Stump Kitchen is the ongoing story of a woman’s love of food, her stump, and embracing her whole self.
Alexis Hillyard was born with one hand, but that doesn’t get in her way. In fact, when it comes to Stump Kitchen (her YouTube cooking channel) she doesn’t let anything get in her way. Not even the lack of preparation.
“There is no prep, there is no showering,” Hillyard says. “I’ll say ‘Well, I’m wearing sweats and no bra, let’s do it’. It is really impromptu, it catches the energy. If I scheduled it I don’t think it would be as fun. We seize the moment when it comes up.”
Shot by her partner Alison Brooks-Starks and edited by Hillyard, Stump Kitchen is more of a celebration than a cooking show. Yes, there are recipes, yes there is swearing (some bleeped), and yes there are how-to tips, but really it is about Hillyard and all her opulent radness.
When she started out, she didn’t know what to expect. There were no meal plans. She had no idea who she’d have on as guests. That she would eventually have children on the show cooking with her was baffling. It is within this spontaneity that she keeps it exciting for herself.
“It really is a project in self-love,” she says. “It’s about joy and humour. Part of it is that it is a neat thing to do with my partner, the other part is celebrating things that I’ve learned to love, like cooking. It is a great stress reliever, it really helps with mental health stuff.”
The co-star in all this is her stump. She uses her stump to roll sushi (with stump-atriot Molly Gisela Staley), to juice lemons, to stir, and sometimes she even draws faces on it. There are no stump-related boundaries on Stump Kitchen. The kitchen part though, that is a different story.
“I was a reluctant chef,” Hillyard says. “I would think, ‘fuck, recipes are hard and you need special ingredients’. I would look at cookbooks and be overwhelmed.”
It was a gluten intolerance diagnoses just over a year ago that pushed her to learn.
“That was a bit tricky,” she says. “I had to learn how to cook for myself. I had to be careful about what I was buying. Then, I decided to be full vegan.”
She does not make things easy for herself, but that is a part of the adventure.
“That forced me to become creative, and in doing that [food] research, I found food that I love,” Hillyard explains. “I found food that was easy. It sparked a huge joy within me.”
And that joy has spread to other people. Be it a friend’s mom, kids, or a viewer with cerebral palsy, Hillyard has inspired people to go beyond expectations and challenge themselves.
“I’m really surprised by the impact it has had, which you don’t often see by just putting clips out there,” Hillyard says. “The fact that I love my body and stump so much—these videos have become a very freeing and wonderful thing. People say to me that my stump is hilarious or the way I am with my body is wonderful. I think that was another fun ingredient that made it easier for me to celebrate who I am.”
She even celebrates her mistakes.
“The stuff that goes wrong in the videos we keep,” Hillyard says, laughing. “The stuff that goes wrong is the good stuff.”