Hilary Metcalfe Ramirez | Hilary's Table
Fleeting, surprising and not-to-miss are just a few words to describe Hilary Metcalfe-Ramirez's (1983, Los Angeles, California) pop-up brunches and dinners. A Harvard
University graduate and food enthusiast, her pop-up venture, Hilary's Table (also known as
Hilary's Pop-Up Events
the result of a slightly gypsy background, a love for thoughtful food and cooking, and the women in her life and travels. We met with Hilary at her beautiful home on a Saturday morning.
As we talked about her passion for food and her thoughts for the future, she prepared the loveliest winter ginger cookies.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up between Los Angeles, California and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where I moved at age 11. My Mother ran a boutique hotel and restaurant in a tiny beach village. We ran barefoot in the dirt streets and hung around her nouveau Mexican-Californian kitchen, waiting for treats. At 15, I lived with my gourmandise godmother in a sleepy village on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. She threw lavish dinner parties with rarely a repeat table setting or menu. She taught me about finer ingredients and helped me develop technique in the kitchen. At Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, I studied Sustainable Development (Environment) with a focus on threats to food systems. Later, I studied in France where I lived with an incredible French woman in Strasbourg who fed me a different regional specialty every night and taught me about French food and wine. In 2007, I moved with my husband, Omar, from Boston to Zurich where I worked in sustainable investments in Sub Saharan Africa.
What brought you to Amsterdam?
My husband and I were always drawn to Amsterdam. We visited often when we lived in Zurich and when an Amsterdam work opportunity came for him in late 2008, we didn't think twice about making Amsterdam our new home.
What inspired you to set up Hilary's Table?
The fantastic people I met in Amsterdam inspired me, and learning to love the present moment made it happen, easier said than done most of the time! But, I believe that if something is challenging, then it’s probably worth doing. The experience has been incredible, full of learning and growth. Combine my slightly gypsy background, my love for thoughtful food and cooking, and the women in my life and travels... The threads have always been there, but I didn't have a platform. Then everything fell into place exactly as it needed to.
A friend who tried my food at a summer BBQ in 2012 demanded I do a pop-up. Within moments, all my excuses dissolved as everyone there had something to offer to help make this a reality. Before I knew it I had a sous-chef, several waitresses, Omar would be my front-of-house and George Haddad offered my first venue (now G’s in De Jordaan).
Would you say that the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
Amsterdam inspires because there are so many people living alternate paths and this is accepted, if not nurtured. In our ever-standardizing and globalizing world, it can seem like we are factory produced to serve as a cog in a system. And in the places I had lived before, deviation from the track made you a sort of deviant, but usually assumed to not be “successful” - in a world where success is an egoistic definition relating to possession, wealth, position, power, etc. The smaller, winding and creative paths are not traditionally as valued. This path is also often the one of an entrepreneur or maker. Before wealth or recognition, although that can be a result, their success is living their passion and giving the product of that honestly to the world. I think that's beautiful!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I sometimes feel like I'm balancing plates on sticks because on top of Hilary’s Table, where I do weekend pop-up feasts, brunches and dinners, I also have a corporate day job as a Senior Manager in a multinational media corporation. I also organize some private dining events and collaborate on food projects, like developing the menu for the lovely and adorable team at Trust in De Pijp. This means my days are always different with some constants.
There is work-work and then there is fun-work, which is anything relating to food, events and nutrition. Fun-work involves reading cookbooks, culinary textbooks, blog surfing, ingredient hunting, market scouring, dish sampling, test cooking, costing, location scouting and theme brainstorms with my supportive and creative friends and team including Cath Laporte, Karine Pierre-Louis, Amadeus Henhapl and husband Omar, the willing test subjects.
Can you name a few of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
I love the places that represent that start-up mentality in Amsterdam and offer something unique, makers from different walks. Bubblekid Amsterdam, a hair salon, vintage store and bike shop in one filled with great people, Bakers & Roasters café in De Pijp, virtually any biological organic or specialty food market, like Johannes Verhulstraatmarkt or Noordermarkt, and Trust. Trust is a warm place where the team works hard to maintain positive energy in their cooking and in the space, and having developed the day-to-day menu myself, I can vouch for the food!
What's next for you?
Ongoing pop-ups of course but I’m also working on a collaboration with an award-winning Illustrator and fellow cook with whom I have worked before, expanding on our mutual love for both secretly and blatantly healthy food, delivered it in a sexy way with that little element of surprise. We are still deciding between fixed and roaming relocation and more but stay tuned!
Thanks Hilary for this inspiring interview! Follow Hilary's Pop-Up Events on Facebook to stay up-to-date with upcoming events.