Answers By: Tyonne Domonique Johns, private chef/caterer and founder of Chef Tyonne LLC
Location: Washington, D.C.
1) How long have you been in the business?
I have been cooking for 14 years. My love of cooking started in my grandmother’s kitchen where I would sit on the floor and watch her work her magic over pots on the stove and put her spell on the pans she put in the oven. When I became an adult, I realized that there was nothing more I would rather do than feed people so I went to Le Cordon Bleu at 20 years old and graduated in 2002 with a culinary degree.
2) Why have you chosen to dedicate yourself to this particular business/industry?
I feel as though I didn’t choose cooking, it chose me. I was blessed with a God-given talent at a young age that my grandmother definitely coaxed out. Try as I may to fight the draw to the kitchen, I always knew I was destined to be in there because I loved to create, share and serve. Growing up, I would see the way my grandmother dedicated herself from morning to night making sure everyone was happy and fed; no matter what she was doing or where she was going, she always came back to the kitchen to feed her family, which extended to the neighbors, church and on occasion entire town. At some point, I developed that same love of cooking for others. Today, the love of feeding people, filling them up from the inside out is what keeps me in the kitchen. I do it for the love.
3) What makes your business/product unique?
My personality is all over my food from the taste to the presentation. I put parts of me (not literally) in each dish I make so my clients feel the love when they taste my food. There are plenty of people who offer my same services but they don’t have the love of home that I do. When it comes to food, I am your typical hopeless romantic. I offer the experience, the personable downhome touch and four different styles of cooking, not to mention an electric energy you can’t just find anywhere.
4) If you could have worked for anyone and would have been successful, why become an entrepreneur?
I have worked for some credible companies. I have made a lot of connections and cooked for stars in popular restaurants. But what prompted me to become an entrepreneur was the nature of the beast! People would come into the restaurant where I was working and they knew the company but they did not know the chef, the talent, the woman behind the curtain. I wasn’t comfortable just cooking someone else’s food. I wasn’t comfortable with making someone else rich but I knew I had to put the work in, so I did and I was successful in multiple restaurants. However, working for someone else doesn’t suit my personality; being an entrepreneur fits my free spirited nature. I like to be in control of my destiny. I was born to be an entrepreneur.
5) What was your last, “why did I go into business for myself” moment?
My moment was a learning one. In the beginning I didn’t know all the logistics behind running a business. We all have our weaknesses and I faced the challenge of learning all the correct ways to do things. I had the passion for cooking but I had to develop the time and dedication to run a business. Since I had previously put in so much work for years working for others, I was Miss Know It All for a minute but after I slowed down and accepted the help I needed I wasn’t pulling out my hair anymore!
6) Every female professional should have ________.
Every female professional should have confidence. She should be confident in her skill set and passion, have a great personality, a stern nature, goals and a great wardrobe for work attire!
7) If you could steal some business mojo from another mogul, who would it be and why?
I would steal some of Kevin O’Leary’s mojo. Mr. O’Leary, also known as Mr. Wonderful knows what he wants. Numbers are his expertise so I could learn a thing or two from him. He started out with a hope and a dream by investing what he had and made the life he wanted. Just give me 10 minutes with this genius and I would pick his brain until he invited me to cook for him.
8) What is your business motto?
“God’s Gift in Hell’s Kitchen.” I came up with this motto years ago back when being a chef or cook wasn’t as popular as it is now. Today, people see the TV shows and think what we do is easy. People say all the time, “I can cook,” which I’m sure they can but the food service industry is a different beast. The reason behind my motto is because of the situations I was thrown in from the beginning of my journey. I felt as if I was always thrown in the fire and had to fix the problem. I felt I brought a certain type of energy to a bad situation and the ending result was me making the situation better.
9) If you could give other entrepreneurs three tips, what would they be?
Never give up, never give in.
Make the world feel your passion that way they see your vision.
Stay true to your brand but take good and bad criticism.
10) Has there been a piece of technology or software that has been a lifesaver for you?
I call my manager a piece of technology because she is a robot (not literally)! But seriously, social media and good ole fashion word of mouth have both been lifesavers.
11) What is your goal for the next year?
My goal for the next year is to be in everyone’s homes. Maybe not everyone in the country or world (yet), but definitely everyone in my community. At some point in my career, I want to be a household name across America because home is where the heart is!
12) When someone is telling their friend about your business, what do you hope they say?
What all chefs want to hear, “the food was great!” A bonus would be, “Chef Ty was electric and I felt at home even with a stranger in my kitchen!”