When Alexis Hillyard was diagnosed as gluten intolerant, she made a conscious effort to begin eating healthier, home-cooked meals. A vegetarian at the time, she approached this new diet with a sense of enthusiasm, becoming more adventurous in the kitchen. Not long after, she decided to take on an even more regimented diet and become vegan. The new diet was a source of confusion and stress for family and friends.
“A lot of people would say, ‘Oh, you’re gluten free and vegan? You probably can’t eat much. What can I make if I’m having you over?'” she says, “It would stress them out, but I didn’t want them to think it was such a big deal.”
So in March 2016, Hillyard created Stump Kitchen, a weekly YouTube series focused on creating easy-to-make vegan and gluten-free recipes. She approached the project with a sense of humour, naming it after the fact that she was born with only one hand.
“I love my body, and the way I get to move in the world,” she says, “and I enjoy being in the kitchen now, so I want to show how great cooking can be.”
The joy Hillyard and her guests bring to the kitchen is obvious. In episodes that clock in at 10 minutes or less, they somehow manage to successfully prepare dishes as they joke, sing and dance around. And whether she’s juicing limes, scraping out avocados or piercing the seal on a new jar of peanut butter, Hillyard finds lighthearted ways to make each recipe truly “stumptastic,” often showing instant replays to highlight how having a stump can come in handy.
Hillyard’s antics and bubbly personality are only part of the reason the show has received such a warm reception. Stump Kitchen‘s messy, authentic and hilarious approach to cooking provides viewers with a tried and true collection of recipes – something Hillyard believes is important for everyone regardless of allergies, sensitivities or preferences.
“If you find five recipes that you know that you can make well – including breakfast, lunch and dinner – you’re set. As long as you have a few tools, you’ll be OK in the kitchen,” she says.
As a Top 40 Under 40, class of 2013, Hillyard has spent most of her adult life inspiring hope and building communities. This latest project is just a continuation of her drive to help people in Edmonton (and beyond) live better, healthier lives.
“Cooking itself is such a beautiful thing, it’s such a good way to build community. We don’t often take the time to learn how to do it, or to cook good food for ourselves,” she says, “when folks think it’s hard or ‘I don’t have time,’ I like them to know that hey, it could be OK, they should just try it out.”