I hope you are enjoying the changing colors of the outdoor scenery! This month, I visited with a community connector and activator. Meet Mr. Ian Childs: an entrepreneur, serial shower singer, and foodie who strives to build community through good food and creative expression. Childs moved to the area to start his career and has called Fargo home for almost five years. Ian is the Executive Chef of Sugar Hill Catering, an up-and-coming business that specializes in southern comfort food and brunch. His love of eating is rivaled only by his love for music, which he creates with several recording and graphic artists through a creative community known as Space Shack.
Where do you call home?
Man, that’s a great question. I was raised in the Charlotte, NC area, and spent almost 20 years there before moving for college. I’ll always call the 704 my home, but I also have so much love for Fargo after living here for almost five years. There’s such a sense of community, hard work, and openness that I haven’t felt anywhere else I’ve traveled. Fargo is where my heart is, where I’ve been able to do all of the things I dreamed about and look at building a future.
What’s your journey of growth and what are some lessons you’ve learned before coming to Fargo?
My life has been super unique (at least I think so!) and I’ve learned a lot through this journey we call life. My journey has taught me to love the life you have and trust your gut above all else. I’ve also learned that understanding how to handle being uncomfortable has brought out the most growth in myself in certain situations, whether that’s performing on stage or starting life in an entirely new state.
What’s the story of your passion for music and catering?
Growing up, there were a few constants in my life: the two biggest ones for me were good food and good music! My mom taught my older sister and me how to sing by having us harmonize to songs on the radio while we were sitting in traffic. As I got older, I started getting involved in the school choir. My chorus teacher, Ms. Hunter, was super talented and she had high expectations of everyone in the class. She was really hard on us, but when we went to competitions, we almost always came back with first place trophies. By the time I got to college, we had done such high-level music that the college choir felt way too easy for me. I ended up joining a band and we performed on campus and around town until I graduated. So many of my life experiences have involved music, and for me, it has also been a way of expressing myself and showing people who I am. Once I got to Fargo, a coworker of mine introduced me to an audio engineer and that’s when I really started to pursue music as a lifestyle and career.
My mom will tell the story of how when I was little, she had to cook with one arm because the other arm had me in it, haha. I have always been fascinated with cooking, it feels like an art form and a science that can turn individual items into something magical and delicious. So many people in my family are good cooks, and when we came together for the holidays, the dinner spread was nothing short of amazing. Having your dish be a part of family meals is a badge of pride, and if Grandma asks you to bring something: you better make sure it’s good because my family WILL let you know if it doesn’t pass the test! My grandmother has always been the pinnacle of excellence in the kitchen, and she inspires me to be the best chef I can be. I named my business Sugar Hill Catering because that’s the name of the hill her house is on, where my mom and uncles grew up, and the inspiration for so much of the food I love making and sharing with everyone.
How do you juggle all your “hats” in civic engagement and being a serial entrepreneur?
People who have known me for a long time know that I have always been a juggler and that I always had more than a few projects going on. In the space I’m in now, however, I want to take everything I’ve been juggling and bring it all together. One thing that I’ve learned over the last few years has been balance. The importance of that, for me, has been not taking on so many projects at once, and giving each project its own space and season of focus.
Why should and how can people learn about other instruments and melodies?
Learn about these things as a hobby or as a way of creative expression! Most instruments are fairly easy to master if you dedicate the time to learn and practice. If you’re interested in picking up an instrument, a mic, or even a paintbrush, you can find so many lessons and great advice from professionals on YouTube.
What is one thing this area could benefit from that you liked in other cities you lived in?
Some good ol’ Southern cooking! When I got here, I learned that the culinary options in Fargo are much different than what I was used to, and that challenged me to cook more of the things that I enjoyed from North Carolina because they were hard to find here. I think Fargo could use some more of that and that’s why I decided to start Sugar Hill, to share my culture and food with everyone.
What is your vision 2030? Where will you be and why?
The world as we know it has changed drastically in my lifetime, and how newer generations must approach living our lives is so much different from the previous ones. I want to help people navigate that transition. People value themselves as service providers, as creators, and I want to empower individuals to have successful careers as entrepreneurs and creators by helping them establish connections and make money.
Being an artist, I’m very passionate about helping build the creative community and creating opportunities for people to showcase their talents and passions, so they can live a lifestyle around the things that they love. That’s the biggest thing I’ve been working on this year, and I want to expand the creator and gig economies here in Fargo and elsewhere. By 2030 I believe the impact of that will be felt all over the country, even all over the world, and I see myself traveling to support that. I’m not sure where I’ll be by then but maybe somewhere a bit warmer in the winter haha…