Today’s Notable Young Professional is Jae-Anthony Dougan-Holder, the owner of Montreal Caribbean fusion restaurant, Seasoned Dreams. What started out as a catering business operating out of his girlfriend’s daycare’s kitchen has now grown into a mini food empire, complete with cooking classes and second location opening in Toronto. You can catch Chef Jae-Anthony and Seasoned Dreams next this Christmas morning, serving hot gourmet meals to the homeless in collaboration with Mission Hall in St-Henri, Montreal.
We caught up with Jae-Anthony to find out what inspires him and what advice he would share with other young professionals…
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I’m the one-man show behind Seasoned Dreams – food design and creation, branding and marketing, all my social media accounts, payroll, and accounting – you name it.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
After working for so many large companies – designer at Holts, customer service at Telus – it was time for a change; I just wasn’t being challenged anymore. I’ve always loved cooking and beyond that, I like to consider myself an artist when it comes to food.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
After this past summer, all the food festivals and charity events, it’s crazy how much demand has skyrocketed. I’d be in at the gym and overhear people talking about my food not even knowing I was sitting right next to them, or hear back from events I would donate too about how the guests were raving about my food. There have been so many amazing moments, but a major tipping point was after catering for Boi-1da (OVO), he suggested we open a second location in Toronto together; that was a huge leap and really a surreal breakthrough.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years, 20 years?
So my five-year goal is to franchise Seasoned Dreams throughout North America. I would love to show the world everything about Caribbean cuisine – our culture should be at the forefront when it comes to dining and I strongly believe I am the person to get us there. I would also love to have gotten married and start my family by that point.
The 10 year plan is to go culinary school to enhance my cooking techniques. I hope to be travelling more, tasting food from all over and creating new dishes, maybe even have my own cooking show going.
Last but not least, my 20-year long-term goal is to start a foundation or charitable organization. I would love to help end world hunger, be able to open my doors to so many others, because even if it’s just a hot meal, you can really make a difference in someone’s life.
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
100% never give up, always reinvent yourself, always pivot and adapt to change as it comes.
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I’m a big believer in giving back to the community, but of all the charities I support, the two closest to my heart have to do with feeding the homeless and helping children. For three years now I’ve been working with Mission Hall and this year, we’re hoping to feed 350 people over the holidays. Besides that, Mwana Villages, an organization which aids orphans and vulnerable families in the DRC. These kids, they’re our future and there are too many out there who are malnourished and need our support.
7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Your food is you; it depicts you, and the labour and hours and soul that go into your dishes – you just gotta hope the people love it. But not knowing if the masses would like my food; if I’d have enough business as I went from a small caterer to a restaurant location – that was tough. That and going from a steady paycheck to those less frequent, less consistent paydays as you’re working 24/7 to build your business.
8. What does the word notable mean to you?
The word Notable reminds me of my mother. She immigrated from Barbados, teaches nurses specializing in fertility, still works in the ICU… this woman has the most amazing work ethic and has shown me what a remarkable person can accomplish.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
I’ll take my girlfriend to Foiegwa every once in a while, but my favorite spot right now is actually my own kitchen. Just me and my girlfriend, grab a nice bottle of wine, talking about our future and family and just dreaming big, that’s perfect for me.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
I’m always on Chef Gordon Ramsey’s site – he’s one of my idols when it comes to cooking, and I gotta admit I’m a big lover boy, so I listen to a lot of R&B, anything Chris Brown.
3. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
Kevin Hart, 100% inspirational, he’s really what a true entrepreneur is, waking up before everybody, grinding harder than anybody and always putting God first.
4. What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Barbados for sure! The culture, the beach, all kinds of family, not to mention the food, everything is fresh and organic – it’s paradise. Next stop, though? Definitely some kind of Asia/India trip, I’d love to explore more in depth the food culture in that part of the world.
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Missing out on the family time gets me. Even if it’s something small like a Scrabble night or cooking with grandma, not being able to spend those moments or learn more about the old recipes, it makes me sad to miss those.
6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Apple crumble and ice cream. You put that in front of me, I’m devouring it!
7. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Looking back, I wish I’d spent less on clothes and alcohol in my early adolescence. If I could, I’d love to spend a lot more on my family, be able to provide them with more dreams, pay off my mother’s mortgage, make a huge investment to my grandma’s retirement fund.
8. And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Success equates to how many others you can inspire to do better with your life. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, restaurants you own, it’s all about the impact you create. I’ve taken people literally living off the street, given them jobs, trained them, and helped them turn their lives around. Now one is my sous-chef and another is going to culinary school. To me, being able to help others turn their lives around is how I measure my success.
Updates on the new Toronto and Montreal locations opening soon, fresh dishes and creations, and everything Seasoned Dreams can all be found on their Instagram account.