By Kayla Sosa
For Jenea Irvin, cooking is more than a job – it’s a passion.
As the owner of Diversity’s Kitchen – a takeout food service – wife, and mother of four children, Irvin spends a lot of her time cooking for others.
“Even though it’s time consuming, I like it,” she said. “And to see my kids’ faces after I’m done… that makes me feel good.”
From the age of seven, Irvin could be found at her great-grandmother’s side in the kitchen, carefully observing and learning how she cooked.
“Anytime she was in the kitchen, I was in the kitchen,” Irvin said.
Irvin, 29, was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and moved to Michigan when she was young. She was raised by her great-grandmother and her dad, after her mom passed away when she was two.
As a kid, Irvin found a lot of comfort spending time with her grandmother, cooking and listening to her stories. As she grew older, she frequented her grandmother’s house even when she didn’t live with her anymore.
“She taught me everything,” Irvin said. “Her and my dad helped me become the woman that I am now. It was a blessing to get that wisdom from her.”
Irvin’s grandma was from the south and taught her primarily how to cook soul food. The first dish she taught her was sweet potato pie. From there, Irvin took off and taught herself how to cook other kinds of food: Italian, Mexican and health-based meals.
Hence, the word “diversity” in the business name – Irvin wanted to emphasize that she cooks more than just soul food.
She got the idea from her kids, who frequently all want different kinds of food for dinner.
“What if you have a business where families, couples… that just want to go get something to eat, instead of having to go around to four different restaurants, but if you go to this one restaurant you guys can all get everything you want,” Irvin said. “I think it’ll be much easier.”
Irvin cooks out of her home kitchen and takes many custom orders. Some of her most popular dishes now include: buffalo chicken salad, chicken wings with cheese fries, Snickers brownie cake, strawberry cake and strawberry banana pudding.
In 2015, Irvin was on the fence about taking the leap into starting a new business. One day, she told her husband she wanted to test it out. So she posted on social media that she was offering a baked spaghetti dinner with a choice of fish or chicken, a side of garlic toast, an option for two different kinds of desserts and a drink — all for $10.
“I made $300 that day,” Irvin laughed. “My price was really low, but I got so many customers, I sold out.”
After going through small business training at Spring GR, Irvin said she’s now learned to charge a little more for her cooking – but she still offers affordable rates and charges minimal fees for delivery.
What keeps Irvin cooking is the happiness she sees in people when they eat her food.
“When I have customers tell me, ‘I can really taste the love in your food’, that’s awesome,” she said. “They can tell I don’t rush.”
While she’s cooking, Irvin said she’s teaching her children her ways in hopes that she can pass Diversity’s Kitchen down as a family business.
As she grows her company, Irvin said she plans to further develop her business plan, make a website and have a consistent client base. Eventually, she’d like to have a restaurant or a food truck, offer cooking classes or write a recipe book.