We are thrilled to be featuring one of our incredible FIF community members, Oprah Davidson. Her journey in the food industry is marked by passion, courage, and wisdom. In this short Q&A interview, Oprah shares her story of her emerging passion for food and the valuable risks she took along the way to become the woman she is today.
Q. Let’s start from the beginning. Where did you grow up? What inspired you to start a career in the F&B industry?
A. I’m originally from the island of Jamaica. My parents migrated to the U.S when I was young, so I grew up primarily in New York.
My inspiration for getting into the food industry came from discovering a show on the Food Network called Sweet Dreams. At the time I was in junior high school and had an insatiable sweet tooth. Learning that there was a profession out there that could cater to this blew my mind. I later fell in love with the industry once I realized its ability to bring people together and make them happy.
Q. Can you share what your career journey has entailed? Where are you today?
A. I started off working and volunteering in bakeries when I was in high school. I didn’t have any formal training, so they gave me mostly light work. All throughout grade school I remember hosting bake sales, fundraisers, and selling baked goods to teachers and classmates, just waiting for the day when I could finally attend culinary school. After graduating from Johnson & Wales University, I landed a job at the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott in Orlando, Florida. It was hands down one of the most challenging times in my career, but it has taught me so much and has opened so many doors for me along the way. I later went on to work at the famed Momofuku Milkbar in New York, as well as the Institute of Culinary Education. I even had the opportunity to work in kitchens abroad, such as in Paris, France.
After leaving the baking industry for few years to work in sales, I found my way back in during the midst of a pandemic. Today, I work for an amazing company called Cybake, which provides software solutions specifically designed for bakeries. My career journey has consisted of many ups and downs. That has meant failures, triumphs, blood, sweat, tears, laughter, and a heavy dosage of self-doubt. But this journey is a labor of love, so I wouldn’t have it any other way. It just goes to show that hard work and perseverance really do pay off.
Q. What accomplishments are you the most proud of?
A. I must say, that while I’ve accomplished so much during my tenure as a baker, I often forget them. There’s something about this profession that makes it far easier to remember the shortcomings. If I had to sum it up, the moments that I’m most proud of have been when I’ve worked on a product development project and it turned out successful. Like when I won the America’s Best Raisin Bread Competition and the Napa Valley Perfect Puree competition in the same year. Or most recently, when I was selected from a panel of 3 other amazing pastry chefs to create a new product line for a high-profile client (whose name I still can’t disclose, sorry). On a more personal level, I was quite proud of myself when I decided (almost on a whim) to pack up my bags and live in France for the first time, all by myself. That trip allowed me to overcome a fear that many people can’t seem to shake, and even better, allowed me to connect with people that were seemingly worlds away. You learn so much about yourself when you travel outside your comfort zone. So much so, that when it’s all said and done you feel like you’ve gained the wisdom and perspective of someone twice your age. At least, that was my experience.
Q. What are your areas of expertise for Females in Food members to connect with you on?
A. I’ve been in the baking industry for over 10 years, so I’d consider that as my specialty. I also have a background in sales, and I thoroughly enjoy networking and connecting with people. So, feel free to ask me anything. I won’t always know the answer, but chances are I can connect you with the right person who does.
Q. What do you enjoy doing most in your free time?
A. Maybe it’s a sign of getting older, but I enjoy the simpler things in life now. I enjoy gardening, going for walks, meditating, taking naps, reading a good article, and just baking for the sake of baking (without the pressures of the professional kitchen).
Q. What advice would you give your younger self? Or What advice do you have for those who are just coming into the food industry?
A. Be patient, with yourself, with others, and with your craft. Nothing great happens overnight. And always, always, always believe in yourself.