Former Accountant Turned Self Taught Chef Talks Tips For Creating Your Own Lane

When Angela Davis unexpectedly lost her job as a senior project accountant she turned to cooking as a side hustle. But life had its way and her passion for cooking turned into The Kitchenista Diaries, a mini-empire featuring cookbooks, recipe development services, and cooking classes. Her Twitter hashtag #KitchenistaSundays became so popular with followers that she turned it into a family-style dinner event series which attracts 75- 100 people in Washington, D.C.

Looking back at your journey from employee to business owner, what were the moments when you said to yourself, ‘Oh, maybe I can make a living from doing this full time?”

The first was when I booked my first major catering gig for The Roots’ concert. The second was self-publishing my first digital cookbook. They were both a direct result of building a following from my food blog and social media. The light bulbs came on and I realized that the income didn’t necessarily have to come from my blog itself.

Considering you’re a self-taught chef, tell us some things you did to hone your skills in culinary arts and grow your business as a private chef?

  • Cooked every day and tried dishes that I had never made myself. This pushed me out of my comfort zone.
  • Pored through food magazines, cookbooks, and blogs to learn how to write a recipe and to figure out what my voice would be.
  • Contacted other private chefs to learn about the business, especially about pricing catering engagements.

Also, the vast majority of my work comes from fans of my blog or Instagram feeds. I’ve done very little advertising. Learning how to take professional photos of my food is the best investment I made because that’s what makes people want to know more about what I can do.

Recently you turned your #KitchenistaSundays hashtag into an in-person event. Tell us about that. 

#KitchenistaSundays was intended to highlight what everyday people are cooking at home for Sunday dinner. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s about taking extra time out of the week to create a meal you’re proud to share with loved ones. My dinner series is a continuation of that, amplified of course because now we’re feeding 75-100 people in one sitting! Sunday Dinner with The Kitchenista (presented by Events DC) definitely highlights home cooking, and the dishes are mostly served family style.

I’m all about the stick-to-your-ribs kind of comfort food that brings people to the table. My favorite meals on Sunday are often slow cooked, especially through the fall and winter, so you’ll see a lot of braised and roasted meats, which we get from local butchers, vibrant farm-fresh salads, homemade baked goods, and fun appetizers.

My events are also a social gathering, so there’s curated music and vendors selling crafts, we bring in bartenders to do seasonal cocktails, and we hire professional wait-staff so the guests can be comfortable.