Jenn Ross, Founder and CEO of DaJean Eats is a sassy vegan chef that is full of life. Her passion for teaching new culinary techniques while educating people to have a better understanding of how food works together to create enticing and tasty eats with an island flair is evident when chatting with her. Jenn interviewed and shared how courage was the baseline to her confidently transitioning from learning how to prepare a proper meal to being a vegan chef to compliment her evolving journey of living a health-centric lifestyle. She confidently teaches her creative culinary skills and shares her delectable recipes with foodies through her virtual classes. This interview will inspire any professional that wants to become or advance in their career path to being a subject matter expert in their specific industry.
Career Tipper: How do you remain confident in your culinary skills?
Ross: Michele, that is an interesting question, and I’ll tell you why. One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou is “Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage you cannot practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” Here’s why your question made me think of that quote. I have not always been confident in my culinary skills, but I’ve always been courageous. I have found, however, that the latter feeds the former. The more courageous I am, the more willing I am to try a new recipe or cooking method despite the fear, the more confident I become. Then an amazing thing happens: fear diminishes and my courage – my attitude regardless of circumstances takes a supporting role to my confidence – knowledge that I can handle and master a particular task.
I wasn’t always a good cook. In fact, I was a terrible cook. I almost burnt down my first apartment trying to cook. See, I came to America for college at 16 leaving my family in Jamaica. I had no one to cook for me, and found that to continue enjoying certain luxuries like eating and living inside; I couldn’t buy all my meals. Necessity dictated that I learned how to cook. I made some unbelievably horrific meals, but I continued. That is courage. Later on, I studied in great detail food science and preparation. The knowledge of how food works – how different cooking methods affect a particular food – has greatly boosted my confidence. My dishes became better and more cohesive. I became so confident in what I had learned and was now practicing that I started a company centered around cooking. DaJen Eats exists to encourage the home cook to not be afraid of the kitchen. In my videos, I share a lot of cooking why’s, not just recipes. For example, Why would you add salt at the end of frying potatoes rather than at the beginning. How does that affect the finished dish? My viewers will leave each video understanding basic cooking principles geared to make them more confident in creating their own unique, successful recipes.
When I first started the videos I had to rely on the old courage. I was entering a new arena and was not yet confident in that. But you know something, Michele? I remind myself each time I am about to record a new video that my goal is to empower the home cook to become more confident in his/her culinary skills. So by feeding someone else’s confidence, my confidence is further bolstered. Yogi Bhajan said, “If you want to master something, teach it.” That is what I have done.
Career Tipper: What inspires your creativity with infusing your personality and legacy into your culinary brand?
Ross: At one point, I was uncomfortable with the idea that I am a brand. You know, I didn’t like feeling like a commodity. But the reality is, we are our very own brands, whether we like it or not. What we portray is our brand. Our brand is the emotional connection we have with others. Our values, beliefs and things we offer all form part of that brand. The difficulty comes when what we portray is inconsistent with who we are. Then our brand is inauthentic, and we begin to feel like a commodity. Now we enter into role-playing. Remaining true to ourselves and what we believe and what we portray will line up with each other, and then the idea of our “brand” becomes a non-issue and exists simply as an extension of us.
For a long time, I was living inauthentically and, by extension, had an inauthentic brand. When I first started DaJen Eats, I didn’t want to limit myself to Jamaican food and certainly not to vegan cooking. That’s interesting because those are the two culinary identifiers with which I resonated most. So, I made videos and produced recipes that were neither vegan nor Jamaican. I made the type of food I thought people wanted to see. I was not very happy. Veganism is important to me because it provides a way for me to live out the compassion that I feel. I was born a Jamaican, and Jamaican food was what I enjoyed most. In short, I was trying to be someone I wasn’t, running away from my truth. Because of this, I didn’t record videos consistently and the finished product – though professional – wasn’t a lot of fun. I didn’t start to get the response I wanted from my viewers until I revamped DaJen Eats to be in alignment with my beliefs. Michele, your audience/clients/customers have a way of knowing when you are authentic. People respond to authenticity. It gives them permission to be authentic, themselves.
My videos, as you have pointed out, show my sassiness. Why is that? Because I am now comfortable with what I am portraying. I choose to be authentically Jenn, just talking to my viewers. For a long time, I told myself I was demure. Perhaps I found certain virtues in being so. While being demure is great – if that’s you, that did not correctly fit my personality. My culinary brand is fun and inviting, peppered with a bit of sass. My inspiration comes from asking not what I think the viewers would like to eat, but from what I would like to eat. As it turns out, the viewers like that, too.
