About

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The Soul Epicure

Soul Epicure (formally known as Southern Epicure) was created by Daneka Hillery, a country girl from a small Florida town.  I grew up in a simple time with chickens running around my grandparents’ back yard and eating homemade ice-cream made by my dad’s mother.  We had our very own pig, went fishing on my dad’s humble, little motorboat and often climbed the citrus trees in our own back yard.  I remember selling watermelon from the back of my dad’s pickup truck and always had access to plenty of my maternal grandmother’s sweet potato pies and 7 layer cakes (all scratch-made).  I have always had a love for food and remember shucking corn, cleaning collard greens and shelling peas with my mom and grandmother on the back porch as a kid.  Being shooed out of the kitchen as a kid made it all the more special when my mom would allow me to cook with her in what she called “a one-woman-kitchen.”

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Love Affair With Food

In 1993, things changed for people who loved food (now known as Foodies).  The Food Network premiered and was like no other channel that I can remember before it.  As it grew in popularity I found myself watching it more and more.  Food Network’s “In The Kitchen” segment really helped to shape the way I cook just as my mother and grandmother’s cooking helped to shape the way I eat.

Once I began practicing the techniques learned from Food Network stars coupled with those learned from my mother and grandmother, my passion for food and cooking only grew more intense.  I began hosting elaborate luncheons for my sisters, mother and friends.  My first luncheon was around 1999 and it included a crowned rack of lamb, rosemary potatoes and a whole tea blend called Lady Hannah for sipping.  It felt so elegant and that was the beginning of many dishes prepared for my loved ones.

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The Emergence of Wanderlust

Growing up in a small town, it was fun to go anywhere and do anything just to get away.  My parents always took us to hotels and let us splash around in the pool.  Our parents would take us to Georgia to visit family every year and on those road trips we would sing and play games.  Because of those road trips, my sisters and I still love traveling today.  As a child I also loved watching Mutual of Omaha’s syndicated show, Wild Kingdom.  While watching that and other nature shows I began to pay closer attention to the location and would fantasize about visiting those exotic locations and see those same amazing things.  As a young adult I began traveling with my church to meetings along the East coast of the United States which added fuel to the fire.  I used to watch shows like Rachel Ray’s $40 a Day and that show made me realize that traveling and eating was my favorite combination.  In 2005, I took my first cruise to Mexico and caught a bug.  The travel bug!  Being in a different country really lit a fire beneath me and set me on the course I’m on today.  Since that first cruise I have been to Bahamas, Jamaica and a few other places but now have my sights set on moving to Europe for a short stint to explore as many countries as I can.

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The Gory Details

I had a traditional upbringing in a Christian home and graduated from a public school in Seminole County, Florida.  Around 12 years of age I discovered my love and aptitude for writing poetry.  Through the years I’ve honed my poetry skills with practice, education and a creative writing course.  Immediately after grade school I attended the local community college and earned my associate of arts degree in general education with intentions of going on to earn my bachelor of arts degree.  Eight years and lots of dead-end jobs later, I decided to go back to college.  In 2005 I earned my bachelor of arts degree in organizational management with specializations in both marketing and human resource management.  Most recently, in December 2015, I earned my Master of Business Administration (MBA).  Every day is an opportunity to explore something new and there is so much in the world that I want to learn. Other ways I have educated myself is by volunteering with non-profits, reading literature on any topic that interests me and by taking classes such as my most recent course, Secrets of Better Photography, an instructor-facilitated online learning course with Education2Go.  Being the consummate learner, I have an on-going love affair with the Spanish language and am aiming at fluency in the next couple of years.

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Becoming A Blogger

Picture it.  Florida.  2008.  I was exploring the possibilities of starting my own website and didn’t realize how simple it would be to possess my own little piece of internet intellectual property.  My sister and I began a website geared towards issues faced by full-figured women.  From there I started a fashion blog in 2011 called Closet Elements which focused on different parts (elements) of random strangers’ outfits that I liked.  In 2012, that blog afforded me the opportunity to attend the MODA Fashion show at the Javits Center in New York City and it was amazing to see the growth it experienced in such a short amount of time.  Southern-Epicure.com was created at the same time as Closet Elements and after some time I realized that my passions lie with food and travel instead of fashion so if I dedicated more time to the blog I loved the most it could experience some real growth.  Since beginning Southern-Epicure.com it’s been moved from its original home on blogger to its own dot com.  Southern-Epicure.com has been invited to appear in a cooking segment on the popular local show, Hispanics SpeakOut TV.  BusinessNature.org, a resource site for businesses, has invited me to write for their site on several topics that affect those in a business setting.  I am a huge proponent for philanthropy so besides my personal involvement with Habitat for Humanity, Southern Epicure (now Soul Epicure) has volunteered with not for profit organizations such as, Hope With Lupus Foundation, Inc.  Now that Southern-Epicure.com has become SoulEpicure.com, I look forward to an even broader, brighter future.

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What Can Soul Epicure Do For You?

Soul Epicure has evolved into a respected resource for travel and food reviews.  Not only am I a Level 6 Contributor on TripAdvisor, having completed more than 98 domestic and international reviews, but I have also built and continue to build relationships with local businesses through my extensive networking knowledge.  Soul Epicure has been invited to review distinguished establishments such as The Bohemian Hotel in Celebration, Florida.  Among other things, I am an established BzzAgent which is a site that uses influencers to try out new products and “buzz” about them in social media (current score of 8.2).  I have been invited to several major campaigns such as, Special K Coffee House Breakfast Shakes, FAGE Total, Redbox Instant and other major brands.  I have been approved to be a Buzzfeed and Huffington Post contributor.  Another site that recognizes the influence that bloggers have on e-commerce is Klout and I have had the opportunity to review products offered by their clients with a current score of 57.

Freelance Writing – Soul Epicure will provide all types of writing services from freelance articles on topics ranging from business and human resource management to food and travel.  (competitive pricing applies)

Food and Travel Reviews – I will make an uncompensated visit to your establishment for complimentary dining and/or entertainment and share the experience with Soul Epicure’s readers, as well as other social medias such as, Trip Advisor, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. 

Product Reviews – If you have a product that you would like to see how the general public will receive it; I will review it in exchange for the complimentary item. 

Social Media Management – I will manage the social media for your company on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.  Please contact me for pricing information.

Soul Epicure in Social Media

Facebook – 150% increase in LIKEs each week in 2016

Instagram – 65% growth in 2016

YouTube Partner – 2700+ Subscribers, 500,000+ Views

Twitter – 389% increase in Followers in August 2016 

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The Future Of Soul Epicure

Though Soul Epicure has been abroad several times, the future belongs to world travel.  Currently, I am researching the best ways to move to a Spanish speaking country for the opportunity to live and work there while exploring the area.  Once in my new home, I will continue to review restaurants, accommodations and entertainment.  Southern Epicure is now called Soul Epicure to reflect the ever-evolving side of me and who I am. 

I am more than just a Southern girl who likes food and travel; but I am also a writer, wanderer, creative soul and the self-proclaimed voice of the Big Beautiful Woman (BBW), who now knows that I am a big girl in a big world and it’s time to play!

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