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Daily Inspiration: Meet Jennifer Mathews

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Mathews.

Hi Jennifer, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I have a diverse background in the food industry but started my career working for a Fortune 500 company in sales. I married those experiences when I opened my cooking school in 2007, combining my passion for cooking with knowledge of how to run a business. Running a cooking school allowed me to hone my culinary skills and work on my communication skills; through teaching and writing recipes, which required me to keep up with new trends.

Once I sold the cooking school, I began privately cooking for families in the area. COVID changed things, and suddenly, I needed to pivot, so I started a blog, www.pharm-to-table.net, that has given me an outlet, beyond the borders of my community, to share my love and knowledge of food. I post new recipes and videos daily, breaking down recipes with personal tips for making dishes easier and better. I am responsible for the photography and content on my site and knowing when is the best time to publish and what people want to see. Keeping seasonal and current is critical to my success.

I am resourceful and passionate about what I do. I have taught cooking classes to corporations and small groups from my kitchen. Classes have been as intimate as an engagement gift for a couple and their friends learning to make pasta to a 50-person charcuterie cooking class where ingredients were sourced and mailed to participants as part of a team-building event.

In addition to my blog, I am working freelance as a news writer for Static Media, where my articles are posted on their website; www.mashed.com/author/jennifermathews. Pieces range from everything you need to know about making pizza at home to cooking hacks to make things easy.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been fairly smooth?
It has not been a smooth road, but is it ever? I opened my cooking school during what would be a recession in this country. Unfortunately, some parents could no longer afford to send their children to after-school activities, which made me adapt to teaching adults too. This was a considerable success, but I changed my hours to seven days a week and long evenings teaching a supper club until 11 pm some nights. As a mother of small children at the time, it was challenging to balance it all, so I ended up selling the business so I could be home more. That was a hard transition. I found some balance between private cooking and being able to pick and choose my clients. Then COVID struck, and not only could we not socialize with people like before, but getting ingredients were increasingly complex, which is when I pivoted again and started my online presence. Being a private person, this was not easy. Seeing and hearing myself online was cringy, but like anything else, you get used to it, and it was worth it as no one knew how long we would be in quarantine. Starting my blog and focusing on sharing my tips with a broader audience was a wonderful experience and opened up some new opportunities for me.

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?
Family meals have always been a priority in our home, and I learned that although other families valued that time, finding the time was challenging. When I started my blog, I could share how we managed to eat together at home with a greater audience. Some of it was balancing my time better, knowing when I had the time to cook and when I needed something faster to throw together. The organization is key to this success, which includes cooking several meals on days like Sunday when you have the extra time and learning how to reinvent leftovers to make them into new dishes. Busy moms, in particular, need to give themselves a break; not every meal will be a three-course meal, but there is a way to avoid fast food and pizza most nights. One of my strengths is taking a recipe and breaking it down to make it easier and quicker to prepare. Knowing where you can cut corners with the right products or techniques can make the experience easier and more enjoyable. A glass of wine while you are cooking, doesn’t hurt either.

Who else deserves credit in your story?
Thankfully I have a lot of supporters. Friends who have been my cheerleaders and taste testers have given me the confidence to keep growing and pursuing new opportunities.

My children have made the most significant impact, however. Not only do they support my passion and career, but they enjoy doing it with me. My kids have helped teach classes, been brutally honest when I try something new, be patient. While I attempt to take the perfect photo for my blog, their meals are getting cold and they never complain. They have never complained when I was writing about food when I should’ve been cooking it. It’s been rewarding to pursue something that I value and enjoy doing. As a family, we still bake for fun in our free time.

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