We’ve all been at that fork in the road called life. Maybe you’ve lost interest in your profession, your company has downsized or you’re afraid of making a career change. Well, if you’re ready to join the increasing number of people changing careers, meet Chef Elle Simone. From social worker to food stylist and founder of SheChef, a culinary entertainment company based in Brooklyn, New York, Simone knows a thing a two about pushing past fear to land a career you love.
Drawing inspiration from her childhood, she took a leap of faith into the culinary world in 2006. “Cooking was an activity that I grew up enjoying with my family in Detroit. My grandmother’s cooking was coveted in our community and it was our bond,” Simone says.
As a freelance chef/food stylist and producer, there is no typical day. One day can be solely dedicated to her business and the next week she could be producing a cooking show series or creating YouTube videos for major food retailers like Fresh Direct. “That is really the best part of my career; like snowflakes, no two are alike,” she says.
Simone hasn’t left her roots in helping people too far behind—mentorship is baked in her business model. Through her leadership program and the Marjorie L. Price Scholarship; named after her grandmother, she provides financial aid to students seeking international culinary education.
Simone has collaborated and contributed to the Food Network, Food Network Magazine, The Cooking Channel, The Katie Couric Show, CBS Corporation, ABC’s “The Chew,” and Bravo’s “Chef Roblé and Co.”
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the culinary maverick for some enriching career advice and one burning question in mind, “How’d you do it?”
BlackEnterprise.com: Why did you choose a culinary arts career?
Elle Simone: I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a chef, but I didn’t grow up seeing my image or anyone who looked like me in the industry. As a social worker, I used cooking as an outlet for the stress of my job. I would “moonlight” as a line cook in the evenings and even though I’d be exhausted at the end of a day, I loved it and it was worth it. After a year of working in restaurants, I went to work on a cruise line as a cook, later moved to New York and interned at The Food Network. My career took off from there.
Before making a career change, how did you manage two competing careers? Any advice?
I don’t think it’s entirely possible to manage two competing careers for too long. For me, it started to become a conflict of interests. The transition took almost a year. I made sure that I had a new place of employment for at least 30 days after resigning from my previous career. My advice to anyone is also the same advice that I followed for myself:
- Do your homework. Research demographic, supply and demand, and what kind of training is required to become an expert in your desired field.
- Identify your support system. Talk with friends and family about what your life will be like during your transition, identify and anticipate what your needs will be and who is able to be there for you during that time.
- Set a date for your transition. When I was a social worker, I had to give my agency a 30-day notice to terminate employment but I also knew about three months prior that I was ready to move into culinary as my primary career. That gave me 120 days to pay some living expenses in advance.
- Network and make a good first impression; you never know who will be your next client.
Trust your instincts, doubt your fears: Once you’ve set your date to transition, stick to it!
3. How did you land a spot as Culinary Producer for Bravo TV’s “Chef Roblé and Co?”
I bid for the job as culinary producer for the show and was rejected initially. The person who got the job was a colleague who decided to take another project and asked me to take over. I learned two valuable lessons: Don’t harbor in rejections because what is meant for you will be and no matter when you come on to a project- finish strong!
Follow Elle Simone on Twitter @ChefElleSimone.
Kandia Johnson (@kandiajohnson) is a communications strategist, writer, and world traveler. She is dedicated to empowering audiences to tap into their hidden potential to achieve success. Driven by a passion to help people and organizations turn vision into reality, Johnson creates content that educates, engages and inspires.