Holly Hambright: Chef to the stars and your Next-Door Neighbor
For Holly Hambright, success didn’t come from a pre-conceived plan or even from a burning childhood desire. The once aspiring opera singer simply decided she wanted a creative outlet that she could excel in. After spending a few summers as head cook at Camp John Knox, Holly decided to embrace her talent. She headed to the Knoxville downtown library, scoured various city yellow pages for culinary schools, sent out numerous applications, and ultimately attended the Culinary Institute of Baltimore.
Two years later, she was working in the prestigious Omni of Baltimore while teaching in a fellowship program. The seven-day work week had taken over and Holly was living by the mantra, “If they can do it, I can do it,” with “they” being her role models – Alice Waters, Julia Child, Madeleine Kamman, and Susan Spicer.
Reflecting on those early years, Holly expressed, “I came along at the right time.” She experimented with her own style and worked her way through a handful of prestigious kitchens, all while fine-tuning the approach she would bring back home a few decades later.
For Holly, the method was, “take the best traits from the best chefs and emulate them.” In her case, many of her early career role models were men, which led her to develop what she describes as, “a very intense and direct” management style.
When the economic and opulent food bubble burst in the late 80s, chefs began to focus in on the farm-to-table movement. Holly had served Sinatra, a few presidents, and the Queen of Thailand, among other celebrities and dignitaries, and with nearly two decades of high-end experience, she finally moved home.
Holly the Entrepreneur:
Moving the conversation from her impressive, big-city past to her current role, Holly’s tone transitioned from rather dismissive to fully engaged. This was when her famous spirit began to glow.
Today, Holly works amongst an all-chef staff between her two Knoxville restaurants and catering business. Beginning with the catering business, Holly worked her way through several city kitchens until settling on her home base in a quiet strip mall.
Several months after moving into her new space, she did what she has been doing well for years: She saw an opportunity and took it. Holly opted to utilize the underused area in her location for Holly’s Eventful Dining, a lunch and dinner locale.
If you visit, expect something classically inspired with a comfortable nature. Holly refers to her food as “Seasonal Southern, Classically Influenced, and Playfully, Artfully Presented.” The takeaway is to expect care. It’s obvious as she describes her concept that the anchoring theme is a genuine passion for her art, which has certainly overflowed into her second concept, Holly’s Corner.
Over at Holly’s Corner, she has joined the same city block as her sister’s bakery, Magpie’s, where she offers lunch and dinner for a bustling city neighborhood. Here you can expect to find a variety of uniquely delicious soups, sandwiches, desserts, and daily specials for everyone from the meat lover to the vegetarian.
With a background in fine dining and passion for the art, Holly is taking her city’s culinary offering to the next level in an environment for all to enjoy. From her humble Knoxville roots to the big city and back, Holly’s journey is the kind that will inspire the next generation of chefs to embrace their adventure and not become stifled in expectation or norms. Holly admits that, “I can’t see the future,” but if her past is any indication, it’s certain to be exciting.
Come visit Chef Holly Hambright at her Knoxville locations the next time you’re in the area. Holly’s Eventful Dining (865.330.0123) is open Monday through Friday for Lunch from 11 am until 2 pm and Thursday through Saturday for Dinner from 5:30 pm until close. Holly’s Corner (865.851.7854) is open Monday through Thursday from 11 am until 6 pm and Friday and Saturday from 11 am until 8 pm. For directions, visit www.hollyseventfuldining.com or check out Holly’s Corner on Facebook.