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David Hill always knew that being in a kitchen and cooking would be his life’s work. Originally from Detroit, he started his culinary journey as a humble dishwasher. Eventually, he worked up the ranks to prep cook, sous chef and then who he is today: a private chef for upscale clientele.

“I liked the action of a working kitchen. It’s very high-energy, and you either like it or you don’t. It drives you to push yourself to complete tasks, and with repetition, you get better and better. I went to Culinary Studies Institute at Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a two-year program during which I learned the basics of baking and cold and hot food prep. You become a fairly well-rounded cook by the time you graduate,” Hill said.

“I then learned on the job, working at different restaurants, picking up the recipes at each location until I felt there was nothing more to give or to get from the restaurant, then moving on to another restaurant and cuisine.”

Indeed, working at all types of restaurants became a fertile training ground for Chef Hill, as he mastered French, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and Lebanese cuisines, as well as the methods used to perfect American steakhouse beef and indulgent sides.

“As a private chef, you’re supposed to be well-versed about cooking anything a client wants or likes, and there’s really no limits. If someone wants a Spanish paella or a bouillabaisse or an all-seafood menu, I’ve done that. A private chef should know how to prepare all types of cuisines because that’s what clients are paying for,” said Hill.

Around 2000, he moved to Naples and landed his first job at Twin Eagles Country Club as a sous chef and then head chef until the club went bankrupt. The club was sold, and all staff lost their jobs as the new owners brought in their own people.

Fate stepped in, and as that door closed, Hill was hired as a private fulltime chef for a family of four, cooking lunch and dinner five days a week; that gig lasted for three years. During that time, he realized his niche was in the private sector.

“I thought I was going to be a country club chef, but when I found out that being a private chef enabled you to work in glorious mansions for three or four hours a day, as compared to country club work that typically requires 10- to 12-hour days, I knew I found my place,” said Hill.

“After that job, I started my private chef business and took any calls that came my way just to get my name around and build my reputation. Today, I can be choosy about the jobs I take and want to do. I like to do a little of everything because you get to do different things and not get bored.”

Hill works in the kitchens of clients’ homes and uses ancillary wait staff as needed from a second-party vendor. He will set silverware and glassware and inform clients that they don’t need to do anything except have their dishes cleaned and ready for plating—then just sit at the table to enjoy their chosen menu.

Hill has cooked for several celebrities, including supermodel Cindy Crawford, whose staff would arrange for him to cook for her and her entounaplespress. rage while filming local Rooms to Go commercials.

“I’ve worked for Cindy Crawford for three years on and off. Her people would rent a house to which I was given access to do food prep. When they finished shooting, they would return to the house, clean up and come to the table to enjoy their meal,” Hill said.

“I’ve also cooked for Millie Bobby Brown, a British actress who played Eleven in the sci-fi series ‘Stranger Things,’ for Jesse James Decker, country pop singer, and Hall of Fame hockey player from Boston, Ray Bourque. I’ve had calls from Steven Spielberg, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and notable baseball and sports figures like hockey player Valeri Bure, who retired from the Dallas Stars.”

Bure now co-owns Bure Vineyards in California with his wife, “Full House” actress Candace Cameron Bure, and a partner. For Bure, Hill said he prepared food pairings for a wine-tasting menu to serve a party of 22 at a private home in the Bonita Bay Club.

“I usually cook for clients who rent vacation homes on the water and don’t want to bother grocery shopping or cooking; they just want the food brought to them. I prepare all the food in the house; everything is served and plated, and the house is like a restaurant,” said Hill. “However, the quality of my food is superior to that of a restaurant because I can buy the necessary product the morning of the event, while a lot of restaurants don’t get product daily and may sit on the product a few days until it’s sold out.”

All his menus are customized based on the client’s likes, dislikes, diet restrictions, allergies and preferences for gluten- soy- or nut-free dishes.

“For vegetarians, I suggest menu items like grilled vegetable kebabs or an Italian-style grilled eggplant Napoleon or grilled Mediterranean vegetables with a side of tzatziki and hummus and vegetables for dipping,” Hill said.

“For the younger set, at no charge to clients, I make kid-friendly foods like mac and cheese, mini pizzas, chicken tenders, spaghetti and meatballs or tacos with rice. Families feed the kids first, then play a movie for them so the adults can sit down and enjoy their five-course meal—two appetizers, salad and an entrée. For dessert, I usually do bananas Foster flambe, cherries jubilee or a peach flambe served over vanilla ice cream that ends the meal with some fun and flash.”

Today, Hill’s business thrives on word-of-mouth referrals built on a well-honed reputation. He holds cooking classes for group events such as bridal showers, bachelorette parties, birthdays and anniversaries.

Gift certificates are available, and he says they are perfect as unique Christmas gifts. After selling highend homes, some top area Realtors like to give clients a thank-you gift of a private chef for six to eight guests. Chef Hill serves the areas from Miami on the east coast and Marco Island north to Naples, Bonita Springs, Sanibel, Captiva and Sarasota to Tampa.

This story was published in The Naples Press on June 21.

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

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