Chef Huda Mu’min, founder and CEO of Pretty and Delicious, a successful local culinary company, clearly recalls receiving her acceptance letter to the University of Maryland. The celebrity chef, reality TV food competition contestant, Hollywood stylist and entertainment correspondent could only describe her reaction as ecstatic. “I was coming back to Maryland, and UMD was definitely the best school among my choices.”
Chef Huda was, at the time, unsure of what major to pursue. Business had seemed like a good fit, but failed to inspire the passion she was seeking. Exploring the range of possibilities at UMD, Chef Huda attended a seminar on social responsibility hosted by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS). “The experience was hugely influential. I was always interested in people’s behavior and why they interacted in certain ways. Family and personality dynamics fascinated me…the micro and the macro. I have a great love for people, and during that presentation it all clicked for me.”
Originally focusing on the clinical aspects of psychology, Chef Huda decided to pursue a degree in sociology. She found great pleasure in studying different cultures, races, and groups—constantly finding ways to apply her knowledge on a daily basis. “While at Maryland, I was working full time for Marriott. Every day was a case study. I’m very comfortable with people, so they would open up to me and I could observe behavioral science theories in practice.”
Sociology was not the only passion being honed at UMD. Chef Huda was regularly preparing food for her friends and neighbors, keeping up a love for food and cooking that had been instilled in her as a young child.
“When I graduated from the University of Maryland, I felt ready for anything,” Chef Huda explains. “UMD had opened so many doors for me. I was able to experiment and grow academically, personally…and I left with a well-rounded education.” Chef Huda moved to California after graduation, and went to work in the customer service industry. While in Los Angeles, she regularly attended large social events, fundraisers and celebrations. Despite the professional context of these events, she was often fixated on the lackluster catering services provided at them.
“The food was so bad at these events,” Chef Huda recounted. “But the fact that I was always paying attention to the catering reinforced my desire to pursue a career in food. It’s so important to do something that makes you happy…to make decisions and always be excited about the possibilities that follow.”
Chef Huda enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and never looked back. She became completely immersed in her passion for cooking and the opportunity to learn about new methods, styles and flavors. “I became very competitive at Le Cordon Bleu. I always wanted to make the best dishes, perform the most impressively,” Chef Huda noted. Her commitment to excellence in the kitchen and the classroom, combined with her drive to seize every opportunity that presented itself, was well rewarded. Chef Huda graduated with honors, at the top of her class. Attributing a large part of her success to her experiences at BSOS, Chef Huda explained how her degree in sociology remained helpful and relevant. “Chefs have big personalities. That often means ‘big egos’. My education taught me how to be sensitive to the dynamics of their personalities, thoughtfully identify opportunities to shine, manage my relationships, and make myself likeable in their community.”
Recently, Chef Huda competed on the ABC competitive reality show The Taste. Paired with a celebrity chef mentor, she prepared small portions of her unique creations for a panel of expert judges, including renowned chef Anthony Bourdain. Largely inspired by his work, travels and ethos, Chef Huda jumped at the opportunity to participate in the competition when invited to by an old friend. “Bourdain is all about authenticity, and that is so important in this field. Sharing your creativity and your vision with everyone…its key,” she explained. “Being on The Taste was an amazing experience. I made great connections, I learned a great deal about myself, and I reconfirmed my passion for cooking and food.”
Chef Huda was quick to offer advice to fellow Terps who are discovering their talents and their individual callings.
“Life will always be what you make of it. Do something that makes you truly happy—and be ready for whatever comes next. Embrace the possibilities. UMD gave me the fundamental confidence, the proof of my own skill and intelligence, and the power to affect the lives of others in a positive way. When I was laid off from an executive sous chef position in D.C., I utilized those strengths and beliefs to start my own business.
Never falter. When you dedicate yourself to your passion, you have to clear your mind of doubt. Never be afraid to try and fail, but keep trying. With each failure you must learn that life is a blessing—it’s about exploration. Everyone has a gift. Discover it. Practice it. Share it with the world. Be your authentic self.
Finish your education. It is your foundation, and an opportunity to learn about yourself. Nurture the relationships that you have made [at UMD]…you never know who will be important later in life, who might share your passions and help advance your career.”