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North Hills Monthly

Elise Wims Mixes Food, Fitness and Fashion in Diva Chef Brand

Jul 24, 2014 02:22PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

Elise Wims

Maybe in some circles the word ‘diva’ would have a negative connotation. But Elise Wims, 30, has taken both the term, and the concept, to new heights. Creator of The Diva Chef, Wims offers food boot camps and fitness advice to those who could use a little kitchen assistance.

The Regent Square resident was a finalist on Season 9 of Hell’s Kitchen, earning her the Diva 
nickname, bestowed upon her by the network. “It was kind of negative, because it sounds like 
I have an attitude and that I’m hard to work with,” said Wims. “I do love lipstick. I can work in the 
kitchen with manicured nails. So I took that and turned it into something positive, and turned into 
an acronym—Deliciousness In Various Assortments.”

Wims has been cooking since she was 9, necessitated by living in a single-mother household. 
“I didn’t like what other kids liked,” she recalled. “My earliest memory is cooking Cornish hens, 
and by the time I was a teenager, I was cooking full-course meals.”

Hell’s Kitchen was not the first time Wims was in front of a TV camera: in fourth grade, she was a KDKA weather kid, and found that she loved the feeling of the warm lights and being on camera. “It’s funny how years later, both of those passions came together,” she said.

Wims attended the PA Culinary Institute, specializing in French cooking, and has worked as the executive chef and president of catering at Andora, and as a grillardin (a grill chef) and sauté chef at Donato’s in Fox Chapel. She is passionate not only about food but about healthy, clean eating. Last year, she published a holiday cooking guide, enabling beginning chefs to put together a holiday feast on their own; the book is still downloadable on her website. Currently, she is working on her first ‘real’ book, entitled Trials, Tragedies and Triumphs, highlighting the obstacles she’s had to overcome in this very demanding industry.

Wims is now redefining her brand, adding fitness to the mix, and helping others to do the same. “I transformed my body. I wasn’t in shape. Now, I do hardcore fitness training every day. I’ve also taken dishes that you can’t live without and transformed them into healthier versions,” she explained.

Wims offers a food boot camp for groups or individuals, teaching others to “find their inner deliciousness,” as she puts it. She found that people were spending too much money eating out, and she also realized that if parents aren’t healthy, neither are their kids. Food boot camp helps folks break away from unhealthy habits. “I wanted to empower women,” she explained. “You can be a diva all day, but can you cook a meal for your family?”

So did Hell’s Kitchen host Gordon Ramsay’s teaching style rub off on Wims? “I’m stern, but at the end of the day, people want to learn, and the only way to learn is the right way—my way,” she quipped.

Fashion is another passion of Wims, who believes that chefs can be feminine and dress nicely. She’s created a line of fashionable chef coats appropriate for the kitchen that can also be worn out in the evening. “What sets my brand apart is that it encompasses food, fitness and fashion, which other chefs aren’t doing,” she said. “My brand is extreme. I’m trying to build people up and help them find the best version of themselves that they can be.”

Just because Hell’s Kitchen is over doesn’t mean that it’s the last that TV audiences will see of Wims. On July 22, tune in to Food Fighters on NBC, a game show featuring home chefs versus professional chefs.