Ze'Shieca Brown Carter is a local celebrity who, every day, embodies the power of our six essential vitamins: A, B, C, D, E, and K.
A: an award winning chef
B: Breaking ground against the cycle of unemployment and poverty with her Food Technician training program. This training enables her graduates to step straight into jobs that offers a path forward into stability and opportunity.
C: a "Chef to Schools" volunteer
D: a Daily Commercial food columnist
E: An Escoffier Culinary Arts graduate
K: Kitch'n Lyfe Skills Founder and Executive Director.
This is a 501c3 whose mission is to reduce the occurrences of food insecurity among school aged children, youth who have aged out of foster care, and the elderly.
And if that's not enough, her "nutrition label" also includes being
- a speaker at the first-ever Ted-X Talk in Eustis in January
- an Inductee, Inaugural Lake County Schools Hall of Fame
- a wife and mother of two
- the owner of a mobile cooking school with her daughter, who is also a Chef
Clearly, Ze'Shieca Brown Carter is a very busy member of our community!
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have met in your career?
Chef Ze' Carter: The biggest challenge that I have faced during my career have been overcoming negative stereotypes. It is so cliché when people see me they confirm that I am a chef and immediately ask me about frying chicken. Sure, I love a nice piece of fried chicken but honestly I haven't fried chicken in years. I am so much more that. I am often initially overlooked for certain cooking projects until they see my resume or see similar projects I have worked on. This business is personal for my team and I because the word "personal" is in our job description.
Ze' Carter is the owner and operator of The Kitchen Cooking School which is a consumer friendly cooking school and personal chef service. When this mother daughter team is not busy in private homes or teaching cooking classes she is busy being the Executive Director and Founder of Kitch'n Lyfe Skills, a non profit organization whose mission is to reduce the occurrences of food insecurity among school aged children, the elderly and youth who have aged out of foster home through education, enlightenment and empowerment.
The organization seeks to further their mission through basic cooking classes, a professional culinary education course that helps individuals obtain viable positions in the food industry and encourage sustainability practices.
Q: How you would describe your company culture, and what are the superpowers of your team?
Chef Ze' Carter: The culture of my company is personal service at its best, and what fits your personal needs. We are personal chefs first, then educators.
I believe the superpowers of my team is that as African American women owned company we have a unique perspective when it comes to hospitality. I grew up in the South and to exhibit southern charm is learned but not always expressed when it comes to the workplace and there is a thin line when it comes to that and my daughter (Chef Joy) have mastered it.
Q: What are some challenges or trends you see in hiring today?
Chef Ze' Carter: Some of the challenges that we face in hiring process is that potential employees want to start where they finish. Meaning, they want to walk into the kitchen and immediately stand behind the stove and put out dishes. While there are plenty of people who could easily manage this, it is vital to work your way up the kitchen brigade. Doing this creates a climate of respect for all positions in the food service industry and I feel that when you have a clear understanding of what goes on in the kitchen then you are a better chef. Believe me a shift as a dishwasher in any kitchen will definitely give you a different outlook on how vital every person is in the kitchen. Sure "Chef de Cuisine" (head chef) is an obtainable goal but it is one that we all must work towards, so my challenge is helping new hires realize the true culture of the kitchen and that teamwork is vital to survival.
Q: Who inspires you and why?
Chef Ze' Carter: My late father was and still is my inspiration. He was a chef and a giver. He also was a calm man and stayed pretty laid back even in the most challenging situations. He was also a big giver, his motto was that God was going to hold us personally responsible for how we treat people no matter how they treated us and that is truly sage advice.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
Chef Ze' Carter: My leadership style is tough love with a splash of passion. I know that many times I am too hard on my culinary students but I haven't had one yet tell me that I was too hard.
I am a bit more relaxed with my consumer friendly students because I realize that cooking is a life skill that many people didn't obtain as children and I don't want to turn them off when it comes to cooking. I am a team player and I am a firm believer that the acronym Together Everyone Accomplishes More is bond and key to life.
Q: Have you ever had an hourly job? If yes, please share with us your experience.
Chef Ze' Carter: Oh Yes, I have had plenty of hourly jobs. I started working when I was 12 years old and it was assisting my God-mother with Wednesday night dinner at church. Each job that I had after really prepared me for the next job and my last hourly job I was actually promoted to an annual salary and that whole experience taught me that I never wanted to work for anyone again in that capacity.
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