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Meet Jana Smith of The Gourmet Spork in Carson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jana Smith.

Jana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Picture this: it’s 1993, I’m wearing my Fisher Price apron in a handcrafted pegboard playhouse that my dad made in the corner of the family room. There’s a printed sign in it that reads, “Jana’s Kitchen”. All of my stuffed animals are gathered, waiting to place their orders from me. Throughout the 90’s I fell deeper in love with all things food! My grandmother babysat me before starting preschool and I truly believe those moments with her in the kitchen ignited my passion for cooking and being in the kitchen. I went from my Fisher Price set to an Easy Bake Oven. My family bravely ate all of my creations. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom and lots of time in the backyard with my dad while he barbecued. Every year through elementary school, I created a menu and hosted a family New Year’s Eve party. I knew I was onto something when I was allowed to start making the Christmas mac and cheese! I have always been in love with food and the memories that came from it, whether on a personal level while cooking in the kitchen or the feelings others experienced when I cooked and hosted them. I always saw myself being able to carry out this dream.

Now, let’s fast forward 27 years to the present. The Gourmet Spork was born over eight years ago. During the summer of 2012, I was home from school and doing what I enjoy most; going out to restaurants. I’d often post pictures from my eating adventures on Instagram which was fairly new at the time and people had a very positive and enthusiastic response to what I was posting. Because of that, I wanted to do more than Instagram allowed. I wanted to share not only food but stories as well. I wanted to not only give readers the answers to the questions they had about where I was eating but also share the experience with them, a “food diary” if you will. At the conception of that idea, The Gourmet Spork Blog was born. I fell in love with writing in the third grade when I was introduced to creative writing. My journal was full of recipes, menus, and restaurant ideas. The blog was the evolution of that, a melding of my two favorite things, food and writing.

The blog had a good run, but it was short-lived. I was easily able to keep up with it during breaks, but going back to school and work, it slowly fell by the wayside. However, in its short run my blog created enough of a buzz that people never let it die. I always took pictures of my food and kept notes for future blog posts. The Gourmet Spork always lived on, even during its dormant season.

As a millennial, I have found that many of my peers have side hustles to supplement income and/or to work on fueling their passions in ways that our 9 to 5’s don’t. I’m going into my 6th year of teaching, and while I love what I do, this year more than I’ve ever felt it, I needed more. I needed to revive The Gourmet Spork. It had also gotten to a point where the people closest to me were frankly tired of hearing me talking about my dreams and doing nothing to bring it to life. So, with my tribe behind me, I decided to take a big step and really go for it. In November, I worked with a good friend to design an official logo and website. I relaunched my Instagram account (@thegourmetspork) and in January 2020 my business officially became The Gourmet Spork, LLC!

Has it been a smooth road?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. I think the easy answer to that question is, there’s never enough time or money to get things done. However, what I’ve learned more than anything in the last nine months is that more than money and time; it’s been me slowing my progress. It’s been me not believing in my vision and ability. I have often found myself in a battle with myself not wanting to spend my whole life working to fulfill someone else’s dream but not feeling ready to step out and work toward building mine. It was when those feelings bubbled over that I decided to really start developing an entrepreneurial mindset and go on this journey.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into The Gourmet Spork story. Tell us more about the business.
In order to understand what I’m trying to achieve, it’s important to understand the name: The Gourmet Spork. A spork is a spoon combined with the prongs of a fork. It is a utensil of convenience and ease. While the word gourmet describes one who is a connoisseur of food and drink; food is described as being gourmet when it is skillfully prepared with high quality/exotic ingredients. Combining the word gourmet with the word spork has created an oxymoron that allows simple, flavorful dishes to impress those with even the finest of pallets. The Gourmet Spork is the best of both worlds. It is the simplicity of the nostalgia of a plastic cafeteria spork coupled with quality ingredients that can turn an ordinary meal into something gourmet.

With this in mind, I want those who try my food to tap into a sense of nostalgia and comfort while also knowing what they’re eating is prepared with great quality ingredients, thoughtfulness, and creativity. Food should be fun, it should make you smile, or even dance!

Before COVID, I was just taking off! I’d catered and hosted several events and that is what people began to know me for. It’s kind of funny because although it’s only been nine months since I got my business off the ground, the catalyst for this catering journey is not one that I can put my finger on. Because my dream is to one day, have both a food truck and ultimately a restaurant, I kind of just fell into it. An opportunity presented itself and the rest has been history.

When I go out to eat, it’s all about the experience for me; the drinks, the food, the company, the ambiance, and the moments that I’ll take away from the table as memories. That’s what I want people to take away from a food experience with me, whether at an event I’m hosting, at a catered event, or in my home. I want them to walk away from that experience with a memory about what they ate.

With the arrival of the Coronavirus all of the events that I had planned were canceled. I had events planned through the end of the year and I’d been hired to cater several events as well. With things that we cannot control, we have to shift, so during quarantine, I decided that I was also going to start advertising and selling desserts and baked goods. In shifting with the time, I realized that even during the height of things people never stopped celebrating. Quarantine created a new avenue for me that I hadn’t thought of prior.

The thing that I’m most proud about aside from actually getting started has been the release of The Gourmet Spork- Unique Spice Blends Collection and the overwhelming positive response and support that my spice blends have received on my newly redone website, www.thegourmetspork.com.

I’d say something that sets me apart from others is the uniqueness of my food. When I cater, I try to cook to a theme that’s aligned to what the client wants. I like to play with flavors and colors. I’d also say that my experience as a teacher has been very helpful on both the business and creative side of things. I’m not sure how many teacher-chefs there are out there!

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I don’t have to think hard about this one at all! Within the next five years, I would like to be a full-time entrepreneur. Like I said, ultimately I want to own a restaurant. Before the restaurant, I do want to have a food truck. On brand with everything else I do, I want it to be different from any other food truck out there! I’ve got a couple of ideas, so stay tuned for that!

I would also like The Gourmet Spork to become a household name as a brand. I want my spice blends to be on the shelves of stores and I want to design and create a line of home goods. So with enough hard work and dedication, one day I’ll be welcoming you all into The Gourmet Spork restaurant where you’ll dine with plates, cups, and napkins that I designed and you’ll eat some unique comfort food, with a spork of course!

Pricing:

  • The Gourmet Spork- Unique Spice Blends Collection: $10 each
  • The Gourmet Spork T-Shirts: $25
  • The Gourmet Spork Crew Neck Sweater: $40

Contact Info:

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