The inspiring Chef…..With a flavorful career on a stratospheric rise that is just as savory as her matchless dishes, Chef Melissa Hinton is a true food diva. This 5-star trained food goddess recently served as personal Chef to professional athletes one being former NBA Pelicans Center, Alexis Ajinca. Melissa is the former Executive Chef for The University of Holy Cross in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had the pleasure to catch up with Melissa on her passion for cooking and her amazing journey and highlights as a professional chef.
When did your passion for cooking start and what inspired you to become a professional chef?
MH: “My passion for cooking started in a little tiny Whole Foods Market at age 18. I truly loved food. I helped set up the chef case & made specialty sandwiches…I knew then that I wanted to become a chef.”
What are some of your biggest accomplishments and highlights in your career?
2013: I became an entrepreneur owning my Catering company “Chef Melissa Catering LLC.
2016: I did my first appearance as an Essence Eats demo Chef in the Essence Music Festival.
2017: I received honor at the African American Lady Chef awards in NOLA . I also became the Executive Chef at the University of Holy Cross.
2018: I started my online store & boutique The Private Chef Collection.
2018 :I was personal chef to NBA player Alexis Ajinca & his wonderful family.
I became an author “ A whole Lotta NOLA” kids cookbook/activity book ( I’m so proud of it!)
2019: I received the award as one of ACFNO Louisiana Best Chefs.
2019: I had the opportunity to cook for Singer Omarion on The Millennium Tour.
How did it change for the better in your career?
MH: “My career helped me to discover my true purpose authentically doing what I love. Passion and integrity opened doors of opportunity.”
What does success mean to you?
MH: “Success means that I’ve been able to achieve some of my dreams & goals…enjoy some wants & even touch the surface of some desires!”
Tell us more about your kids cookbook! What inspired it and what was the reaction you received from it?
MH: “I have been inspired by kids for years. I have 11 nieces & nephews and they all like to eat! Also, I spent time cooking for the young ladies At Ursuline Academy in 2016-2017 and I thoroughly enjoyed them & they too loved my food. Youcan literally turn on any food competition show & see that young chefs are cooking at levels that line in with five star restaurants (I’m blown away!)
My book was to honor the culture of NOLA food & to show young people I’m paying attention and super proud!!! The kids love the book!”
What’s the best advice you have for aspiring chefs who dream of going higher in their career?
MH: “Stay focused, stay true to your craft, and be ORIGINAL. Have LOVE/ Passion what your doing & don’t EVER EVER EVER quit. Stay humble!”
How do you manage your personal and professional life? What keeps you going?
MH: “I balance it all out. It’s not as hard for me now because my daughter is in her last year of high school. She can do so much on her own now,but I truly can’t fake it the kitchen. It keeps me busy busy, and business is booming!!!!
My daughter me Mia keeps me going. She is an huge encouragement & inspiration to me. We’re very close & I enjoy being where she needs me to be to cheer her on as she is involved in so many activities in her school!”
What is your personal motto?
MH: ““NO PAIN, NO GAIN”. Everyone that tears you down, ima build you back up again.” (Kevin Gates)
In moments of adversity and trials, how do you build yourself back up?
MH: “I Pray Pray Pray! I speak daily affirmations to my spirit & allow my spirit to be lifted. I get knocked down, but when I recognize that immediately in my spirit I begin saying, “ I will not let discouragement discourage me”. I being praying & boom I’m back!”
Which of your traits are you most proud of?
MH: “I’m very compassionate especially for people who are overlooked or looked down on…I’ll be a shoulder for them . I’m a giver(I’ll feed the whole world…lol…I always look for ways to help somebody.”
What do you love the most about being a successful chef?
MH: “I love walking in to the kitchen and making it all happen. Being able to reinvent my self & my dishes everyday is joy that I can’t really explain … the expression that clients have for their food experience with myself is second to none … I’ll never get tired of creating and going through experiences …Real chef experiences.”
About Melissa Hinton
Chef Melissa is also the Chef/Owner of Chef Melissa Catering & Personal Chef Services LLC & in-line boutique The Private Chef Collection. In 2016 & 2017, she had the opportunity to serve up her palatable creations as a Essence Music Festival Selected Essence Eats Chef –Essence Fest is an annual multi-day power event that attracts upwards of a half-million attendees to the Crescent City. Melissa humbly received recognition at the 2017 African American Lady Chef Awards in NOLA as one of the honored Chefs. Melissa is a culinary daughter of New Orleans who discovered at an early age that she was born hard-wired to MacGyver tasty cuisine from even the skimpiest of ingredients into masterpieces that are celebrated by locals. Chef Melissa truly learned the art of food appeal as a station chef at one of her first gigs in the early days of the now world brand, Whole Foods Market, at the age of 19. Chef fine dining experience included working in the busy kitchens of the legendary Grill Room of Windsor Court Hotel as a kitchen supervisor. Chef Melissa has been blessed to cook up, demonstrate & dish up some of her favorite NOLA cuisine at The Southern Food & Beverage Museum of Louisiana. Chef Melissa unselfishly extends her heart and talent, and pays it forward. She’s a Chef giving back as a culinary instructor with Jefferson Parish Recreation Department & in the community. In 2015, she became a fixture with the culinary team at Ursuline Academy which also opened a door to be a feature in the “Holy Smoke ” section of the Clarion Herald as a featured chef.
Chef Melissa launched “Operation Freely Give” – a monthly campaign where she and her team go into the community and freely provide hot soups & New Orleans Cuisine to the homeless and less fortunate. Chef Melissa was featured in Purpose Vieux as a spotlight that shines a light on those who are walking in their purpose and showing love while doing so.. https://www.purposevieux.com. A WHOLE LOTTA NOLA” Kids Cookbook is Melissa’s first book publication.
Melissa’s upcoming events
2019 25th Essence Music Festival
Sunday July 7, 2019
Essence Eats Stage 1:45 pm