Welcome to Wonderfully Normal! My name is Jacob and I am a chef who moved from Los Angeles, California to the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area for the pursuit of good food, creativity, and entrepreneurship. What started out as a site to introduce my services as a menu developer, it quickly manifested into something more meaningful.
Diving a bit deeper for the move, there were many reasons to start anew cross country. If you’ll indulge me, I would like to share the most important reason.
I had just come off a devastating business flop. Early 2014, I created a platform called Crave Expo that gave new restaurant businesses and caterers a chance to showcase themselves to those who will hire them and market them. We gathered food bloggers, social media influencers, wedding coordinators, and event planners so that they’ll either book them for their next event or market them on their sites. It was a success! Not monetarily, but vendors and attendees all felt this service was needed in the food industry.
This led to six more shows, partnered up with another food show and co-created an event called EAT Show. Our second to last show, we had 2,000+ attendees, 60+ vendors, 30+ sponsors. I was feeling incredibly good, and felt we made an impact. We thought this was something we can expand on and the future seemed bright.
Unfortunately, the messiness and unpredictability of life intervened that lead to our final show. Two of my partners left due to personal reasons, so my remaining partner and I were tasked to throw the biggest one we had to date. We moved to a new area, new market, and created a show of incredible magnitude with just two people. As you can imagine, it was not the standard people were accustomed to.
After losing a lot of money, not delivering on what our standard was, and being overwhelmed we decided to take a break from producing more shows. That break became two years and I was back at the restaurant working full time.
Although I love food and was grateful to be at a place where I was respected, I didn’t feel inspired. My job just became a job. I needed to be creative again. Work on something that I could be proud of and be inspired to work every day. To do something that will benefit people and the community around me.
Summer of 2018, I got a call from my cousin in Virginia who launched an amazing matcha business and half-jokingly asked me if I would come down to help with their thriving business. I decided to fly over and see for myself how their business was doing, and also to have fun and travel. They lovingly showed me the opportunities that were out there in Virginia. Showed me how from the moment I arrive, I can do meaningful work again as a menu developer with a partner they had. Took me around to the neighborhoods I could live at to be inspired. It turns out they were not joking at all. It was a sales pitch!
I am eternally grateful to them as they showed their hospitality, but more importantly gave me the opportunity to be inspired again. To create in a way that is meaningful. The canvas may be different, but I am still doing what I love: working with food and creating.
With that said, it brings me to Wonderfully Normal. It was meant to create a site where it shows the different services I offer, show the different foods that was created, and to show that keeping with the vision and culture of one’s food was wonderfully normal. That following gimmicky trends were the abnormal. It still offers that element. However, working with different restaurants and cuisines, it forced me to research, respect, and appreciate the diversity of their food and culture. Every dish, every chef, and every culture has a unique story to tell. I wanted to go beyond the recipe and social media posts and answer the 5Ws+H (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How).
Let’s cultivate a place where we can learn, inspire, and eat. Let’s learn together why a certain dish is prepared a certain way. If we are going to modernize a traditional dish, how can we preserve the essence of the original? Let’s create a space where digging deeper is the norm. Ultimately, let’s change the mindset from sharing the end result of a dish, to appreciating the journey to it. Once we accomplish that, that will be the norm. That will be wonderfully normal.