We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Lawrence and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
I believe that the only way to go is to keep going! When you are driven by passion, moving forward is the only way to go. When you go to bed at night and when you wake up in the morning and that “thing” whatever the thing may be for you; is the first thing that you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about before going to bed, it is worth pursuing! The only way a dream dies is when we stop.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In life we will always be faced with many challenges, test, trials, ups and downs. Everything creatively is going to be a challenge. For the audit self it seems as if one has to work a little bit harder. For me, that was the case. I have always known that I would end up doing some sort of trade because college was not for me. I had always been great at doing things that require the use of my hands. I had always wanted to cook professionally, be a cosmetologist, or a singer. I’m thankful that I have been able to do a little bit of all of it, but I know that my true passion is food. From a little girl I would cook for my family at home. My youngest sister and I created a restaurant called, “Vanessa”s Kitchen” , Where I cooked and charge my family members that lived in the house a small fee to eat dinner. Thankfully they all engaged my shenanigans and paid me greatly. As I got older, I went through a tough time before getting to the place that I am now. I will never be able to say that I have arrived because there is so much that I desire to do in this career and to build generational well. Yet, it has not come without challenges. I have experience homelessness twice in my life. In the midst of homelessness, going through a divorce which led me to eventually be a single parent. I knew I needed to do something different that I loved and that would allow me to make money so that my daughter can have a better chance at life.
When you came to the many challenges in my life, many times I truly allowed myself to be in the moment. I cried real tears. I had many sleepless nights wondering if I will ever be able to stand on my own two feet. I did a lot of praying, that is for sure. But passion speaks loudly and I had to listen. Starting my business was not easy. I only did it part-time in addition to having a day job. I prayed today where I would be able to do my business 100% of the time and surround myself with people who love food and love cooking, so I could train them to do what I do and even better.
Some of the lessons that I learned are:
1.. There is no such thing as giving up! You may need a break, then after you gain your strength, get back up and give it another go.
2. Each one, teach one. Each one, reach one! I have learned that this life is no good if you are not showing someone else the way. We all have to give back in some kind of way. I always encourage people to go after their dream. You will never know what you want to do, if you don’t sacrifice and do it.
3. Failure is the state of mind. We only fail when we stop. When you want it bad enough, you will keep going, even if you have to crawl and cry your way through.
I want people to know that I am driven. I want to see every cabinet in the country have “Vee’s Spice Rubs”, in there cabinet or pantry. If I could cook for every single person, I would so the next best thing is to enjoy some of these spice rubs that I use to add love to all of my food. I want people to know that the key ingredient to everything that I do is truly, LOVE!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wow, such a great question! Whenever my best friend Shandy and I get together, let me just say it is NEVER a dull moment. In advance, I would definitely find out her favorite foods and what she would like to eat. Since I know her well And I am a soul food chef, I already know that she is going to want some red beans and rice, some barbecue dark meat chicken, and some banana pudding.
When she is visiting, I always go to a locally owned restaurant to enjoy food. We call it a “Hole in The Wall” . Indicating that it is likely it will be in a neighborhood or a *Mom and Pop”, kind of shops where we would enjoy some of the best soul food that you can imagine. My goodness, the thought of it makes my mouth water.
Some of the most exciting places to go would be other friends and family’s home. That is going to be the best food that you can ever have. We also would enjoy a nice up-and-coming restaurant as well for different cultures of food and perhaps have delicious drinks while listening to some really great live music.
When I visit home which is the place where I grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, I always make several stops in an effort to get all of the components of my meal for the day. For me, I always stop at my local Chevron gas station in Meridian, for some of the best fish and chicken wings. I always stop by The Rib Shack, to get a Shack Dog (smoked sausage dog) with double butter beans and a slice of red velvet cake, if they are not sold out. I also stopped by the local dairy Queen for the best tasting Coca-Cola your mouth ever tasted. From there I am normally making phone calls trying to see who has baked a pound cake. Because you cannot have delicious food without something sweet.
Till this day, when I go home to Meridian, I always get excited and find joy just riding around on every street on the east side, Ward 2, and reminisce on all of the good memories that I had growing up in *The East End”. Then from there, I make several phone calls and try to see how many of my friends I can see. Great times I tell you, great times!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are a few people that deserve recognition and have been a driving force behind who I am and my brand. The motivation for what I do definitely comes from my daughter, Jirah Lawrence. She is why I can push through every single day of every single moment. Getting to where I am and where I want to go comes from my mother Patricia and my late maternal grandmother,Corine Evans. Also my late maternal grandfather, Slayton Evans. Not only did they give me an opportunity to express myself in the kitchen, but they also allowed me to watch what they were doing. My mother and grandmother cooked every single day. My grandfather was the baker. He let me lick the cake bowl whenever he finish making a pound cake. My paternal grandmother, Bessie Dillard, gave me free will to cook whenever I visited her in the town of my birth. I also have to remember two of my favorite aunts that showed me firsthand how to make chocolate chip cookies and macaroni and cheese. That goes to my beautiful late aunt’s; Tommie Evans and Flora Howard. Every time I go into my kitchen, I feel the spirit of these people who have been the driving force behind me cooking. I can only hope to continue the journey and that they will continue to be proud! Along this culinary journey, I have had a few mentors that have invested in me and allowed me creative control in areas that I never thought that I would achieve. I have to recognize my mentor, Dr. Henry Armington, Sr. Dr. Armington showed me first hand how to use my gift of cooking to make money and to stay withing a budget in an effort to build a savings account; something that I had never done before. That was almost 10 years ago. His book, “How to Keep your Hands out of the Lion’s Mouth” was such a useful tool about budgeting and saving. My pastor, Dr. DeWayne Moore, gave me my first leadership role as Head Chef of the Culinary Ministry, at Ebeneezer Baptist Church, Denver, Colorado. He allowed me to utilize my gift in a capacity where I was able to feed multiple people as well as serve the ministry leaders. He didn’t hover, he trusted my judgment and that is something I will always be grateful for. There are many wonderful women and man cooks I have encountered a long this journey. One place where I got my culinary start will always be a vital part in my life is My. Saint Vincent Home, Denver, Colorado, Where I worked under an amazing Chef, Thomas Olson, under the director (at the time) Sister Amy Willcott. MSV, Will always have a place in my heart. It is where I did my first internship, started washing dishes, and then moved up to a kitchen assistant, the Sous Chef to Chef Thom.
Linkedin: Vanessa Lawrence
Bosey Wales Photography