Long before there were vegan-friendly options at restaurants and grocery stores, Chef Joya and her parents were living a vegan lifestyle. Later, when pursuing a career as a make-up artist and model, Chef Joya remained passionate about cooking. As her interest in cooking deepened, Joya began entering – and winning – competitions, which ultimately resulted in restaurant popups around Charlotte, N.C. Just as the momentum was growing, COVID hit and Joya was left unsure of what to do next. She pivoted and decided to put pen to proverbial paper – three days later she had her first digital cookbook.
Today, Chef Joya has four cookbooks, serves as a celebrity chef and vegan consultant, and is a culinary instructor. Learn more about Chef Joya’s journey in season one of Changemakers.
What are some of the biggest challenges or surprises as a woman in your respective industry?
I feel like it’s different for me in this space because I work for myself, but I do feel like I have to work harder to get the respect as a high-quality chef. Sometimes it feels like women are expected to cook, so if you aren’t doing anything spectacular you don’t get the recognition you deserve. You have to be your biggest supporter.
What’s something you wish you knew then that you know now?
Set your budget and actually stick to it! I honestly don't look at anything as being “tough,” I just figure things out and conquer them as they come. But getting a handle on managing budgets earlier would have been helpful.
What’s been a key money life lesson for you?
In addition to budgeting, I feel that when you pay people well, they work harder to do a good job. That definitely carries over to my personal life. I will pay more for quality. However, the lesson is to also budget to afford quality. You can’t always buy or spend everything at once. You have to be strategic.
What work are you most proud of?
I would say my cookbooks because they’re a collection of recipes inspired by different women throughout my community. It’s truly a labor of love. I’m also proud that they help people who want to try a plant-based lifestyle, they create opportunities for people to have new conversations about food.
What's your advice for young girls and future generations who want to follow in your footsteps?
Keep your eye on the prize - it’s just as simple as that. Obstacles and challenges are going to be what you make them. Nothing lasts forever – any moment when you feel like you're having a difficult time and you just don't know what to do – remember that it’s just a moment.
The financial views, information or opinions expressed are solely those of the individuals involved and do not represent those of Ally.