Jamaro Hill Sr. is a young father, husband, and enjoying life as his new restaurant, “The Cookout” makes it big!
By Richardra Winder-Robinson
Free Press Reporter
On any given day you will find Jamaro Hill working tirelessly in the kitchen of his restaurant in mid-town Monroe. The building that was once a popular fast-food joint eventually became a Mexican restaurant until it closed some time ago. For months it sat empty until the fall of 2020 when Hill brought life into that empty building.
Jamaro was born in Oakland, CA but raised in Monroe, LA. At a young age, he loved music and was a member of Carroll High School’s marching band. After high school, he attended the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff on a band scholarship. Hill had dreams and aspirations of being a music educator. However, he became a father within a year of attending college which caused his life to change paths. Hill moved back home to earn a living in order to take care of his son. He worked in retail and eventually began working at the paper mill. Hill would work there until he took a gamble and ventured off on his own.
Working long hours at the paper mill seemed like a dead end to Hill, and just didn’t cut it for this young man with an entrepreneur’s spirit. He figured if he could work 16 hours a day why not do that for himself?
When he wasn’t working, he traveled to various cities around the country and noticed how popular food trucks had become. Hill knew that Monroe possibly had one, if any, food trucks at the time and believed it would be a great idea to bring it to the local market. He and a friend were riding around town one-day bouncing ideas off one another about a name for the food truck.
Hill envisioned hungry people looking to eat good comfort food. What came to mind was that he knew people enjoy going to cookouts. His food truck would simply be called the Cookout.
Started with a food truck
In 2016, Hill stepped out of the paper mill and onto his food truck. The Cookout would become synonymous with exceptional customer service and quality food and would become a household name throughout Ouachita parish and the surrounding areas.
Starting a new business comes with some adversities. When Hill was hit with challenges, he always was reminded of his childhood hero Mike Tyson. Tyson is Hill’s inspiration because he too was young when he started boxing but dominated the sport. Tyson had many struggles but overcame them. Hill says that he always admired how Tyson handled all of his public adversities.
When Hill faced many obstacles in the public’s eye regarding his food truck, he took it in stride. Hill made sure he did his part to ensure he always had a license, and his taxes were up to date. When his competitors tried to shut him down, he always prevailed. Hill was typically always in compliance on the location of his food truck so it never worried him when officials would pay him a visit.
Hill admits that he’s had some failures throughout the years, but he always learns from his mistakes and lives by the motto “ never fall the same way twice”.
Customers Couldn’t Get Enough
Within a few short months of opening, people were craving the food from the Cookout. Customers could not get enough of those succulent burgers and wings fried just right.
On some days you could find the Cookout food truck at the mall or parked by the clinic or at Sams. No matter where the truck was, people would always find it. It wasn’t unheard of to see social media posts from various people asking, “Does anyone know where the Cookout will be today?” Thankfully the Cookout started its own page and gained thousands of followers. People could check in daily to see where the Cookout would be on any given day.
Hill never imagined his business taking off as it did. He was not a culinary student, and never ran a restaurant in his life. Hill stepped out on faith and made his vision a reality. He gained loyal customers that come back over and over again. Hill is big on customer service and quality food. He knows that every customer will not be happy so those are the ones he tries to make things right with them. He also makes sure all of his food is prepared fresh. When a customer is eating a burger, fries, or wings it’s all fresh, never frozen.
With a caring owner such as Hill, it was inevitable that he would outgrow his food truck. This music major turned restauranter became so successful that he had to begin searching for a building to house the Cookout. He compares this move to a paralegal who eventually becomes the lawyer at the firm. Opening a restaurant was not something Hill had initially planned, he only had dreams of a food truck. Because of Hill’s innate ability to provide exceptional customer service and serve quality food, his business was bound to expand. It grew so much that he had no choice but to open a restaurant.
In the fall of 2020 that empty building on North 18th Street became the new site of the Cookout. The day of the ribbon-cutting, Hill felt very accomplished. Now customers don’t have to search through the parish to find the food truck, they can now enjoy their food in a nice atmosphere. Hill also has hosts business meetings and other events at the restaurant.
Two life rules
Hill lives by two life rules, pay your tithes and give back to the community. Hill makes it clear that giving back is not done to gain recognition, but he simply wants to bless others because he’s been so blessed. Hill gives back in so many ways from cooking meals for the basketball team, sponsoring a debutante or a sports team, to purchasing shoes for kids. Also, whenever disaster strikes, he’s there offering a meal to those in need.
The days are not over for the food truck though. Hill is actually in the process of getting a brand new one built. Whenever there are events across the state, he wants to ensure that he can bring the cookout to his customers.
He will never forget his humble beginnings on the food truck. The food truck was once just staffed by a few family members now the has more than 15 people working at his restaurant. With Hill working so hard to ensure the restaurant prepares only top-quality meals, rest and sleep come at a luxury. Any spare time that he has, he uses it to recharge his mind until the next time he has to step foot before daybreak in the Cookout.
Jamaro Hill, Sr. resides in Monroe, LA with his wife Miracle Hill. He has five children, Jamaro Jr. 18, Jaeden 11, Jordan 10, Jayce 3, and Jaria 1.