fast can you debone a chicken? Can you do the job or not? That’s what people care about in the kitchen. I love living my life. I’m a proud gay man and I don’t feel any lesser.”
—Chef Alexis Hernandez
By DARIAN AARON
Chef Alexis Hernandez has been called to minister. And like many who have been given the burden and responsibility of sharing their God-given gifts with the world, he initially wanted no part of it. Hernandez’s ministry is food and what he produces weekly as sole owner and executive chef of Union Hill Kitchen in Chamblee is nothing short of a religious experience.
Whether he’s entertaining millions on television as a contestant on “The Next Food Network Star” or taking down the competition as the winner of Season 5 of “Cutthroat Kitchen,” there’s a little bit of Hernandez on every plate; bold, expressive and Cuban.
Georgia Voice caught up with the openly gay chef on a lovely Saturday afternoon for lunch, and for the next two hours surrendered to the experience and the journey that led Hernandez to trade the pulpit for the kitchen.
Georgia Voice: You have a degree in theology. The two worlds couldn’t be more different.
I thought I could go down that road of being in ministry and now I try to help people that are here (Union Hill Kitchen). My cook that’s in the back was the dishwasher. My sous chef has never been to culinary school. She came in as a server and I’ve been training her and breathing life into her and doing what I would be doing in the ministry. I can’t make you a doctor but I can use my ministry and teaching ability to give you a skill.
Is the infusion of your Cuban background into the cuisine at your restaurant a conscious choice or did it happen organically?
that I’ve [stodged] with. I remember one of the chefs I worked with said, “You’re nothing. You need to be nothing. In order for you to find yourself, you need to lose yourself in me. I don’t care that you’re Cuban, I don’t care that you survived a hurricane in Cuba sitting in a hut. You need to lose yourself to find yourself, cause if not, you’re not going to learn anything.”
What exactly did he mean when he said you had to lose yourself?
Is it true that you were initially against opening your own restaurant? Chef Alexis Hernandez is a four-time 2014 Georgia Voice Best of Atlanta winner. (Photo by Patrick Saunders)