Hiram Thompson

I am from Panama, and I entered the industry in 2015. When I was young, I expressed my passion for art and initially wanted to be an architect. However, deep down, I knew I was fond of kitchens, inspired by watching my mom and grandma cook for the family.

It was not until my sixth year of school that I was vocal about it, and I finally told my family I was not going to pursue architecture and wanted to become a chef. The next day, on a Sunday, my parents took me to the old center of Panama and showed me all the cooks working. She asked, ‘Is this what you want? Look at us while we share a family Sunday; you will work. Are you sure you are ready to sacrifice all of this?’ I said yes, and since that day, throughout all these years, there has been only one day of doubt.

There was one time in my career when I was about to throw in the towel. I am usually a loyal cook who likes to stay in places long enough to witness the evolution. But somehow, at the beginning, between the long hours and shifts, I felt there wasn’t anything for me there anymore. I thought at first it was about my whole career. Still, I reminded myself of what this industry had taught me and how it made me a better and more disciplined person. It helped me look beyond my momentary situation and understand that something bigger was out there for me.

Since I was in school, there were only a couple of names known in the culinary scene. However, there was a group of chefs who focused on showcasing more than just their names, promoting Panama’s rich culinary heritage on a global stage. That made me believe there is room for everyone at the top, and this shared mission can unite us as a community of chefs, driving us to push forward collectively toward a bigger and common goal more significant than ourselves.