Courage the Baseline to Career Confidence

Courage the Baseline to Career Confidence

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




Healthy Habits During Your Career Search

Healthy Habits During Your Career Search


“Energy & persistence conquer all things.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Demonstrating healthy habits during your career search will help you look and feel your best, while taking time to de-stress frequently. Your focus of re-strategizing your career path through education, coaching, or through a company change needs constant healthy living refueling.

Your career search sustainability will thrive when you take care of your body, mind, and spirit. Your healthy living refueling routine should play out in your life daily through positive words, encouraging reads, promotable actions, detailed planning, clean eating, satisfying exercise, and sufficient rest. Get clever with your healthy habits. Review and research social media and periodicals. Consult with friends and family for yummy recipes and fun exercise routines that you will enjoy implementing into your lifestyle. Your health habits will bestow great energy that will be noticed during your career search activities.

Healthy Living Suggestions

  • Drink 6 – 8 ounces of water daily.
  • Avoid emotional eating opportunities.
  • Eat clean and healthy snacks and meals.
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes.



Know Thyself

Know Thyself

Hand and word Progress

What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team. ~ Benjamin F. Fairless

Before you start your career search or plan to change your current career path; it is crucial for you to complete a self-reflection of how you want your career path to manifest. Breakdown your career plan beyond position details and income. Identify a top ten list of what you want your next position on your career path to provide you.

Career Path Development Exercise and Questions  

  • Take a personality test.
  • Career Changers, review your resume and determine what your top experiences from your previous positions were. Are they potential transferable experiences to your next role?
  • New Grads, what classes did you enjoy and excel in during school? Are there possible positions that will provide you the opportunity to expand your learning and experience in that area?
  • Were there community service experiences that brought you fulfillment that can be transferred over to a professional position?
  • Was there a success story that you observed or read that you need to revisit and research how you can have similar success outcomes?


Networking Challenge: LinkedIn Engagement

Networking Challenge: LinkedIn Engagement

Multiethnic People Using Technology to Communicate

Taking the time to attend networking events during the week is beneficial to your career search. Networking events can be a fun way to develop your people skills, connect with industry professionals, and become actively involved in your local community. You can potentially locate networking event details through various professional associations and Chamber of Commerce offices. Leave your resume at home and take your business cards, optimistic attitude, strong handshake and cheerful smile with you to the event. Mingle well and add value to conversations you participate in. Aim to connect with at least three new professional connections before leaving the event.

For career changers, that may not be able to attend a networking event on a weekly basis due to their current work schedule. A similar networking strategy can apply to your LinkedIn engagement. Today accept the challenge to increase your interaction with current and potential connections to be noticed and considered for your desired employment opportunity. Review, implement, and execute the steps below on a daily basis. Leave a comment below and share your outcomes from this LinkedIn Engagement Challenge.

  1. Make sure all of your professional experience is well noted and listed on your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Upload a quality and clear photo of yourself solely. The background of your picture and your attire should be professional.
  3. Under the Interests tab start following five Influencers and post a comment. Commenting on posts by Influencers is a strategic way to be seen and potentially have your profiled viewed.
  4. Under the Jobs tab register to have email alerts sent to you daily or weekly.
  5. Review your connections listing. Comment or like any of their recent accomplishments, anniversaries, or posts that they have made. Giving recommendations is always a great way to give thanks or pay it forward when networking on LinkedIn.
  6. Search companies to identify employment opportunities through an advanced search by the categories of Relationship, Location, Industry, or Company Size. Send an InMail of interest or apply immediately for a position that interests you. LinkedIn gives you the option to make your career search activity private. Visit Settings for more details.
  7. Remember consistency is the key with all career search tactics.
Become a Sleuth Of Titles And References

Become a Sleuth Of Titles And References


Everyone has a desired career title that they would like to accomplish and feel that they are getting a return on their investment for their cultivated skills, professional development, and education to date.  Depending upon your perspective of your career path, sometimes your dream career can be masked under a position title that initially seems to be unappealing to you. It is not always to your advantage to dismiss positions based upon their title without reviewing the potential position description on job boards or with recruiters and hiring managers. Your desired position income, experience, and benefits wish list can be one perspective shift away from being a reality for you.

Depending upon your industry each position you submit for will require a listing of professional and personal references. It is important to stay in touch with previous managers, mentors, and business peers that you had positive outcomes and interactions with professionally. Give them a call, send them an email, or reconnect with them through various social media platforms. Develop a reference listing that can be viewed as benefit for you.

Position Submittal Preparation

  • Research and identify position descriptions that interest you versus the position title solely.
  • Keep a current listing of contact details (i.e. phone number, email, website, and physical business address if applicable) of professional connections and previous employers.