Five years ago Angela Davis quit her job as an accountant and decided to pursue her dreams in the kitchen full-time. Hundreds of thousands social media followers later, the now Kitchenista has taken on her biggest project yet, a dinner series in collaboration with Events DC. On Sunday, Oct. 15, the first-ever “Sunday Dinner with The Kitchenista” kicked off at Gateway DC with an intimate crowd enjoying her highly praised dishes like the braised oxtail lasagna and apple and pear walnut crumble. Taking a break from cooking for her guest Davis spoke with me about how in a short time she’s risen to the top in a heavily competitive food market.
How does a self-taught cook acquire a contract with Events DC, a major organization in a major city?
It’s been five years in the making. I really used social media to my advantage from the beginning to build an audience and it pushed me to be better because I was held accountable every time I posted something. I’ve been pushing myself to learn new things, work with better ingredients and learn photography on my own so its been baby steps. And as my network expanded I met people in the right places and it became easier for me. I met Clinton and around that same time I just got out of accounting for good and was ready to move on to something bigger and Clinton had a lot of ideas for my brand. So we formed a partnership and he’s a big part of this behind the scenes, sitting in meetings, putting me in front of people in the city. Between me doing the food for my brand and him doing the leg work it just came together at the right time.
How have you owned social media?
Being consistent. I only put out what I feel is my best work, and also engaging with my audience especially on Twitter. You have to do what you feel is most comfortable and for me that’s Twitter. It’s actually going back and forth with people so I’m a part of their community. I encourage people to cook at home and Kitchenista Sundays was a big part of that. Every Sunday we encourage people to tweet what they’re eating for Sunday dinner and every week it grows bigger.
Is it important for chefs to have a signature dish, like your famous braised oxtail lasagna?
First I started with what I know. I started with the food that my family had at every cookout, Thanksgiving and then maybe it’s just changing one ingredient or changing the spice blend. I also started looking to other cuisines on how to prepare something like West Indian food, Nigerian food and pull in all those influences. It’s little tweaks here and there and you end up in a unique place. I want the food to feel familiar but just take you to a new place.
Is a restaurant in your future?
I can’t say today that my goal is to be a restaurant, but you never know what the future holds. Right now I’m figuring out who I am as a cook and that’s really important to me even though we’re doing an event like this and it’s a huge step for me, I’m still learning. I don’t know if I want a restaurant right now I think that will take me away from actually cooking.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson said that Black folks had to work really hard to get out of the kitchen, now they have to work really hard to get back in. What are your thoughts?
It’s definitely frustrating. It does feel like we are the last to be recognized even though we taught a lot of these people what they’re doing now. All we can do is get in there and promote our people. I rely on other Black chefs to build, learn from and push me. I think as long as we lean on each other we can form our own thing. We don’t have to feel like were wedging into what they have. We can do something on our own.
What’s next for The Kitchenista brand in 2018?
Definitely more of these events. I would really like to get some products out. I would like to release some spices and sauce blends by the summer.
To attend the next “Sunday Dinner with The Kitchenista” in November or December, visit kitchenistasundays.eventbrite.com.