Chef Celeste Gill Pushes Through the Noise to Establish her Brand
The saying goes that something worthwhile is never easy, and Chef Celeste Gill knows about the sentiment. Baton Rouge’s restaurant scene has exploded over the past decade, and Gill, a native of Detroit, has played a key role in the development of the food scene in Downtown Baton Rouge. Though it hasn’t been easy, it’s been worth every step.
“When I came here, Baton Rouge was nothing like it is today,” Gill said. “I fell in love with the downtown area. It has kind of reminded me of being home in Detroit, and watching it grow into something big.”
Twenty years ago, she moved to the Capital City. Now, Chef Celeste is known to locals for her warm hospitality, and nutritious and delicious Louisiana home-cooked style meals. Wherever you go in Baton Rouge, there is no doubt you’re crossing her path.
“I just can’t sit still,” Gill laughs over the phone with me one morning. She kids, but, there is truth to her joke.
Gill has two café locations, aptly named Chef Celeste Bistro. She offers on-site catering services and owns an event venue called 520 Spain, located near the State Capitol on Spain Street. Gill sells her own line of Certified Louisiana seasonings and sauce, and you can also find Chef cooking on camera for a handful of different YouTube series. She also works with assisted living center Southside Gardens, and she gives back to the community by teaching cooking and life skills at the Baton Rouge Parish Prison, plus, she volunteers with the Big Buddy Program. Gill is even at work developing a cookbook.
The balancing act is second nature to Gill, and she takes as much rest as possible she says.
“When it comes to business, I’ve always done whatever I’ve felt like doing,” said Gill, “because you have to make yourself happy in order to make other people happy.”
Where it all Began
Her love for food started growing in her family’s kitchen back in Detroit, where she would cook with her grandmother, mother and siblings. Frequently, she would visit the Eastern Market neighborhood for farmer’s market shopping, not far from where she grew up off Fenkell Avenue.
“I remember the first cake I made was a German Chocolate cake,” said Gill “Then I started making food trays for my friends, just for fun.”
Her parents encouraged her to study draft engineering. Gill even placed in some state competitions, but her heart was still in the kitchen. Truthfully though, she never envisioned herself cooking professionally.
“I didn’t think it was something that would take me where I wanted to go,” Gill said.
Where she wanted to go, at the time, was still unknown, but her parents made sure she was given every opportunity to succeed.
“Where I grew up, there was an understanding that you’re going to go out, and you’re going to do something, and you’re going to be successful,” said Gill.
It was in the Aloha state that Gill found her first big success. While studying speech therapy at Leeward Community College in Pearl City, Hawaii, Gill branched out and enrolled in a leisure baking class. From that moment on she was hooked; she knew culinary arts was her calling. The waves of ‘firsts’ kept coming ashore for Gill in Hawaii.
She landed her first job working as the first female chef at an alcohol treatment center with the Salvation Army. Serving as an MP in the National Guard, two of her male colleagues were not interested in going through culinary training, so Gill convinced her superiors to hire her, giving her another position where she was the first female chef.
“Females were not prevalent in professional kitchens [during that time],” Gill said. “They did not want me in the men’s section. But I ended up there.”