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Hitting the Right Notes on Stage and in the Kitchen

March 30, 2021 Jeffrey Hileman
Executive Chef, Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando

Would you believe me if I told you that musicians and chefs have a lot in common? It’s something that took me years to realize and to this day, I keep discovering new ways these two passions of mine cross over. 

When I first started playing music, I admit that I was only volunteering to play guitar so that I could get out of class. Eventually, I learned that I really enjoyed making music, so I stuck with guitar and even started playing the drums.

I loved music so much that I went on to study Humanities and Music History at Florida State University, where I had the opportunity to study Jazz Percussion with the professor of the School of Jazz. While in school, I was also cooking part-time at a restaurant called Clusters and Hops, which is still in business today. 

It was in Tallahassee where I met a group of guys who would eventually become my bandmates. We formed a Southern Rock band and went on the road for 10 years. When our band decided to part ways - you guessed it - I went back to my other passion. 

What drew me the most to the kitchen was that, similar to making music, it was a wildly creative outlet for me  - to be able to whip up delicious dishes on my own. I quickly realized that I got the same gratification when people enjoyed my food as when fans were dancing to my music!

We all know how life comes full circle, right?  Before starting as the executive chef here at Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, I was at Universal’s Aventura Hotel, where I met a team member who wanted to start playing bass guitar. After a month or so of jamming together, we decided to form a new band. 

At first, we were playing covers of The Beatles, Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac and now we’re starting to write some of our own tunes. We just went into a studio for the first time to put down some tracks. It’s been great, because I get the same feeling when I play now that I did in high school when I was playing music with my buddies in my mom’s garage.

Nowadays, you can find me creating new menus for the restaurants and bars at our hotel or grilling at home with my family with either some funky New Orleans zydeco or some up-tempo blues playing in the background. 

And for this musician turned chef, there’s no better gig in the world.
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