Justin Hillman graduated our Culinary Arts program in June, now he’s in the kitchen of one of LA’s hottest new dining destinations, Kali. LA Times food critic, Jonathan Gold, recently reviewed the new hollywood restaurant, so you know it must have something interesting going on. Hillman didn’t always know that working in the restaurant industry would be a reality. He started on a path set-up to take him to medical school, but when he asked himself what professional he really wanted to have, there was no doubt that it was to be a chef.
Hillman’s love for food started very early on. At age two, he recalls wandering to his neighbors kitchen asking for cheese. Growing up with his mother’s cooking, food was always a source of comfort and community. In college he began to cook for his friends, “I wouldn’t do homework, I would cook.”
When he graduated college with a degree in biology, he knew he had a decision to make: continue with medical school or enroll in culinary school. He began researching culinary programs in Los Angeles and had a feeling that New School of Cooking was the right place for him. “I looked it up and it seemed like the best thing for me. I audited a class and it seemed like a legitimate program.”
Now, working prep and the line at Kali under a classically trained chef, Hillman is so grateful for his culinary education.
“The best thing I learned was about attitude. It’s a business and you have to think that way. Be organized and know how to prioritize. I also learned the importance of following directions, which was hard because I like to tweak dishes sometimes, but it’s best to do what Chef asks of you.”
When asked where he would like to be in five years, Hillman smiles and shakes his head. “Ideally living in New York with enough experience to have my own restaurant or to be the head chef somewhere.” We’d say he’s off to a great start.