We have found the promised land ... and there's pie!
SESSER, Ill. — Rend Lake College Culinary Arts alumna Hannah Hill has set up her own shop, the Milk & Honey Bakehouse in Sesser, where she runs a one-woman dessert operation that is satisfying sweet-tooth cravings throughout southern Illinois.
Hill graduated with an Occupational Certificate of Baking and Pastry Arts in 2017. She said her time at the college was her first in a professional kitchen. The small class size with Chefs Robert Wilson and Jeff Fairbanks was the perfect recipe for success. It was an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“I’ve loved baking and cooking my whole life,” Hill said. “It’s what I have enjoyed. I got to just drink in all the information that I could. It was one of the most fun years of my life.”
Hill knew she wanted to own her own business, and she knew she wanted to give back to the southern Illinois community that helped shape who she is today. The opportunity to open her own bake shop came six months ago, after the kitchen job she had was put on hold because of COVID. A couple of weeks later, Hill was able to find an available kitchen to rent and start up her dream business.
The Milk & Honey Bakehouse has an array of made-from-scratch treats, but pie is the specialty. Customers can pre-order their desserts 24 hours in advance through her website [LINK "her website"] so that she is able to serve as many as possible.
Hill said her signature pie is the Honey Pie, a salted pretzel crust custard creation that includes a dollop of the sweet stuff that she tries to put in every one of her recipes.
The Sesser community has been very welcoming, and the buzz about her business has been spreading.
“I couldn’t have asked for more,” she said.
Hill said pie is the kind of dessert that brings up joy and also conjures up their own memories.
“I’ve always liked pie,” Hill said. “People around here love pie, and everyone around here has eaten pie at some point. And everyone thinks about their grandma’s pie. They know what they expect a pie to be, and I try to make that standard but everyone's a little bit different.”
On the weekends, Hill has busied herself, setting up shop at various events and growing her clientele. Her booths have been set up at the Route 51 Farmhouse Market in DuQuoin, the Locust Street Historical Fair in Centralia, and the Magpie Market Days in Marion. Her future plans are to increase her business-to-business sales, and summer events like these help her make those connections.
“Events are my favorite part about doing this,” she said. “I get to meet other business owners, broaden my outreach and meet new customers. It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone, for sure, but they are always fun."
Hill, who grew up in DuQuoin, said southern Illinois has a unique food culture and she feels honored to be a part of it.
“I think the food culture here is vastly underrated,” she said. “That is something they taught us in culinary school, how much of a diversity in food there is around here, but it is also high quality. So I think you could find some really great stuff here and I wanted to be a part of that food culture.”
Hill said hard work is important in the restaurant business, and those who are willing to put in the time will be rewarded.
“That’s where you have to start,” she said. “If you are willing to put in the work, be dedicated and be reliable. If you are good under pressure, you are not going to have any problem. You are going to be valuable.”
Check out all of Hill’s sweet specialties online at milk-honey-bakehouse.myshopify.com.