The Taste of Success

  

Chef Ninamarie Bojekian“It was a very inspiring major and topic,” says Bojekian, who studied anthropology at Pace on the New York City Campus.  “I was living in the city while going to school, and discovering so many things around me. During that time at Pace, I also discovered a love for cooking and a natural talent. I decided my junior year to go to culinary school after I graduated. It was a continuation of my path toward cultural enlightenment—the process of educating myself about the world around me.”

After a successful stint at the French Culinary Institute, Bojekian worked in both the restaurant industry and as a private chef, honing her skills. In 2008, she decided to make a move and launch her own enterprise: Ooh La La Catering.

“Having a catering company was not initially on my radar,” said Bojekian, who originally thought she might want to be a food writer. “But I knew I had the attributes for being not only in the kitchen, but also the front of the house—decorating, working with people… I took a couple of marketing classes at Pace and knew I had a talent for that, so it became a natural progression.”

Bojekian’s marketing savvy, and culinary skills, have paid off. She was Chef Ninamarie Bojekiannamed one of the “People to Watch in 2009” by (201) Magazine; Ooh La La Catering has been voted “Best of Bergen” for three years in a row; held the title of “Ultimate Chef Bergen County”; and she was recently one of just four people in the country selected by Anthony Bourdain to compete in NBC’s show The Taste. Bojekian, who keeps a constant eye open for new opportunities, saw a posting about the upcoming show and sent in a video application. She was called into New York City to audition, then narrowed down from an open casting call of thousands of people to less than 60, who were flown out to Los Angeles, where she landed a spot on the show.

“That’s the great thing about this industry,” says Bojekain. “There are so many unique outlets, not just for my business, but also for myself as a professional chef,” who notes the radical sea change in the field since she first decided to enter it and the launch of the first Top Chef show seven years ago. “Cooking has now become very media driven and plays a large part in pop culture. The challenge is to stay relevant, do due diligence, and offer new services—being stagnate and being an entrepreneur just doesn’t work.”

Her advice to others looking to go into the field or advance in any profession? “You have to think of yourself as a sole proprietorship, as your own business—even if you work for someone else. You have to make career decisions that are good for business, which is you, and be honest with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses and work with them.”

Bojekain plans to continue working on her own strengths to expand her company and her career in the coming years: adding new clients, working on a cookbook or cooking show, and teaching and inspiring those around her. “I had professors at Pace who were very inspirational… If I hadn’t gone to college, I wouldn’t be in control of so many aspects of my career and business. I work with budgets, press releases, clients, creating media, and I gained a lot of those skills through all my classes and the entire experience of college.”

 

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