Taylor Hester

Olmsted
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
We don’t need to break Olmsted down for you, chances are you’ve read about it 30x and eaten there at least once (we hope for your soul’s sake.) What we do need to break down is how Georgia-born Chef de Cuisine Taylor Hester got his start in the industry, the delicious memories that pepper his cooking experiences, and the realization that the desire to help is something innate to those who’ve worked in service. Also how he is our first interviewee to admit his deep love of hotdogs (finally.)
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Full name, age where are you from?

Taylor Hester, 28, LaGrange, Georgia

What was growing up like for you and did you have family meals growing up?

I grew up in a small town in Midwest Georgia right on the border of Alabama. We lived on a county road, so there were lots of woods to explore behind our house, however most of the time you could find me playing Sega with my face 6 inches from the TV screen. I didn’t really have many friends outside of school besides my brothers, who are twins and eight years older than me. We were really close and still keep the same strange sense of humor we developed when we were kids. Every night my dad would come home from work and start dinner. I have lots of little memories, like when we would open the back door to let out the smokey cloud of what was essentially pepper spray when he would sear blackened catfish in the cast iron pan that was passed down from my great grandmother. I think the most prevalent memory is eating the biscuits he learned to make from watching my grandmother cook when he was a kid. My grandmother would always tell stories of him being right beside her while she cooked, and I always wanted to do the same.

What meal most reminds you of your childhood?

I always remember when there was enough time in the morning when all us boys weren’t scrambling to get ready or fighting, my dad would make biscuits and sausage gravy. Gravy was one of the first exciting things I learned to make, making a roux from the rendered sausage fat, cooking it until it was just right, and mixing in cold milk the right way to achieve perfect, silky goodness.

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How did you get into this industry?

I started working in food service when I started college. Working my way from dishwasher, to burrito roller, to delivery boy in a fast food restaurant. After my time there, I found a garde manger job at a local cafe and was lucky enough to work with some people who led me to become more ambitious in the kitchen. I followed one of their leads to a new restaurant in Nashville, and the rest just snowballed.

What is your current role and how has the pandemic affected you?

I'm the Chef de Cuisine at Olmsted and Maison Yaki. Olmsted is currently having service 5 nights a week, with a trading post out front in the previous private dining room where we sell some of the items we used to produce for the restaurant. Maison Yaki is currently hosting a pop-up series for black entrepreneurs.

What do you think working in this industry during this time has taught you?

I think it’s shown me most that hospitality is ingrained in a lot of the industry. It’s something most people are born with. So many people wanted to help immediately when we first opened Olmsted back up as a food bank. It’s an inspiring time to see empathy and selflessness.

What's your favorite item on this menu?

In true Olmsted fashion, we have around a million different items we offer between the trading post, dinner service, and our new counter service style Water Hole. It’s a hard choice between the duck pastrami (which everyone should pick up to have at home, it’s so fun and versatile to cook with) and the wagyu beef corn dog. I’ve got a soft spot for hotdogs, and the corn pudding mustard and bing cherry ketchup keeps things interesting.

Once it is completely safe to eat out again and socialize, where is the first place you would go for dinner?

I’d really love to go back to my favorite noodle spot in Sunset Park. I’m all about their dumplings and it’s only a short walk to Fei Long Supermarket.

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