Hillary Sterling is the Chef de Cuisine at A Voce Madison in NYC. Total Food Service sat down with Hillary to discuss her inspirations and aspirations in the foodservice industry.
What inspired you to become a chef, where did you study?
I started working in the industry at 14 in the front of the house, busing tables I was always intrigued about what was going on in the kitchen. Cooking was not a common occurrence growing up in my house unless my grandparents were around. I paid close attention to what they did and remember what things tasted like to try to replicate when they were not around.
What’s your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
I think to be able to maintain a Michelin star for the past 2 years and being put amongst other great chefs by star Chef.com this year was pretty flattering.
Have any mentors? Would you consider Executive Chef Missy Robbins as a mentor? What have you learned from her (and them)?
Of course Missy Robbins is a huge mentor for me. She has pushed me to think, act and understand food in a different manner. Neil Manacle is another mentor for me he taught me how to carry myself and the ever important kitchen etiquette.
What are a few of your favorite ingredients to cook with, have a favorite dish you like to serve?
I do love the challenge of taking rustic cuts and turning them into beautiful refined dishes.
Are you using sustainable sources for the dishes at the restaurant?
We do the best we can to find good sources for the ingredients.
What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?
Keep your head down, listen, think and remember what you taste.
Do you and Missy change your menu seasonally?
We change the menu more frequently than just seasonal changes but winter to spring is an exciting time. We have a lunch prix fixe menu that goes through all the regions of Italy that we change every 3 weeks. This is where a lot of new menu items develop.
What’s the process in developing new menu entrées?
A new dish is usually conceived around a concept, random old traditional dish or by an ingredient. At that point we brainstorm separately then rejoin and combine. We think very differently so it usually is a lot of fun to see the end result.
On the equipment side, do you have a piece of equipment that you like to use that makes your job easier when preparing dishes?
One spoon and some kitchen shears.
The restaurant industry has a very broad range of foods what’s the A Voce team’s buying approach? Do you go out to bid on a regular basis or do you look for loyalty from vendors?
A combination of all, loyalty is definitely high on the list.