Chef Paul Hyman grew up thirty-five miles outside of New-Orleans, under the constant influence of food cultures. Growing up in a melting pot of various heritages, he was exposed to many styles and fusions of food at a young age. His Irish grandma was a donut shop owner and a fantastic baker, but her cooking was well, “not HORRIBLE,” as Chef Paul jokingly described it. His French, Cajun grandpa on the other hand owned a butcher shop and was an amazing cook. Growing up surrounded by food and such a rich food culture naturally influenced Paul to become heavily involved with the food industry.
But, his start was a little shaky. “I was a horrible bus boy,” he said, explaining the time he spilled cake and coffee all over an elderly woman dining at the restaurant. Instead of firing him, the restaurant owner, who was luckily a family friend, moved him from dishwasher. From there he began to climb the ranks of the food world, from dishwasher to executive chef to his current position with College Chefs.
Chef Paul’s resume of experience is impressive and extensive. Because of this, he was able to work with both independently owned companies and big corporations to develop a well rounded perspective of the industry. He recently moved to Portland because of his wife’s job and worked as a head events chef. Where he did cool things like serve a seven course meal of “piped up tailgate food” on the Seahawk’s 50 yard line as a fundraiser to send two terminally ill children to Disney World. By “piped up” Chef Paul means lobster corn-dogs with moral butter and duck breast hot dogs.
He must be used to surprising people. Not only does he serve up some creative dishes, he’s broken stereotypes as well. As an apprentice with the Intercontinental, he worked in New Orleans and overseas in France. He was older than most apprentices, as he served in the US army and US Army reserves for close to 10 years in different rolls with the 75th US Rangers and 19th Delta Air Cavalry Scout. While in Paris, he impressed enough to be loaned on the weekends to two star Michelin winner, Chef Philip, who couldn’t believe who he’d been sent. Not only was Paul an apprentice but American too! The long hours and little pay were worth the experience of cooking at the European hotspot to eat with budding chefs from all over the world.
He recently gave up his corporate chef job to take some time off and help raise his son. One of his four boys. Now, with College Chefs, he’s sees a blend of the best and a minimization of the worst aspects of the food worlds he’s been exposed to, in terms of small companies and big corporations. “[The company] is supportive, structural, and free flowing [...] we don’t live in a black and white world, we live in the grey,” he says, explaining why College Chefs has an adaptable personality when it comes to the chefs, the houses, and life in general.
Chef Paul has done TV shows, “I can communicate [...] and perform,” he’s physically worked hard in famous restaurants, “we would stretch before we coton the line [to cook],” but, he’s the most content when he’s just cooking, “I love to get lost in it; just three to four hours of kneading dough.”
To learn more about Paul Hyman, read the Q&A below:
Q: What is your favorite food to cook?
A: You know chefs always have the hardest time answering that [...] anything smoked, wood roasted or Charcuterie I would say is number one. I mean, I have a tattoo of it on my arm.
Q: What is your favorite food to eat?
A: My favorite food, hmm…, well I always get bbq no matter what city I’m in (but it’s not always great). Probably ramen, southeast Asian, I like argentinian too. Just stuff like that; ethnic.
Q: What is your favorite food memory?
A: Every year there’s this strawberry festival in my home town. My grandpa and my family would cook jambalaya and sell it. They cooked it 17th/18th century style the old cajun way. They would build a fire and had this black 100 quart cast iron kettle. [...] Plus, the night before, they made all of the sausage by hand.
Q: Do you cook anything that is consistently a hit?
A: A couple of consistent hits… all beef hotdogs with a pretzel bun, really approachable comfort food but you’re cooking it up. I also made this all natural orange chicken and a girl in the house goes “oh my god this is so much bleeping better than Panda Express” [a compliment he graciously accepted]
Written By College Chefs’ Danielle Gadus