Like most of my peers and coworkers, I lost my job in March of 2020. Due to a grueling pandemic that continues to this day all over the world, almost everyone I know had to re-evaluate our place in the world and what a new normal looks like; personally and professionally. It took me almost 5 months of self-reflection to know that it was time for a change. Although I couldn’t get away from COVID-19, I knew that for me, to be somewhere other than New York was a good start. So I decided to move to Charlotte, North Carolina. I had heard about a year before the pandemic that the food scene in Charlotte was growing very quickly, and being a frequent visitor of the city, I had personally seen a large expansion in the city within the past 10 years. Having family in the area and knowing I would have their support made the move straightforward.
Regardless of a change in environment, Charlotte was not exempted from Covid-19 and the job market was just as depleted. Beyond that, I was terrified to start working and interacting with people in person. Starting fresh in a new city was stressful but even then I knew I had made the right decision.
While looking for a new job, my cousin frequently asked me to cook several meals throughout the week fit for her family and herself. She loved the meals and began sharing her experience with others. Only after a couple of weeks, I was cooking for her and two other families during their workweek. At full tilt, I began my small business, Somerset Meal Prep, based in Charlotte. Like most small businesses, it was exceedingly challenging to find the optimal price point in between the cost of food, packaging, and labor to be able to make a profit. Additionally, I wanted to improve the menu with feedback along with new options every week to make sure my clients were excited about their meal plans. I have a blast meal prepping for others, and it allows me to challenge myself every day with the skills that I have obtained for the last six and a half years. Somerset Meal Prep allows me to cook and feel connected to my loved ones and clients from a distance, keeping everyone safe, full, and happy.
Unfortunately, my meal prep hustle was not making enough to pay the bills, but I was able to find a job at a Fish Bar as a float working different roles in the restaurant. From running food to prepping in the kitchen, within three months I was already training to be a manager. Juggling my business and working at a restaurant does get very demanding and stressful. At times I feel as though I have no time for myself, and strangely that’s when I began to feel more comfortable because this industry has always dictated us to working insane hours and insist that you pour all of yourself in.
As we all continue to live through a grueling pandemic, life goes on. We risk our lives every day in our industry, which has not been the case in the past. It’s a new form of responsibility that we carry and it forces us to evaluate our passion. My business is still a work in progress and has a lot of potential to grow, but it may not be forever. I’m starting to understand that nothing has to be planned out or permanent for my future to be successful, but the unknown is always hard, and that’s why it’s a great place to start. I am proud to be part of the food industry, we will persevere and move forward.
Indira grew up in Westchester, New York where she developed a deep love and connection with food. She followed her passion by studying at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) earning her degree in both Culinary Arts and Business Management. Upon graduation, she was offered to stay at the CIA as a Manager in Training for The American Bounty. She is currently assisting in managing a restaurant while building her own business.
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