Chef Celeste Gill has prepared meals for the powerful and famous, from film star Matthew McConaughey and TV's Rosie O'Donnell to Pentagon staffers and the casts of several blockbuster films.
Not bad for a Detroit native who discovered Louisiana's unique culinary culture at age 11 while watching Justin Wilson on public broadcasting.
She knew then that she wanted to be a chef.
Gill followed her dream, first by going to Hawaii for culinary training, where she learned about Pan-Asian cuisine. That training, combined with her love of farm-to-table ingredients, shaped her interpretation of Louisiana cuisine that you'll find her dishing up locally at weddings, fundraisers and other fun events. She also produces and stars in the weekly, 30-minute YouTube show, "Cooking Up Louisiana Treasures," where she features Louisiana farmers and uses their specialty crops to create dishes on air.
In addition, Gill runs Chef Celeste Bistro and sells handcrafted items celebrating Louisiana culture at her retail store, Louisiana Treasures, both of which are inside the Red Stick Farmer's Market at 501 N. Fifth St.
Gill has been named Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation, won the Seafood Award at the Capital Chefs’ Showcase and nabbed numerous other awards. She also packages and sells Louisiana Honey Mustard and proprietary spice blends.
Here, she lets us in on her favorite culinary creation, her favorite movie and what's the fuel that helps her get it all done. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What is your morning routine before going to work?
Coffee … coffee, then I check in with the team and play my favorite music on the way to work. Music helps me prepare for the day.
What's your description of the perfect meal?
My perfect meal is a small charcuterie board.
Tell us about your prep routine in the kitchen. Do you follow a daily ritual or is each prep time different?
Each day is different, depending on location and client needs. The one constant is organizing ingredients before starting.
What's your most relied upon kitchen tool?
What do you splurge on?
Perfume and purses.
Are you a movie fan? What is your favorite movie and why?
"The Shawshank Redemption." Morgan Freeman’s voice, and it’s a great storyline. I’ve seen it about 15 times over the years.
Speaking of movies, what is your opinion of Hollywood's portrayal of chefs?
I think they need chef consultants.
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What is your classic uniform?
Chef's coat, clogs, head wrap. Nonslip shoes are important in the kitchen as well as comfortable shoes made for long periods of standing.
Do you listen to music while in the kitchen? If so, what's your favorite kind of music?
I prefer not to listen to music when I’m really busy. When I do, I turn on jazz from the Michael Foster Project.
What dish that you created are you most proud of? Why?
My sautéed shrimp salad. That’s when I developed my honey mustard dressing that’s in local stores.
Tell us about your biggest disaster in the kitchen.
Spaghetti squash exploded everywhere!
You cater for a variety of events. What is your favorite kind of event and why?
I don’t have a favorite type. I love the excitement.
And finally, we know that you love being a chef, but if you weren't a chef, what would your second choice of "dream job" be?
A mixed medium artist.