Omar Walters has made a business out of his love for cooking. A system and data analyst by profession, he has now thrown in the towel on that career to focus on his catering business - Omar's Kitchen - in the United States.
"I transitioned into cooking without knowing I was transitioning," he told Food.
At age seven, Walters, who was born in the Bronx, New York, moved to Mandeville Manchester, where he lived for four years. He told Food that the values instilled in him by his Jamaican parents and grandparents during those formative years have seen him through the challenges of getting his business started.
"Coming from a Jamaican background, it's the norm to cook every evening and only eat out on the weekends. When I moved out on my own, I caught myself cooking four nights per week to cut costs and to save money," he recalled.
HAPPENED BY CHANCE
His foray into cooking started after throwing one of his many parties where he prepared all the dishes - one of his guests hired him as a chef soon after.
"It was never even a thought that I could actually get paid doing this. I was more concerned with how to move up the ladder at my job at the time," he reminisced.
Today, Walters admits to having a good time whenever he is cooking. And he is in great demand for his culinary skills.
"I wanted to offer the public something different in a field that is already saturated with aspiring chefs. Our menu can go from the traditional Jamaican dish to a creamy pesto Italian dish to a chicken cordon bleu," he said.
Omar's Kitchen covers all aspects of the food business. He throws themed parties such as his signature brunch called Drunk at breakfast, where he incorporates alcohol-infused foods paired with drinks. The brunch then leads into a day party, so guests can dance off the carbs! His services also includes a private dining service, where a loft space is transformed into a restaurant atmosphere.
"Clients can create the menu, drink options, and even the decor they like, and we bring their dream to life. We want eating to be fun and memorable - not only because you're paying for it, but because we want to leave you with a lasting experience. We are looking to take our events on a city-to-city tour," he gushed.
Walters turned his passion into an earning opportunity and it is this advice he is giving back to Jamaicans at home who are unemployed.
"I would say for the youths in Jamaica, they should first see what they like to do. Research how you can make it profitable. Do something different that separates your idea from everyone else's. Ask questions, talk to successful people in the same field. Take advantage of all free research tools such as the Internet. Don't be afraid of constructive criticism. If in your heart you believe in it, go for it. Keep pushing; nothing comes overnight," he said.