Alvin Hyman’s life story often sounds like a modern-day Horatio Alger novel, a tale of perseverance, extraordinary talent, and ambition.

At 14, Hyman began working with Chef Bobby Hubert of the famed Bobbywood restaurant in Norfolk. Hyman swept the parking lot after school and worked his way up to working in the kitchen shortly.

Hyman ultimately trained for 18 years under Huber, and then worked at Steinhilber’s, Cobalt Grille, and Alexis. He currently is Executive Chef at Sweetwater Cuisine in Virginia Beach.

Chef Alvin Hyman at Sweetwater Cuisine in Virginia Beach.
Chef Alvin Hyman at Sweetwater Cuisine in Virginia Beach.

Hyman says, “I’ve been really fortunate to...learn things people don’t learn anymore: pairing food, making things from scratch, and technique. I’ve learned the true art of cooking.”

His goal as a chef is to make every dining experience the best and to create something to remember for the diner. With his powerful resume, Hyman certainly deserves accolades, but perhaps what is more significant is the work he’s done with his nonprofit organization, The Full Circle Project.

Hyman was determined to serve as a role model and remarked, “I never tried to distance myself from where I come from, and once I was established I was willing to give back to where I came from.”

Chef Alvin Hyman at Sweetwater Cuisine in Virginia Beach.
Chef Alvin Hyman at Sweetwater Cuisine in Virginia Beach.

The Full Circle Project partners with Norfolk Public Schools and provides children with the opportunity to learn about the culinary field and enlarge their world view through field trips and other various experiences. The children are fourth and fifth graders who are in need of additional support and guidance.

Students in the program learn about the importance of volunteerism and visit and work on a farm to learn from where their food comes. They also participate in team-building activities that will introduce them to concepts such as financial fitness in order to give them skills that will help them throughout their lives.

During the summer, students are able to take part in a one-week camp in which they are able to cook and participate in activities. When camp ends, students host an evening at Sweetwater Cuisine where they do everything from choose linens and place settings to cook dinner for attendees while sharing what they have learned during the week.

Although the nonprofit has only been in existence since March 2017, it already is a success. At the first pop-up dinner fundraiser that was held to raise money for this year’s group of kids, $15,000 was raised. Hyman will host another pop-up soon to finance activities for next year, where kids will cook and run the kitchen for their families.

Hyman remarks that “kids in the projects don’t see a future so they just live in the present,” and his passion for showing a different side of life to these children comes through while he speaks. His speech quickens when he says, “It was hard to get away from where I’m from, and I’m hoping to change the way they see things.”

ABOUT SOUTHERN GRIT MAGAZINE: Southern Grit Magazine is a food publication based in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and aims to open an honest dialogue about food in the region. Each issue is themed, and highlights different food-related issues within that theme. Southern Grit features recipes and reviews as well as more creative content spinning off each theme.