Women in Hospitality: Chef Lisa Brooks

Stay tuned for more interviews with leading women in the hospitality industry, and be sure to view all of our previous entries in the Women in Hospitality series.




women in hospitality

Chef Lisa Brooks knows what it means to cook with love, and through her two businesses, she's serving up experiences that create memories to last a lifetime. 

The Chopped finalist runs Heart & Soul, a personal chef services company that offers candelit dinners for two, meal prep, and family dinners, and Mattie's Front Porch, a monthly pop-up dining experience showcasing the best of Low-Country and Southern Coastal cuisine in Charlotte, North Carolina.

After growing up watching and learning to cook from the matriarchs in her family, Chef Lisa decided to pursue her passion for cooking in 2010, when she left her corporate job, moved back home, and enrolled in a culinary arts program. Today, she honors her family's legacy and recipes by pairing her Southern upbringing with her classic French culinary training.

We chatted with Chef Lisa about event menus, intimate dining opportunities, and the importance of the guest experience.


The hospitality industry has always been about service and the guest experience. With factors like the labor shortage, that’s become harder to provide. Any advice for ensuring you are providing the best hospitality to your guests?

The only way that our business can be successful is to provide an unforgettable experience. Our team has the core values of our organization in their DNA. We have been very intentional about creating that culture. Therefore, when we find ourselves short staffed for an event, which is very rare, the staff that are attending to the guests simply become even more personal and engaging. Providing greater attention to the guest can divert attention from the fact that the service itself may actually be executed at a slower pace. The guests actually feel additional value rather than a lesser experience. For us, it’s never about “getting the food out," it’s always about communicating our passion through personal touches, engagement, and storytelling.


Guests are looking for an experience when they dine out. Do you think smaller, more intimate gatherings like what you host are becoming more popular?

Yes, exactly. Typically during a restaurant experience, the most one could expect is good food and good service. During our more intimate gatherings, the guests actually leave with much more than a full belly. We aim to make them feel something, we want them to feel cared for, accepted, loved on, and leave with a sense of pure inner joy. People won’t forget that. At our events, they actually get the type of human connection that we are all starved for of late.


Any tips on crafting an event menu?

An event menu should be something out of the ordinary. It shouldn’t be anything that would be considered typical on any given night at a restaurant. We strive for our menus to be unique and personal, and we actually usually have a story behind each item, which adds to the experience. There are no throwaway courses on our menu. Each course is designed to wow the guests. Therefore there is usually a theme that runs throughout the courses. Something that ties them all together not only on the guests’ palate, but also in their heart and in their own memory. We want our entire menu to convey a story.

chef lisa brooks women in hospitality
Through Heart & Soul, Chef Lisa creates an intimated and unforgettable dining experience. (Photo: Amanda Richardson Photography)

What are some of your favorite ingredients to use at the moment?

I can’t really say that we have any particular ingredients that are favorites to use at the moment because the ingredients that we select would be integral to the story that we’re trying to tell.


Have you observed any recent food trends?

We don’t tend to cook according to trends; I think we create our own. It is our intention for our food and our experience to be like nothing our guests have ever seen, heard of, or experienced.

chef lisa brooks women in hospitality
(Photo: Amanda Richardson Photography)

Do you have any advice for other women in the industry?

My advice to women in the industry is to not follow, but blaze your own trail. If what you create is personal to you, and you can tell that story and convey that feeling on a plate, then anyone who experiences what you offer will be not only intrigued, but will leave with an indelible impression that they will not forget, and more importantly, will return for again and again.


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Plan to Attend or Participate in the 2024 Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 18-20, 2024

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