Though she was born in Indiana, Erin Kelly-Dilda has been a Fort Worth-girl ever since moving here at the tender age of 2. Now a mother of two (Eloise, 3, and Emily, 16 months) and executive chef at Feastivities, Kelly-Dilda recalls an early fascination with cooking, gardening and playing “grocery.” A neighbor, Methe Wilson, took Kelly-Dilda under her wing as a tot and taught her “the old Southern way of cooking and entertaining,” she shares. “Methe is the lady who inspired me to do this for a living. She put a knife in my hand from the day I was three years old.”
WHAT SHE DOES:
After finishing culinary school, Kelly-Dilda was hired by the owner of Feastivities, Charissa Christopher, eight years ago. They have been fast friends ever since. Christopher is Eloise’s Godmother and Christopher’s daughter Ann is Emily’s Godmother. “This place is like a close-knit family,” Kelly-Dilda reveals. She even met her husband, Andrew, at Feastivities. As an executive chef, Kelly-Dilda does everything from hosting kids’ cooking camps to catering events for 1200 people.
“Both of my kids are extremely well-rounded eaters. I get comments from their teachers about what goes into their lunches,” Kelly-Dilda muses. “I’ll never forget the first time I packed Edamame in Eloise’s lunch for Mother’s Day Out. The teachers were asking, ‘Are these lima beans?’” Kelly-Dilda says that the girls are adventurous eaters simply because they’re introduced to a variety of foods.
HOW SHE DOES IT:
Andrew pitches in at Feastivities and is also the Sous Chef at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Kelly-Dilda’s mom, a labor and delivery nurse, lives with them. Between the three, they complement one another to keep family life in sync. “I have to take it day by day. Friends and family — that’s how I do it! I can’t imagine having to [juggle work and family] any other way.”
Working at such a family-friendly place is a major bonus. When Kelly-Dilda needs to slip out to take one of the girls to a doctor appointment or anything spur of the moment, she can. Christopher is supportive of her employees. “Charissa, I’m hoping, is going to be my kids’ ‘Methe,’” confides Kelly-Dilda.
In turn, the contented mom gives her all on the job. “I love to go set up the party and make the buffet. In school I was always ‘The Garnish Queen!’ That’s just what I like to do,” Kelly-Dilda laughs. “So many people tell me they’re afraid to cook. I just want people to love it as much as I do. I truly love to cook. You have to really have a passion for it. It is hard work.”
“Just love what you do. It makes everything else easier,” Kelly-Dilda often tells the younger employees of Feastivities (echoing advice her father gave her). It’s a rule she lives by.