There’s nothing like a good meal as a way to share traditions, comfort in times of trouble, and bring people together.
Trimell Hawkins has used his culinary talent to that end in restaurants throughout West Michigan. His professional achievements and community involvement made him a perfect choice as the first recipient of GRCC’s Young Alumni Award.
Hawkins, who graduated from the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education in 2015, has learned and challenged himself at every step of his career.
“I’ve been fortunate to work for some great restaurants that have helped hone and develop my talent,” he said. “Black Heron was my first executive chef position, then Forty Acres, where I was truly able to spread my wings and flourish, and a few restaurants from there to my current position, where I’ve learned a great deal and grew.”
He is now executive chef at the Portico Restaurant in the Canopy by Hilton Hotel, which opened in fall 2021. Hawkins’ grandmother taught him to cook, and after leaving the Marines, he decided to follow his culinary passion. People around him kept recommending GRCC and the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, so he enrolled.
“My experience at GRCC was one of the most important and vital things to my success in my career,” he said. “It truly prepared me for this industry and gave me tools to be successful. The program gives you insight on what to expect, how to handle it, how to grow, and how to face adversity and overcome.”
Hawkins counts culinary professor Kevin Dunn as a mentor and friend. “Trimell was working, raising his family, while being an excellent student,” Dunn said. “He can best be described as a sponge – he wants to learn from every chef as much as they have to offer.”
For Hawkins, cooking isn’t just how he makes a living: It’s how he cares for others. “When I had hip replacement surgery, I stopped by to see him on my way home,”Dunn said. “Trimell had a caravan of to-go food for my family. He fed my family for the entire weekend!” “I feel as though cooking is probably one of the most vulnerable things you can do,” Hawkins said in an interview at Portico’s opening. “You kind of let somebody take a peek into your soul because you’re trusting them to critique you. When you put a plate of food in somebody’s face, you’re exposing your most vulnerable self.”
Jenna Vande Kamp, development manager for alumni relations and annual giving, said Hawkins was a perfect choice to launch the new Young Alumni Award. “Trimell’s achievements – and his pride in his GRCC education – are representative of so many of our graduates and the impact that they’ve already had in their community,” she said.