Today we’d like to introduce you to Joia Walker.
Hi Joia, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Since about six years old, I said that I wanted to be a chef, a lawyer and a singer. I’ve always had a big appetite so I felt it was only right to prepare the food I wanted to eat. I believe that there has to be a generational blessing on my family in the kitchen. We just have good instincts about food. Though I’ve only known three of my family members to tackle the culinary industry, most of them are the best bakers and cooks I know.
I attended Forest Park Community College in 2004 in pursuit of my culinary dream and found out how tough chefs can be. I had one teacher, I don’t remember his name, but I do remember saying, ” you won’t make it”. I believed him because after all, he was the expert. So at the end of the school year, I hung up my chef jacket and went after a career I knew I could attain. I was going to be a dancer!
From 2005 – 2006, I traveled with a called Christ in Youth, dancing on a 14 city tour. After that, I danced with St. Louis dance company, MaTiff until 2009. Shortly after that I became a local artist, singing around the city and earning the title of first runner up in the St. Louis RAW Artist semi-finals. Though I loved cooking, I really didn’t care what I did as long as I could express myself creatively and be successful at the same time. Throughout this journey of travel and creative expression, I never stopped cooking. I’d cook after studio sessions and on weekend breaks from traveling. Even when dating, I’d cook for boyfriend’s. I was always honored when anyone would ask me to bring something to a gathering. It was validation proof that I was talented. Even if Chef what’s his name didn’t think so.
In 2015, I moved to Atlanta and discovered so many types of food I’d never tasted before. I fell in love with Trinidadian, Indian and Thai food. I’ll never forget those flavors. Restaurants like Tassa’s Roti Shop and Asma’s Cuisine showed me how much people of all background could come together over food. These family-owned businesses were cooking what they loved and people loved them for it. So I got inspired to do the same thing. I began taking food to work and inviting friend’s over to eat. I watched people eat and enjoy my food. I opened myself up for criticism and worked to perfect fan favorite items. I donated my time and talents cooking for a shelter in Atlanta with my church. That’s when I learned that I could run an entire kitchen from the stove. I felt so alive and in place over the heat of the stove. I chased a lot of things but I feel like cooking came to me.
Plating Perfection was birthed from the need of those around me. I made friends who wanted healthy and convenient lunch and dinner options and thankfully, they were willing to eat whatever I suggested. I started with just five meals per week for each person. Then it progressed to ten. I was working from home, so I figured the timing was perfect to turn this meal prep service into a business. So I took a deep breath and listed myself on Facebook Market. I got a few responses there and earned a few repeat customers. This gave me the confidence to keep going so I built a website, created a logo, order supplies and never looked back!
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road has not been smooth at all. When you make up your mind to step out, you think of failure and success. I’ve experienced failure before and can get there with my eyes closed but I’ve never walked out success… not on my own anyway. It’s challenging to be a web designer, photographer, back-office manager, grocery shopper, prep cook and cook. I manage inventory, quality control pickup and delivery schedules and still have to find time for new and creative ways to keep existing customers and draw new business. I’m a one-woman operation and truly do long for the days when I can afford to bring someone on board and pay them. Even though I’m tired 95% of the time, I do this because I love it and I believe in the purpose of my business.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I like to call myself a kitchenista. I love creating things in the kitchen, food, drinks, sauces, teas, etc. I specialize in preparing healthy food that tastes just as good as fatty foods, made from fresh and local ingredients. My signature food menu items are both the honey jerk salmon and chicken. I think people love them for the spicy cabbage and coconut rice. My signature beverage item is the Rose Water lemon-aid.
I’m most proud of the way I prepare my dishes. I do it with integrity, keeping the customer’s experience in mind. What sets me apart is my passion for food in combination with healing. I know there are so many healing properties in foods we have right in front of us to eat and drink everyday. If I can provide that for my customers in a way that they enjoy, they will be more likely to eat themselves healthy! I want to help create better lifestyles for my customers and I believe that I can do just that, beginning with food.
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Honestly, if you listen closely, you will find a bit of mentoring in most conversations. It’s okay to talk to those who are doing what you desire to do. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Filter it through your business model to see how you can apply what you’ve been taught. I understand wanting one mentor to have as the go to for all of your questions but I’d rather have compartmentalized mentors. One for business, one for food, one for health and one personally. That way I don’t stretch one person too thin. I talk to a lot of people and listen for the common word of knowledge. If a keyword or ingredient is mentioned multiple times, then I know it’s time to it! Networking is so necessary! Even with all of different social media platforms, word of mouth still takes the cake.
- Individual Meals begin at $10
- Lemon-aid begins at $5
- Weekly meal prep begins at $55
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.platingperfection.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/plating.perfection/
- Other: https://platingperfection.company.site/