"AS PHILLY AS IT GETS"
Tonii Hicks is an enterprising chef born & raised in Philadelphia, whose career has focused on mentoring young upcoming chefs, culinary education, community engagement, as well as food science and innovation.
Chef Tonii got her start through the C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program) at Swenson High School. C-CAP is a workforce development nonprofit that provides underserved teens a pathway to success. She completed the program in 2015 and went on to study Culinary Science at Drexel University.
While at Drexel, she joined the Drexel Food Lab and swiftly learned everything she could about food science, sustainability, and the importance of food and its applications. In 2019, Chef Tonii completed a 6-month internship in Mexico, working at a Cancun resort alongside Executive Chefs as an assistant. There she learned the logistical workings of a busy resort kitchen and gained considerable hospitality experience. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in 2021, and credits Drexel for teaching her how to manipulate food from a rudimentary state to a delectable entrée.
Chef Tonii has worked over 10 years in the industry and in the finest restaurants in the city, including SOUTH Jazz Kitchen, Maison 208, High Street Philly, and Pyramid Club where she served as the Sous Chef assistant. She started her own business offering private chef services, meal prep, menu/recipe development, event catering, and cooking instruction classes of which she is particularly fond. She has conducted many cooking classes for the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Program.
Her passions lie in acknowledging, educating, and striving to end food insecurity in Philadelphia: “I grew up in a food desert, and, once I realized the reality of what that means, things changed in my career. I have found that others like me should have access to healthy and tasty food no matter their economic status.” In June 2021 she was awarded a Stone Barns Agriculture Fellowship scholarship to present fresh farm to table food free to residents in low-income communities.
Tonii currently serves as the part-time Program Coordinator at C-CAP, overseeing student scholarship applications, job training, and cooking competition demonstrations. In May 2022, Chef Tonii was selected as a James Beard House Fellow for their 10-week fellowship program that offers training in financial and legal matters, public relations, policy and advocacy, brand development and more. Her fellowship helped solidify her passions for creating great food and how she can harness that for the betterment of her community.
Thus far, her culinary career embodies a devotion to food and community. Looking toward her next steps, Chef Tonii has set her sights on opening a commissary kitchen to educate, serve and support the Philadelphia community. While still in the planning phase, she has a clear vision. She dreams of a community-driven space open to chefs, artists, education programs—anyone in need of a space to gather and cook.