July 2022 Issue
Photography courtesy of T.R. Love, T.R. Media World
Pastry Chef and Owner Avocado Bleu
Art: Professional Chef
When and how did you discover your talent?
I fell in love with pastry when I worked at a Hilton Head Island restaurant 30 years ago as a server. Every evening I would come in for my shift and see all the amazing desserts and pastries that the pastry chef had prepared that morning. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a pastry chef. I went to the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (CHIC) for a one-year program, studying pastry for six-month and savory for six-months, all while working for a few great restaurants.
What makes you a Lowcountry Original?
I moved to the Lowcountry before Highway 278 went all the way out to I-95, and I have spent all of those years in the food and beverage industry. Lots of people come and go, but it is my calling. The food and beverage industry is the backbone of the Lowcountry. We are all about food and I love being a part of it.
What inspired you on your journey from employee to entrepreneur?
When I started “Stella Snacks,” my fresh-baked, healthy dog treat business, in 2008,(named for my pooch, Stella), I would go out during the day looking for new wholesale and retail accounts. I couldn’t find anywhere to grab a healthy quick snack or sandwich. This is when I started planning to open my own “grab and go” healthy restaurant. It took a lot of years and business plans to get from there to where I am now.
What do you hope people “get” out of your passion for healthy food?
I have served many people—young, old, healthy and unhealthy. I love that everyone comes and enjoys my culinary creations. It’s nice to see people lose weight and get healthier eating at Avocado Bleu, as well as just coming in for a fresh made smoothie or dessert. I make a variety of meals so every one can enjoy eating here, find their favorites and take chef-prepared meals home to their families, knowing great care has been taken to make healthy food taste delicious. People want different things—KETO, paleo, but mostly my customers simply want healthy food that tastes great. Of course, I still make Stella Snacks for the family pet, too!
In addition to preparing fabulous food, what’s your next best talent?
I grew up in a family of talented artists, my grandfather was an amazing wood artist, pencil sketcher, my uncle was an unbelievable artist and an art teacher all his life, and my mom is amazing with yarn. I went to Stratford college of fine art on the Island. (My instructor was Kevin Lawless, from Iron Art by Kevin) I tried my hand at it, but I couldn’t find my niche, I think my creative talent comes out in my pastry and my food.
It’s obvious you love art, particularly local artist Amos Hummell’s work, because it’s all over the walls at Avocado Bleu. How did you become such a fan?
Amos and I have been friends for at least 32 years. When I decided to open Avocado Bleu, I had to have him create my logo. While I was at his home discussing the logo, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the stunning watermelon painting on the wall. Later, I asked him If I could buy it for the restaurant since it matches the theme and is so fun! He said he had to have a meeting with the family since it was a part of the décor and had been up for so long. They said yes, and that’s how it all started. I bought one piece at a time until there is no wall space left! When my guests come in, I think the colorful and cheery artwork puts everyone in a good mood.
For such a small spot, your commercial kitchen is huge!
What do you love most about it?
I have worked in hotels and country clubs for the last 14 years and have been spoiled having the best equipment, and a large working space. I had to duplicate it! My business plan is to cook and bake out of the Bluffton location and have multiple satellite locations, sell my wholesale meals and pastries, prepare meal prep meals, make the Stella Snack dog treats and do catering. This is why I built such an amazing commercial kitchen. I have held a few cooking classes in the kitchen, as well as “junior chef” McKenzie who had her own Christmas cookie class. The kitchen is great for “hand’s on” classes, and the front is good for a smaller group. I will be offering classes again in the fall.
What’s the next big thing you’re excited about?
I will be opening my second location at #126 Palmetto Bay Rd. (!0 am-6 pm) on Hilton Head this month! It will be grab and go only with the addition of local artwork. I will offer frozen meals and pastry, as well as fresh-made vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo, gluten-free and just good ‘ol home-cooked meals, sandwiches and salads. Perfect for busy locals who do not want to cook at the end of the day, as well as the tourists that might not want to go out to dinner every night, nor spend the time going to the grocery store to pack lunch for the beach— It’s all ready, just GRAB AND GO! It will also be a drop off location for catering and meal prep for Islanders who do not want to take the trip to Bluffton in the summer. There will also be local art to purchase form Amos Hummel, Mira Scott, Jim Renauer, Handmade Beaufort and a few more! Its going to be awesome!