Hell’s Kitchen: Holli Ugalde


Holli Ugalde
Hometown: San Bernardino, CA
Occupation: Banquet Chef

What was your first job in a kitchen?
I held my first kitchen job while I was attending culinary school. I worked with a friend of mine who owned a catering company. We catered funerals mainly, which was quite depressing. I never made anything extravagant or interesting, just the basics. Apparently nobody cares about eating well at a funeral.

Do you have a story of triumph from the kitchen or workplace?

I was once hired to cater a 50th anniversary party for roughly 150 people through a family friend. I set a fairly simple menu and had a lot of the prep work out of the way, but on the day of the event my two cooks didn’t show up. After about an hour of hoping they’d show and making about 30 phone calls to try and find them, I was even further behind. Eventually, I walked into the event hall and announced loudly that, “My help didn’t show up, if you all would like to eat, I need three volunteers who know how to cook, and I need you now!” I got a grandmother, a fireman, and an 18-year old Denny’s waitress, but they could cook. It turned out to be one of the better meals I’ve put out, I earned a very generous tip from the couple who was throwing the party and plenty of referrals. I even managed to go on a couple dates with the fireman. He was hot!

Who was your first cooking inspiration?
My first cooking inspirations would be my mother racing alongside Julia Child. I was an extremely peculiar eater when I was a child and my mom would try to adjust dishes so that I might eat them, but it never seemed to work. So I looked to Julia to teach me how to cook for myself. I still have the first recipe card I ever wrote, “Carrot picky people.” I was eight. It consisted of dried onions, white pepper, salt, water and baby carrots. Definitely not something I would use today.

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