CRE­AT­ING A HOME CULI­NARY EX­PE­RI­ENCE

Chef David Hill brings the restau­rant to you

RSWLiving - - CULINARY - BY KATHY GREY

In Au­gust, pri­vate chef David Hill is al­ready book­ing events for Jan­uary. Trav­el­ing food­ies, some of whom have re­lied on Hill’s culi­nary prow­ess for five years or more, book his ser­vices be­fore they book air­line reser­va­tions be­cause fine food is an in­te­gral in­gre­di­ent to a mem­o­rable stay in par­adise.

Chef Hill cre­ates a restau­rant ex­pe­ri­ence in the home, of­ten for a group of vis­i­tors trav­el­ing to­gether (think ex­tended fam­i­lies, girl­friends on vacation, man es­capes and cou­ple­friends). Clients work with him in ad­vance and set menus for the du­ra­tion of their stay. Then the chef goes to work, shop­ping in the morn­ing and pro­vid­ing dinner for the group: soup, salad, en­trée and dessert. He works his cus­tom magic, too, for spe­cial oc­ca­sions such as birth­days and an­niver­saries for Southwest Florida res­i­dents, both an­nual and sea­sonal.

It’s a niche busi­ness he has carved for him­self: a mul­ti­fac­eted culi­nary ca­reer work­ing one on one with pri­vate clients. There’s no mid­dle­man. There are no restau­rant pol­i­tics. And the feed­back from cus­tomers feeds the chef’s soul with in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion.

“It’s a really nice way to work,” he says. “You are one on one with the client. I go in with one or two servers, and I’m there

start to fin­ish. I have a good track record, so it’s worked out very well.”

The 40-year-old Hill hails from Detroit, where he worked as a restau­rant dish­washer at the age of 16. That restau­rant’s chef saw a nat­u­ral abil­ity in him and pro­moted him to prep work, line work and, fi­nally, sous chef. His Detroit culi­nary men­tor, chef Eric Pi­lot, sug­gested he go to cook­ing school to “fill in the gaps,” Hill says. He grad­u­ated from the culi­nary pro­gram at Oak­land Col­lege in Michi­gan, hav­ing stud­ied the food lan­guages of French, Ital­ian, Ja­panese, Le­banese and oth­ers.

Know­ing he wanted to aim high in his pro­fes­sion, he learned recipes by mem­ory and rep­e­ti­tion, “build­ing a data­base of

recipes and menus in my brain.” He moved to Southwest Florida the year he grad­u­ated, hav­ing es­chewed the flooded mar­ket of Bev­erly Hills and Los An­ge­les.

Some­time dur­ing his seven-year ca­reer with Twin Ea­gles Coun­try Club in Naples, he had a light-bulb mo­ment. Host­ing cook­ing lessons for mem­bers and in­tro­duc­ing the con­cept of chef/wine din­ners in the home, he re­al­ized it would be­come his pro­fes­sion. To­day, his clients are some of the most af­flu­ent peo­ple in Southwest Florida, in­clud­ing res­i­dents of and vis­i­tors to North Cap­tiva, Naples, Sanibel and Sara­sota. He cre­ates cuisine for par­ties on Florida’s east coast, as well. With that, he says, come flex­i­bil­ity, fewer hours and higher pay.

“There’s no ceil­ing to my salary,” he says. I can make as much as I want as long as I’m phys­i­cally alive to work.” For that rea­son, Hill main­tains a fit­ness rou­tine of weight train­ing and run­ning to buoy his speed and ef­fi­ciency, mov­ing from house to house, cre­at­ing celebratory culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences.

“One thing I learned is that I couldn’t stand work­ing un­der the same menu day to day,” Hill says. “If you find your pas­sion and it comes nat­u­rally to you, it doesn’t feel like go­ing to work, does it?”

There’s no mid­dle­man. There are no restau­rant pol­i­tics. And the feed­back from cus­tomers feeds the chef’s soul with in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion.

CHEF DAVID HILL

Chef David Hill pro­duces per­son­al­ized culi­nary events in his clients' homes, work­ing with them to cre­ate the menus.

From ap­pe­tiz­ers to desserts, chef Hill pro­duces gourmet meals for pri­vate clients all over Southwest Florida.

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