Career Tipper: On your pursuit to be a sought after vegan culinary expert, what are your must-have items in your kitchen and success mindset arsenal?
Ross: I have three must-haves in the kitchen. Everything else is brahtah. (Brahtah is a Jamaican term for “extra” or “bonus”). In my kitchen, I must have a sharp knife – ideally a chef’s knife, a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, and an open mind. Michele, you really can’t get by without a good knife. I have found investing in a good quality knife and treating it well (regularly sharpening it and storing it properly) will make your kitchen experience that much more pleasant. A good, sharp knife used with good knife skills will replace many kitchen gadgets. If we learn how to use that knife correctly, we won’t fear chopping, dicing, and food preparation. We won’t need a lot of the specialized “cutters” that are now being sold, which in turn will save us money and space. Slicing and dicing may even become therapeutic. Who knows? If there is but one knife you can afford, get a chef’s knife. It is the ideal size to get just about any of your cutting jobs done. Keep it sharp and store it properly. Most cutting accidents occur with dull knives, because when the knife is dull, it slides off the food – rather than through the food – and cuts the cook. Store it well in a knife shield or butcher block to avoid it being nicked in your drawer.
A heavy-bottomed skillet is a kitchen workhorse. Invest in a good quality pan. You don’t have to worry about getting an entire matching set of pans. Start out with a skillet that you like. See how it works for you, and then get other pots as you go along. It doesn’t even have to be from the same brand. You have the power to create your kitchen uniquely you. My favorite pot is a stainless steel skillet. It is quite large, allowing me to cook more things at once without crowding the pan. (Overcrowding the pan causes your food to sweat. Sweat and crisp are diametrically opposed. Don’t do it! Give your food some room. Your taste buds will thank you later.) I also tend to avoid non-stick skillets simply because I like sucs. Sucs are the tiny brown deposits at the bottom of the pot or pan when you’re sautéing, searing, or pan-frying something. A lot of people discard this but sucs, when deglazed, are the building blocks of a terrific sauce. Next time, add a bit of wine to deglaze your sucs. The wine will release the brown bits from the pan. You can also help the process along by scraping the pan. Add a bit of water, some salt and pepper, then allow to reduce. Finish with fresh herbs and a bit of cold non-dairy butter and you’ll have the most amazing pan sauce money can’t buy. This process isn’t as effective using a non-stick pan as you don’t get as much sucs, and you have to be careful about scraping the pan.
More than any ingredient or equipment, you need an open mind in the kitchen. With an open mind, you can learn food basics. With that same open mind, you can then take that knowledge to create your dishes unique. An open mind challenges you to look at food differently. That is particularly true of vegan cooking. The western plate is very meat-forward. The meat/protein is the star of the dish and vegetables serve simply to support it. However, in vegan cooking you no longer use meat. Cooking with no meat forces you to reimagine the plate. Vegans don’t eat foreign foods; they simply eat foods differently. What was once the side dish can now be turned into the star. Perhaps you are accustomed to a particular food being cooked a very specific way. Who says that food can’t be treated differently? What would happen if you were to try a new technique with an old food? Indeed, Michele, an open mind can teach an old dog new tricks. An open mind changes the world, one plate at a time.
Check out Jenn’s latest video featuring a recipe for Vegan Red Velvet Cheesecake Ice Cream below. Yummy! To learn more about DaJean Eats, their recipes and classes, visit their website at www.dajeaneats.com.
Collaborating with other businesses, brands, entrepreneurs, or consultants can be mutually beneficial to both entities as a way to build and evolve the mission of their companies, fine tuning of their services and increased profits. Partnering with others also often leads to other brand beneficial partnerships and opportunities. For those of you that may be reluctant to collaborate with others, look at this option as a way to further establish yourself as a subject matter expert. Your expertise is complimenting another brand, and together you’re expanding your audience reach to people you may not have had the chance to interact with and positively impact otherwise. Collaborating with others also promotes and reinforces confidence in your skills and abilities. Working to produce something great with others not only introduces something worthy of recognition but also promotes an analysis of our business perspective, actions, and a review of the outcomes that your communication style generated. Did your collaborative efforts spark the beginning of a potential long-term relationship or a revelation of a new direction for your brand? Was your desired goal accomplished through the collaboration? Did you recognize the wins and lessons learned from the experience?
