We recently connected with Emily Hersh and have shared our conversation below.
Emily, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. When did you first know you wanted to pursue a creative/artistic path professionally?
I had been a creative all my life. Before cooking, dance was my first great passion. I danced for 20 years, making it up to the collegiate level. Once I secured my spot on the college dance team, dance then took a sour turn. I was experiencing negative leadership and body image issues, later causing my diagnosis of an eating disorder. In order to heal, I needed to give up dance. I had lost my creative outlet. During this time, I was studying Kinesiology at The University of Texas at Austin. The major was interesting, yet, it didn’t spark the passion that I felt I needed to have for my career. My senior year approached me, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I was still in recovery for my eating disorder. I had a vegan roommate at the time. This roommate would always cook at home. I watched her day after day in the kitchen. She had such passion about the food she was making. It was a new experience for me to watch someone treat food with such care and love. To me at the time, food was the enemy. I saw how much this vegan lifestyle helped my roommate. I decided to watch a documentary on plant-based lifestyles. I saw how people had healed themselves of a variety of illnesses, both mental and physical. With this information and inspiration from my roommate, I decided to try out a vegetarian diet for one week. It has now stuck for 4 and a half years. Through that discovery, I also found another creative outlet. I realized I wanted to use this outlet to spread my knowledge and joy for what I had found in a vegetarian diet. Suddenly everything made sense. I knew exactly what I wanted to do once I graduated from UT – go to culinary school. I got my culinary arts degree and never looked back. The passion to make others happy mentally, physically, and spiritually through food stays strong. It drives me everyday to push myself in my career. I know how much food saved me, therefore I want to help save others.
Emily, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I graduated from The Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC (which is now a part of ICE). I then got my first cooking job at Dirt Candy. At the beginning of my career, I was asked to compete on Hell’s Kitchen Young Guns on Fox Featuring Gordon Ramsay. I finished 7 out of 18 and gained Gordon Ramsay’s support. Appearing on the show secured my desire to pursue a career in culinary arts. I took a hiatus from the restaurant industry and ventured into food media and recipe development. I created a gluten-free all-purpose almond flour mix for company, Nature’s Eats, located in Texas. You can find Almond Flour + on Amazon, HSN, and grocery stores across the country. I am very proud of my YouTube series titled, “The Self-Help Chef”. It combines cooking with mental physical and spiritual health and wellness topics. I feature experts in their field, including Rap Legend Run DMC. I also taught cooking classes to businesses and non profits like Eating Recovery Center and ANAD. I recently opened my first restaurant in NYC at age 25. It is called Pure Grit BBQ. Founders are Kerry Fitzmaurice and Jenny Mauric. I act as chef partner and culinary director of Pure Grit’s first location. We are excited to expand and grow across the country. Throughout all of that experience, I am most proud of staying true to my desire to help make people happy through cooking.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
I had an extremely traumatic personal event take place during the week I was supposed to open Pure Grit BBQ, the first restaurant I had ever opened. The event took place two days before open and one day before my birthday. I felt the most alone I had ever felt so far in my life. I was not sure if I could follow through with opening the restaurant let alone stay in NYC. You see, I am from Texas and had moved specifically for this job. We all know that restaurants require long hours and mental strength. The event that occurred caused me to sink into a place where I wouldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and basically couldn’t function. It wasn’t until my mom flew up from Texas to save me. She reminded me of how strong I was. She was there for me to break down. And she was there to motivate me to get back up. That week, I opened Pure Grit BBQ, worked 95 hours, and was able to do it with a smile. If it wasn’t for my support system, it wouldn’t have been easy to do so. I am very blessed to have people in my life remind me of how strong and resilient I am when I forget.
Are there any books, videos or other content that you feel have meaningfully impacted your thinking?
I love the book, “Fear Less” by Dr. Pippa Grange. It helped me realize when and where I was acting out of fear in my life. I am also big fan of Brené Brown. I listen to her podcast, “Dare To Lead”. I also listen to “Radio Cherry Bombe” Podcast. Cherry Bombe is a magazine highlighting women and food. Their podcast focuses on the amazing things women are doing in the food world. Also, therapy rocks. It has been instrumental in my own self improvement both personally, and professionally.
- Website: https://www.chefemilyhersh.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chef_emily_hersh/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emily.b.hersh/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emily-hersh-734b7a131/
- Twitter: N/A
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC62m0rhcUAFhGIuS4Nwf_iQ
- Yelp: N/A
- Other: https://www.puregritbbq.com/
Headshot: Sonia Freeman