The Untold Truth Of Jamika Pessoa

Celebrity chef, television personality, and caterer to the stars Jamika Pessoa rose to fame as a contestant on the show "The Next Food Network Star," per Food Network. According to The Art Institute of Atlanta, the chef attended culinary school in Georgia and has gone on to build an empire of a career, which includes television appearances, a catering company, and even a blog that celebrates life as a chef.

Pessoa has proved her prowess as a chef time and time again, but there was one moment when she knew she had really made it. She recalls an incident in the early days of her catering business when her client, BET, asked her two days before an event if she could up the guest count from 200 to 600 (via Chicago at a Glance). She says she cooked for 24 hours straight, and in the end, everyone loved her food.

"That was definitely my slam dunk, drop the mic moment, and from then on it set the precedent," Pessoa said in an interview with Chicago at a Glance. "If I could do that, I could be on TV in front of 10 million people." From that moment on, Pessoa's career blew up into the giant success it is today. Thanks to family and cultural influences, a lot of continued hard work, and the need to challenge some stereotypes along the way, the chef continues to succeed.

Jamika Pessoa's cooking draws on Jamaican influences

As a Southerner with Jamaican heritage, Jamika Pessoa's cooking has been described as "Caribbean heat meets southern sweet," per Jamika Pessoa's website. The chef told that her father's side of the family hails from the island and she was even named after Jamaica to immediately evoke nostalgia in her father. Pessoa has visited Jamaica many times to vacation and visit relatives, but the meals her father cooked at home influenced her the most.

"My dad is the cook in the family," Pessoa told "He has been living in the states for over 50 years now, but he always used to send home for Jamaican ackee, callaloo, spices, spice buns, fruit cakes, you name it. I remember as a kid him being so excited when that package would come in the mail." The burgeoning chef remembered curried chicken as her very first taste of the island and the flavors have stuck with her since. 

Jamika Pessoa got into cooking after she was fired from a corporate job

Being a chef wasn't Jamika Pessoa's first career choice. During her first go-around in college, she studied marketing and business administration, telling Ai LIVE that she had romanticized corporate life and wanted to wear suits every day. Once she realized that her whole day would be spent at her desk and in meetings, reality set in, and the appeal of the business world quickly wore off.

When her company was doing a round of layoffs, Pessoa decided to leave the corporate world for good. Upon quickly realizing she had just lost her sense of financial livelihood, the future celebrity went home to think up her next move. "I sat there and I was like, 'What am I good at?' and 'What am I great at' and that was my list," she told Ai LIVE. "And all arrows, everything, kept pointing back to cooking, feeding people, entertaining, making people laugh." At that moment, Pessoa realized she could make cooking her career and set her sights on the next project, eventually leading her to Food Network.

Jamika Pessoa didn't expect to have a television career

As Jamika Pessoa finished culinary school and transitioned into her role as a personal chef, she found herself often catering private parties, which could sometimes get a little boring, per Chicago at a Glance. Pessoa says when such a lull would come about, she would pull guests into the kitchen where she was cooking and start entertaining. The guests loved her energy and encouraged her to pursue television. "People were like, 'You should have your own show; you're so funny,' and I was like hmm, maybe you're right; I never really thought about this," she told Ai LIVE.

According to Pessoa's website, the chef appeared in a myriad of television programs, including "Good Morning America," "Today," "The Chew," and "The Dish on Oz," but her appearance as a contestant on Food Network's "The Next Food Network Star" jump-started her career. "I tell people it's the best competition that I never won," Pessoa said.

Jamika Pessoa owns a catering company

Jamika Pessoa now owns and cooks at a catering company that claims major celebrities as clients, according to the chef's website. The idea for the business came to her when she worked at a hotel and had to prepare food to certain celebrities' specifications (via Ai LIVE). After one kind thank-you note, the chef realized she could transform that experience into a business.

Her catering company, Life of the Party, was born and Pessoa branded herself into the happy-go-lucky, smiley, fun entertainer she is today. The chef's ethos of having fun and making people laugh has inflected both her personal approach to cooking and the way she runs her catering business. Pessoa says she always takes time to celebrate life, which sometimes is just because she had a good hair day (via Chicago at a Glance).

Jamika Pessoa wants to break stereotypes

Jamika Pessoa's career as a celebrity catering chef and television personality might seem a bit out of the box for an incoming culinary student, but Pessoa encourages cooks and chefs to look beyond restaurants to find true fulfillment in their careers. "There's so many more different avenues you can do," she told Ai LIVE. "There's a food blogger, there's a sommelier, there's so many different things. I encourage everyone to explore outside of cooking behind the line because the people that I've met, the kitchens that I've been in, you'd be blown away with what people are doing with culinary degrees."

The chef also wants to challenge gender stereotypes in the kitchen. She encourages other female chefs to tackle the idea that a head chef is always a male and says she does this by proving herself through her cooking. "I would do my thing and they'd be like, 'Oh, wow.' So, the respect would come over time as they would see what I'm capable of," she said, per Ai LIVE. Pessoa has certainly proven she's quite capable of whatever she sets her mind to.