I enjoy collaborating with other professionals and brands. It’s fun, adventurous, informative, and a great way to be creative. One brand that I collaborate with is GotChosen through their Social Exchange. GotChosen is a company with a dream. For the past two years, GotChosen has established a positive online presence by giving away 43 college scholarships. They have surpassed $250,000 in awarded scholarships. They are attracting over 4,000 visitors daily to the Social Exchange. GotChosen is inviting bloggers and websites to join the Social Exchange that they believe would be a positive influence for young adults. Their goal is also to create a more respectful internet- to respect the privacy and choices of users, and to respect the traffic generated by the quality content. I’m grateful to be an early adopter of the Social Exchange. The Social Exchange is a community that promotes each other. The GotChosen team makes periodic posts about adopters website on the appropriate channels. Together becoming partners in each other’s success.
This week, the GotChosen team and I are promoting a contest on the GotChosen channel to over 58,000 subscribers on the Social Exchange. One of my channel subscribers will receive a free hour of career counseling with me. It’s a win-win opportunity for both of us.
To learn more about how you can get involved with the Social Exchange to promote your brand and hang the curtain on your site, please visit www.gotchosen.com for more details.
Professionally, I enjoy connecting great companies to qualified talent. As a career confidence coach, it’s rewarding when noteworthy talent seeks my assistance to assist in preparing them to be career confident beyond the interview but in the workplace as well. The ability to demonstrate career confidence is a focus that professionals sometimes identify as the core reason for them not to pursue their next career move. During my career confidence coaching sessions that include mock interviews, I aim to address my client’s interview and career concerns and celebrate their excitement for the opportunity to interview and advance in their choice career industry. It is ok to use career coaches, guides, mentors, and books to prepare and be career confident ready for your next career transition.
During my career coaching sessions, I learn many things about my clients and the emotions and outcomes that formulate their perspective of their career journey. Family legacy, spoken and unspoken self-imposed expectations of what career success means, education (not enough or more than enough) or timing. For others, it’s a realization of what one wants to do with their career or owning that they no longer find their career rewarding or a good fit financially and or as a daily experience. The need to determine their next move while not falling short of their personal responsibilities and obligations has been a topic of conversation during my career confidence coaching sessions.
I consider it an honor that I confidentially work with them to develop a career success strategy that can help boost their career confidence actions and thoughts. Also, helping to subside their interview questions concerns and gain clarity to being prepared to respond without being reluctant to answer because they’re not sure of an appropriate answer to share during an interview. I enjoy being a sleuth of their perspective to uncover a comfortable and natural way for my clients to answer interview questions and share their professional elevator speech and professional outcomes confidently.
I recently decided to merge my love of infographics with a few of my career confidence boosters and have some fun creating downloadable career confidence guides. They can be on display on your fridge, desk or in a portfolio that you can review at a moments notice. They’re informative in an easy to read format that is an educational share that is easy to retain by all learning styles. The career guide addresses four different topics:
Daily Cycle of Building Career Confidence. A guide to developing and maintaining career confidence on a daily and ongoing basis.
Social Media Blueprint Guide. A suggestive guide on how social media profiles can represent you at your personal best. This guide will help you promote professional and polished social media profiles.
Professional Networking Checklist. Sharing ten successful and easy to implement professional networking tips that will help professionals connect with other professionals in diverse business and community settings.
Career Confidence Analysis Guide. In order to be confident in your career path and moves. It is important to complete a career analysis to determine your strengths, areas of opportunities, next moves for advancement and what you need to do to prepare for the unexpected moments in your career. Before completing this career analysis, meditate on the four categories.
Being career confident ready is a choice that should be a never-ending focus. Being career confident ready exceeds being current and relevant in your skills. It includes portraying a polished professional image, evolving as a subject matter expert and being mindful of how your conversations and social media posts can positively and negatively impact your career. Investing time into being a strong contributor to your industry and having a mindset of success; your confidence in your abilities and the upward mobile path of your career will continue to flourish.
What are a few career confident action moves that you make to be ready for your next career change or promotion?
I love success triggers. I surround myself with success triggers in my personal and professional environments. They keep me motivated, focused, and determined to accomplish my career goals. Incorporating the usage of success triggers into my everyday routine assists in attracting my aspirations to me like a magnet along with hard work and an appreciation of supporting resources. Success triggers is also a great way to help build and maintain your career confidence. I am happy to share five of my favorite success triggers for you to consider.
