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Conversations with the Inspiring Zoe Kelly

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zoe Kelly.

Zoe, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Growing up in a Latin household, I was always surrounded by food. I’ve always loved cooking and food but it wasn’t until college when I realized I was starting to have a passion for it. My college apartment was the place to be for Sunday dinners- though what I was making wasn’t super fancy, I was always whipping up some kind of food when my friends came over. After graduating, I hit a really bad depression and became really sick with what I now know to be a rare autoimmune disease. During this dark time, I found that the one thing that truly lifted my spirits and brought me joy was cooking. I started a little blog to document my cooking adventures as I started exploring different cuisines, outside of my little bubble of rice and beans.

I unexpectedly ended up living in Washington DC for one year, to which I credit a lot of my growth as a woman, and became submerged in my daily after-work cooking rituals, sharing my trials and errors in the kitchen through social media. It was then when I had the idea to apply to a Food Network show as this was always one of my wildest dreams. Food Network will always hold a special place in my heart because I was not only able to learn different cooking techniques but it also helped me learn English when I first moved to the United States from Venezuela when I was seven. I applied without thinking anything of it and within a week, I received an email saying they were interested in me! After a lot of interviews, I got the call that would change the direction of my life. I was chosen, out of thousands of applicants, to be the youngest contestant on season 2 of All-Star Academy and eventually going on to the finale of the show and placing third place.

Which brings me to how I got to the beautiful city I now call home, Miami! After the show wrapped, I decided to move to Miami to start a business in the culinary field and to be closer to friends and family. At that point, I was working a corporate 9-5 and was being hired as a private chef on the weekends to cook for anniversaries, baby showers and dinner parties. For two years, I tried to maintain a balance between my corporate job, traveling to LA to shoot cooking shows for Tastemade and being able to still cook for events on the weekends. Slowly, that balance started being outweighed by my true passion. In June 2018, I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue my passion for cooking full time and have now been self-employed since.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Taking that leap of faith to follow your dreams is one of the most rewarding yet terrifying things I’ve ever done in my life. I think anyone who is self-employed or a creative can attest to the mental struggles you go through on a monthly basis. There are months where you hit your budget within the first week and there are months when you’re sitting there stressing on how you’re going to be able to make this bill. It’s a constant struggle of freaking out saying “what the hell did I do? Why did I quit such a secure job” to “I am so glad I am my own boss and have the freedom to choose what I want to do”.

My biggest advice for those who think they want to make the leap as well as to make it a calculated risk. So many people nowadays are quitting their jobs out of the blue to do what makes them happy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, trust me I am THE biggest advocate for doing what makes you happy. However, you first have to stop and put feelings aside for a second and have a real moment of honesty with yourself and ask “how hard am I willing to work at this? Can I make an income from this? What is my ‘why’, the reason that will keep me pushing on days where I don’t want to do anything at all?”

For some people, this moment alone will make them realize that maybe they don’t NEED to quit that day job in order to do this, instead just sacrifice some sleep and do what you love on your time away from that job you don’t enjoy so much. If you find that you’ve been hustling, trying to maintain that balance for a long time and you now have solid facts that your time will be better somewhere else… do it! Make that leap and don’t look back. Once you have that strong of a focus, a plan and have worked hard on something, the universe conspires with you to make it happen. Just remember your why and remember you’re happy.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am an on-camera host, private chef and also develop recipes to share with the world.

When I’m not on camera teaching people how to cook, I’m usually in someone’s home creating an unforgettable dining experience. In a city like Miami that tends to be flashy and over the top at times, I stand out with my authentic way of cooking. My style of food is honest, it’s simple yet complex, it’s the type of food that will give your heart a hug after you eat it. You will never catch me putting unnecessary things on a plate just to make it “IG worthy.” I believe when you are your most authentic self, cook from a place of love, it translates to people and it connects to them in a way that they’ll remember it forever.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
Find out who you are first. Find your happiness. Try all the things that interest you. It’s a process, it’s not always the prettiest, but be patient with it.

There’s this weird pressure society tends to put on us, especially women, to have it all figured out. Not enough people are being honest in saying “I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m happy with where I’m at right now and I’m doing my best.” That’s what matters at the end of the day. It’ll all work out in the end. It all starts by finding your happiness – the thing that fills you with nothing but love, joy, and light.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Eat The Canvas, Food Network, (Other photos are taken by me)

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