BY BERT GILL
Bert Gill: Chef and Entrepreneur
How long have you been a chef and how did you get started?
I began in high school at 15 and have run kitchens for 30 years. It’s hard to believe I’m that old.
What do you like most about it?
There is an energy, creativity, teamwork and a never ending set of goals to be accomplished.
What is the hardest part of it?
The never ending set of goals to accomplish. The job is also very physical.
What advice would you give others who may want to be involved in the food service industry?
Find a good mentor, prepare to sacrifice your time and have an expectation that it’s going to take a commitment to personal development to excel.
What is your favorite meal to cook?
I don’t have one. We are “purchaser” and “manufacturer” and the volume of raw products is staggering. We also cook very seasonally with what foods are available.
What kept you going during COVID when restaurants were closed for in-person dining?
We created a mission to engage the community and most importantly to bring staffing back. We created a partnership with Working Food as the not-for-profit and received an enormous amount of community support from individuals and companies. Mildred’s provided close to 30,000 meals.
How long have you been in the Gainesville community?
I’ve been in the Gainesville community for over 25 years.
What is your favorite healthy meal to eat?
I eat a lot of seasonal vegetables and proteins. It’s impossible to have a favorite with so many wonderful choices throughout the year.
Tell us more about Chef Empowerment, the mission and your involvement.
Carl Watts is the Executive Director of Chef Empowerment. I trained and mentored him at Blue Gill where he became the chef. We began with an at-risk youth training where Reichert House and informally Gainesville Police Department would bring young adults to work. Mentoring should be the mission of any chef. It is a craft, providing others with the skill sets to be successful. In the last 20+ years we have trained many chefs who have gone on to have extremely successful careers.
Do interns complete the curriculum on their own or do they get hands-on experience?
Interns gain experience working with Chef Empowerment’s Underground Kitchen.
Chef Empowerment’s objective is to reverse local crime and employment statistics by offering vocational training and immediate job placement for individuals who successfully complete the culinary program. For more information, visit chefempowerment.org.