1. Create Excitement for Your Goals. It’s fun to send congratulatory notes in the mail on accomplishing short-term and long-term plans and goals prior to them happening. This action indicates that you’re confident in your abilities to achieve your tasks. The verbiage on the notes should read as if it’s already your reality. For verbiage example, “Paul, Congrats on accomplishing your sales metric goals for Q2.” The image example, a picture of Paul holding a check or reward won for fulfilling his metric goals. My favorite tool to use to create notes of success is Postagram. The postcard attractively stands out amongst the mail when it arrives. It ignites a smile and feeling of success. After the excitement of the postcard arriving. I encourage you to showcase the card of inspiration in a place that can be viewed frequently.
2. Affirm Your Goals. I am a firm believer that our spoken words frame and create our daily experiences. I created the iPhone app, Career and Success Affirmations as a motivational yet directive resource for professionals. There is a daily reminder as well to prompt the reading and saying the affirmation to help affirm your career plans as a part of your daily routine.
3. Journaling. Writing down your goals is a success trigger task to aim to complete daily. You can often journal in the notes app of your phone or you in a journal that travels well in a purse or business bag. It’s suggested to journal in present tense as if your journal notes is already your reality. I encourage you not to forget to write at least five things you’re grateful that your day brought your way at the end of each day. It’s also neat to take time to review previous journal entries over time. It’s nice to reflect and realize your growth in your focused thoughts, accomplishments, and expansion of your career outcomes vision.
4. Create A Vision Board. My vision board is one of my favorite collage of pictures to look at daily. It’s a creative reminder that I continue to add pictures to continually. The beauty of a vision board is that it provides reference points. Reference points of what is important to you. Provoke thoughts of what you need to do to develop your vision. Does your vision board spark you to see yourself experiencing more for your career? Do you need to redirect your focus for your career to live out the dreams that you have vividly displayed on your vision board?
5. Networking. The professionals that you associate and interact with on an ongoing basis matters and indicates your net worth. Your network also reflects the caliber of excellence that you associate with professionally. Learn to connect with professionals outside of your networking comfort zone too. If you’re not sure where to start, consider attending an event that your local Chamber of Commerce is hosting or connect with a business networking and referral group like BNI.
What are a few success triggers that you have found to be an asset to the success of your career?
I’m excited for my blog, Career Tipper to reach its first blogiversary in 2015. I’m grateful for the many lessons of stretch that launching Career Tipper blog has bestowed upon me. I did not know where my blogging journey would lead me after penning my first blog post. What I knew for sure is that I wanted to help professionals increase their career confidence to pursue their professional goals and experiences that they desired. I’m humbled and grateful for the outcomes bestowed to me over the past year by becoming a blogger. I have celebrated for and with professionals that my blog has impacted through change of their career perspective, increased career confidence or clarity of what the next facet of their career is for them.
For me, Career Tipper blog has served as a creative platform that has reconnected me to my creative side through writing and product creation. The products I’ve created and blog posts that I have written are for my followers and clients from my heart. Promoting the importance of career confidence is an awareness that professionals need to be cognitive of understanding the why behind the impactful career decisions for themselves. Lack of experience, education, or resources are not always the career tipping factors that sometimes keeps us from being our professional best. The factor that can detour us from connecting to the subject matter expert, leader, influencer, or contributor of value that you were created and developed to be is often fastened to career confidence. On this blogiversary, I am grateful for the confirmation that I am on the correct path to expanding my footprint of helping people be the productive and prosperous professionals that they envision themselves being. Below are five lessons that blogging has taught me over the past year.
1. Be consistent. Cultivating my vision of my blog through action requires consistency. In the infancy stage, it is all a continual test of the best way that effectively deliver my message of career confidence. The logistical process of organization will streamline itself through consistency over time.
2. Content accountability. The importance of accountability to my followers, supporters, partners, and myself. I am committed to producing quality content that provides career motivation and professional insight. The level of content accountability is confirmed through comments, emails, text messages and phone calls that I receive after each blog post. They would share if the post provoked career confidence to be generated in a more efficient way for them in a new or refined manner.
3. Enjoy the journey. Blogging has led me to a path of dream fulfillment. My professional and personal goals of furthering my legacy of helping people eliminate perceived setbacks and move forward, dream and be proud and at peace with their career achievements is a cherished reality through blogging.
