Dontrell Ham, Executive Chef
Dontrell is a hospitality professional and culinary artist. He has entertained most roles in the hospitality industry as: Restaurant Manager, Banquet Manager, General Manager, Bar Manager, and Service Manager, but his last roles as an Executive Chef is where he shines.
He began his culinary start at the young age of 9 years old. Before Aqua Terra, he was the chef at Hi Life Restaurant and worked there for 7 years. Throughout his younger years, he knew he had a calling to be a chef with his last name being Ham. His family’s support helped him to open up his culinary mind to new things, which enabled him to tour Johnson & Wales University campus in Charleston, S.C. until graduating from high school in 2002.
Graduating from Johnson & Wales University proved a key component in his culinary path. His many chefs and professors encouraged an independent mindset, key leadership, quality awareness, and determination to create his own unique way of seeing food.
He was offered the opportunity to study abroad in Belgium and Paris for International Hotel Operations, where culture adaptability was the focus. Johnson & Wales opened up many options: independent catering company jobs, PGA Tour work, many food shows, and the chance to showcase his culinary style. An alumnus of the final graduating class of the Charleston campus, Dontrell uses all that he has learned from Johnson & Wales to achieve the most out of each avenue is his career path.
Dontrell is not just a chef…… He loves dance, especially salsa. He is one that feeds off of being active and will probably accept any challenge you throw his way, but you will probably see him at some obstacle race or hiking a trail in GA.
The real hero of his culinary venture is his grandmother, who had him eating fresh vegetables out of her garden and started Dontrell watch culinary shows of greats such as Julia Childs.
Food is definitely a center of his family’s tradition and he brightens up at any chance to express how much food brings family and friends together to grow and show appreciation for each other.
His first culinary chance to shine started with House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC under Chef Bob Capegreco where he was mentored on managing a full grill and every aspect of the line. Grill 225 in Charleston, SC opened opportunities to play with more exotic foods and the luxury aspect of culinary. 11 Center Street Wine and gourmet in Folly Beach, SC was his first Chef position where the focus was on catering and small plates, which after three years there, ushered him to work with Columbia Sussex Corporation in Myrtle Beach, SC; Atlantic City, NJ; Ft. Lauderdale, FL and Ft. Myers, FL.
Columbia Sussex’s managing style put Dontrell on the road in takeover and conversion properties where he managed food and beverage aspects of restaurant and banquet departments in 2005-06. He achieved banquet manager status within one year of his hire and became a big influence in regional changes for the company. After three years with Columbia Sussex he tried some partnerships that were learning experiences, until moving to Atlanta in 2008.
In Atlanta, he worked creating specialty recipes for a Boars head independent distributor until 2009 where he began working with Hi Life from lead cook to the Executive Chef position. His take on food always highlights his love of where is training began from his grandmother in SC. He is forever reading and finding new ways to achieve what he deems his best of his craft.
Continually growing with the Hi Life brand, Dontrell has created a following for his culinary style that is known amongst his guests. Dontrell began two hats as Chef and GM with Hi Life Restaurant, after eight grueling professional years of training.
A New Chapter
Now the chef of Aqua Terra Bistro more of his southern roots and love of Mediterranean, French, and creole flavors will shine. His love of food allowed him to judge culinary competitions for high school and elementary school students, which he still volunteers and he has continual hopes of educating people, learning from others, and growing with the industry to become an all-around industry leader.