Leading Ladies: Meet five driven women reshaping San Antonio’s food scene

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click to enlarge Leading Ladies: Meet five driven women reshaping San Antonio’s food scene
Josh Huskin
Food Positive: Hell's Kitchen competitor Emily Hersh champions food as self-care

San Antonians may know local chef Emily Hersh from her stint on the current season of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen: Young Guns. As the only vegetarian chef to be featured on the show — and one of its youngest contestants — Hersh won over viewers with her bubbly personality and kind demeanor, eventually placing seventh in the competition.

What viewers of the show may not realize is that Hersh, who most recently held a position at Jason Dady’s San Antonio Botanical Garden outpost Jardín, had plenty of on-screen experience prior to the show.

Via her YouTube channel The Self-Help Chef, Hersh spent years in front of the camera exploring food’s connection to all things mental, physical and spiritual.

A dancer for most of her life, the chef once struggled with body image, and that led her to develop an eating disorder. Hersh said the YouTube channel — and subsequent stints in the public eye — have helped her give a voice to food service professionals struggling with mental and physical health.

“Through my eating disorder recovery journey, I became intensely passionate about food. I am incredibly thankful for my struggle because, through it, I discovered my career,” she said. “Through recovery, I slowly started to become curious about food again. … I was able to hone skills combining mental, physical and spiritual health with plant-based cooking.”

Today, Hersh works as a lead recipe developer at Nature's Eats, a Boerne-based outfit that produces seasoned nuts, nut flours and trail mixes. A recent collaboration with Darryl McDaniels — better known as the D.M.C. portion of hip-hop duo Run-D.M.C. — bore a gluten-free almond flour-based cookie with no processed ingredients.

The next project with the legendary emcee? A line of gluten sweet treats called “Darryl Makes Cookies.”

Hersh is also working on opening a vegan barbecue joint called Pure Grit in New York City, as well as continuing to offer cooking classes and private chef services to the San Antonio community. The thread running through all those projects, she said, is her belief that through food, one can realize the importance of self-love and self-care.

“I truly believe that going on the journey of loving myself and being able to be myself authentically landed me in Hell's Kitchen,” Hersh added. “If I hadn't worked on loving myself, I don't think my career would have been what it was. This is why I am so passionate about helping others find self-love and body positivity through food.”

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About The Author

Nina Rangel

Nina uses nearly 20 years of experience in the foodservice industry to tell the stories of movers and shakers in the food scene in San Antonio. She enjoys writing about industry-specific challenges, victories and everything in between.

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