4. Promote others. It is critical to promote, encourage, and celebrate others, especially in the same industry. My efforts in doing this have demonstrated my confidence in the words of Stacia Pierce, “The world is in a conspiracy to help me accomplish my goals.” There are wins for each of us. There’s no need for shrinking back and being reluctant to show up and invest your time and support in other professionals and peers that are pursuing their dreams as well.
5. Comparison perspective. I find a great value in the anonymous quote, “Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter twenty.” My blogging journey is exclusively mine, there’s no need to compare. Each observation is only to educate me and or motivate me to a higher level of greatness and extend a kudos of appreciation for the lesson learned along the way for the vision stretch.
I’m also grateful for my blog partners in assisting me to manifesting the vision for Career Tipper blog and for some inviting me assist them in advocating their vision through honoring the importance of career confidence through me. I am thankful.
“When the leader lacks confidence, the followers lack commitment.”
~John C. Maxwell~
Like success, leadership skills do not strengthen overnight. Some professionals are groomed to be a leader at a young age by their family, school, and community. Other professionals make the choice to demonstrate leadership qualities as they journey through life and acquire the desire to develop the actions and perspective of a leader. The foundation of leadership is a mindset that transitions through development of perspective through conversations coupled with life and professional experiences to be confident in your ability to lead others by example.
A professional with a mindset of a leader expands by an awareness to be on the lookout for intellectual sparks. Sparks that ignites them to elevate their thoughts, process, and abilities to lead in diverse climates of business. As well as their team that they are professionally held accountable to accomplish profitable outcomes with and by choice influence their employees to their next level of greatness within themselves.
An example of the evolution of confidence through leadership is Mark Powell. Mark is the Executive Director of Student Experience for Mount Washington College. He is responsible for student acquisition and retention for the National Online program. Prior to transitioning to Mount Washington, he served as an Executive Director of Admissions for KU online for seven years overseeing admissions’ teams in Boca, Cypress, and Orlando. Before joining Kaplan, he served as Senior Leader in the BPO industry managing several Fortune 500 companies’ call center sales and customer service business nationally and internationally. Mark also served 11 years in the United States Army as a Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of tactical and strategic operations for the largest service battalion in the Army located at Fort Hood Texas. Mark holds a Bachelor’s in Business Management and Masters in Business Administration. Throughout Mark’s professional career, he has confidently driven change through various layers of business while achieving the designated tasks that affects internal business verticals and external consumers. Mark took the time out to interview and share his journey to becoming confident in his leadership abilities.
Career Tipper: How do you motivate your team to execute the company’s vision and accomplish set goals beyond, “I’m just earning a paycheck.” mentality.
Powell: I truly believe that you can’t motivate a person or a team. I do believe that a leader can create a culture and environment that inspires people to do their best. Over the years, I have learned to get to know the members of the team individually and understand what drives them and fuels their passion for success. Far too often leaders use the “one size fits all” as a motivation tactic. I have been successful in helping my teams find their” Inner Thirst”. I don’t worry so much about “leading a horse to water and not making them drink”. I believe if you keep your team thirsty they will aspire to find their own water.
Career Tipper: What professional lessons have helped you become confident in your leadership abilities and skills?
Powell: The first true professional leadership lessons for me came from being in the US Army. I learned so much as a Non-Commissioned officer on how to bring out the best in others and always keep my team focused on the “bigger picture”. I would say the next biggest lesson was finding that balance between emotional and cognitive intelligence. The numbers and analysis in a company are extremely important, but you can’t lose sight of the organizational behavior and human factor in route to achieving those financial goals.
Career Tipper: What was career tipping advice that boosted you to remain focused on your professional development as a leader?
Powell: The very first advice came from my father. I grew up in a family of seven and every Sunday our father would make us spend two hours sitting around the table holding a session that he called “let’s explore your mind.” There would be various subjects, but the one that always stood out was that my father instilled in me to be a man of character and always remain cognizant of the shadow I cast. He is 92 years old and have been married to my mother for 71 years and still challenges us to explore our minds. The other advice that I hold on to came early on when I entered the corporate sector. I was told not to be afraid to take on the tough jobs. I could remember at the time most people were running away from the outbound call center work I was running towards it. By taking on this work it allowed me to get on a fast track and gain international exposure while building high performing teams. I truly love being a leader, and the responsibility of giving back that comes with it. I measure my success by the success of those that I lead or have led. There is nothing more rewarding in leadership than to see someone who you had a part in developing doing great things!