What inspires Chef Diamond Wynn to inspire culinary careers
Chef Diamond Wynn is the lead instructor of Hot Bread Kitchen’s flagship Culinary Fundamentals Program. A former member of our Food Entrepreneurship Program, HBK Incubates, Chef Diamond has a background in catering, workforce programming, culinary instruction, and recipe development. She joined the Hot Bread Kitchen team in 2022 as the chef instructor at our Brooklyn-based Community Outposts and this year took over as the lead instructor at our Chelsea Market headquarters. Here, Chef Diamond shares what she’s learned from working with Hot Bread Kitchen members.
“Every time I teach someone a new skill here, I know it’s giving members job security. It creates upward mobility at work, a boost of self-esteem.”
What inspired you to start teaching?
I really like engaging with people, and I think the experience of learning from other people creates a level of togetherness. Teaching about food does that for me; it makes me feel connected to others. I come from a world where people don’t have a lot of access to education. I was extremely privileged to be able to take out loans to go to college and that I had people to cosign. I acknowledge there are people with dreams that don’t have access to the same privilege. Being able to teach allows me to do my part.
What is your approach to culinary education?
I don’t believe in gatekeeping because I believe there’s something special every person in a kitchen can offer. That’s why I call every member Chef—it’s an identity of respect. If I call you a chef, it shifts the experience, gives you a boost of confidence, and sets an expectation. Those are the things I think about when I teach. I want to make sure the members are trying to match me and not be intimidated by me.
What do you enjoy about teaching Culinary Fundamentals?
Teaching is something I look forward to doing; it feels wholesome. Every time I teach someone a new skill here, I know it’s giving members job security. It creates upward mobility at work, a boost of self-esteem for our members to know they’re doing something nobody else at their level can do. We’re hoping people leave Hot Bread Kitchen with a set of skills not only to master a prep cook position, but to advocate for another position.
How did you get started in the kitchen?
I come from a family of really big cooks. My grandfather was a chef. My background is Puerto Rican, Irish, and Black, and we ate foods from all over. I didn’t know what it was to eat out or eat leftovers. Cooking was a huge structural part of my life. My parents were teen parents, and it was important for me that my mom see everything she sacrificed come full circle. I bought a one-way ticket to Las Vegas, enrolled myself in culinary school, and spent an entire summer selling cupcakes out of my parents’ house to make money. I just did it.
What do you hope Hot Bread Kitchen members will take away from the program?
My primary desire is that they use me for all the information they can get out of me. And that they know and feel confident in their abilities, that it’s never too early or too late to start something new. We go through a very rigorous process of choosing our members, and I want them to feel the magic in their spot. It doesn’t matter to me what language they speak, if they have children, if they’re 67 or 18. The knife and the cutting board are great equalizers. What a workforce program does is teach people how to sit in front of an interviewer and say, “I know we’re strangers. Give me a shot so I can show you what I can do.” It can take people their whole lives to say a sentence like that. I think it’s amazing if we can teach people how to do that for themselves in five weeks.
In your experience, what are the most important skills someone needs when getting started in the food industry?
With the exception of knife skills, the skills you need in the food industry aren’t tangible. You need humility. If you can be humble, that means you can be open, you can be taught, you’re coachable. And if you’re coachable, the sky’s the limit. You can learn any task, get better at any task, open your life in so many different ways. That’s what I want members to leave with.
“I feel like Hot Bread is a safe haven for all of my identities–as a Black woman, a queer woman, a poor woman from the Bronx. I’m really proud to work at Hot Bread Kitchen and be part of a team that, as it grows and expands, is becoming more and more diverse. I think my background and story speaks to our members in a super special way. They see themselves in me and the other instructors.”
What else do you want to share that doesn’t usually come up in training?
Identity politics plays such a huge role in the world we live in. I’m really proud to work at Hot Bread Kitchen and be part of a team that, as it grows and expands, is becoming more and more diverse. Chef Wai is the first male chef of color I’ve ever worked for, ever. I’ve worked with one Black chef, and when I worked in restaurants and even teaching, I never had a Black coworker. It is a privilege to be in a kitchen that is run by a majority of women. It’s not something you see a lot.
I think my background and story speaks to our members in a super special way. They see themselves in me and the other instructors. For members who don’t speak strong English to hear Chef Barbara’s accent and know she’s from Brazil, for them to see Chef Fatoumata, a Muslim woman, in the kitchen in her hijab–it’s so important. I feel like Hot Bread is a safe haven for all of my identities–as a Black woman, a queer woman, a poor woman from the Bronx. It makes me so proud to be a part of this team.