Vanessa Mota, founder and CEO of My Dominican Kitchen, never thought she could write a cookbook. But, despite her doubts, her very first cookbook, ‘The Dominican Kitchen,’ is officially out for the world to enjoy and feast on.
“Deciding to write a cookbook took me years because honestly, I did not believe that I could write a cookbook that was not my lane,” shares Mota. “I’m not a writer. Everybody will tell you that I would be like, ‘Yo? No.'”
However, as fate would make it for the ex-#WeAllGrow project manager and events & community manager, the universe was working in ways to ensure that Vanessa created a cookbook for a cuisine that still needed so much representation, despite her not being a writer or a published author. And in her journey of becoming a blog writer and author, here are four keys that helped her leap into the unknown successfully.
There is a white space waiting for you to fill it.
Much to Vanessa’s frustration in wanting to do more research for her blog and taking inspiration from existing Dominican cookbooks, she had yet to find any.
“It just always bothered me that whenever I went to a bookstore, and I went to the Hispanic section,” shares Mota, “they had a limited amount of books, and I never saw a Dominican cookbook. I literally only saw Mexican cookbooks, and I think one Puerto Rican and one Cuban.”
Dominican recipes were scarce even in the cookbook, ‘La Gran Cocina Latina,’ which has more than 500 recipes.
“It’s like a huge book with a bunch of recipes from different countries in Latin America, and they have more than 600 recipes. I sat down, and I started going through how many Dominican recipes were going to be in that book specifically. I counted six. I feel that there should be a little more diversity so that people can see and taste.”
Even in a book dedicated to Latin cuisine, it was disheartening to see that Dominican gastronomy was still significantly missing from the discourse. While Vanessa understood a significant demand for Dominican cookbooks, even with her blog My Dominican Kitchen, it took her years to decide to fill the gap.
Believe in yourself and destroy your self-doubt.
Even as Mota held on to the doubt that writing a cookbook was not in her lane, she continued to research to see if there were any emerging Dominican cookbooks, and there was nothing she found. She recalls a moment when she was with the #WeAllGrow team as a project manager, and she was researching with #WeAllGrow founder and co-CEO Ana Flores for Afro-Latina cookbooks. “We searched everywhere and couldn’t find any,” said Mota. “That is really a shame. It makes no sense to me that there are no cookbooks written by Afro-Latinas.”
That is when the #WeAllGrow team cheered her on to do it herself, with the #WeAllGrow team telling her, “Why not? You should do it.” Add that along with her frustration of searching for a cookbook that shared the vibrant flavors of her cultura and finding nothing; the idea eventually became a seed in her mind that would not leave her alone.
“It just became a nag in the back of my head. Like, ‘You have to write a cookbook.’ And then I will hear the team’s voices in my head, so I said, ‘You know what, I guess I’m gonna have to write this damn cookbook. I’m not waiting for anyone else to do it.'”
This opportunity was waiting for Vanessa to rise to the occasion to believe in herself and create something that would put the sazón of la República Dominicana right into people’s homes. And to do that, she had to shed a lot of self-limiting beliefs, fear, and the pressure of perfectionism.
Be consistent with your craft and business mindset.
Vanessa is not foreign to leaping into the unknown. Back in 2020, she left #WeAllGrow to not only focus on her blog and step into the role of an entrepreneur with My Dominican Kitchen but also take personal time to pause and focus. Time and time again, life has guided her to take new leaps of growth, showing that she could become her own boss and take her skills as a project manager to become a business owner.
“My job helped me be able to structure and also be good at planning and organizing, especially a big project like a cookbook. There’s so much that you have to do, and make sure that you’re really organized so that you don’t lose track of what you’re missing or when you need to work on and all that stuff. That helped me organize a structure, but also have a business mindset that money needs to be made because bills need to be paid,” said Mota.
When we asked Mota what one of the critical elements for someone wanting to leap into becoming a writer was, she shared with us that even if someone is not a project manager, establishing a consistency that works for you as you build your brand and presence.
“You have to keep at it, don’t give up,” shares Mota. “Consistency can mean anything – whatever consistency means to you. Once a week, that’s going to bring you a little bit closer to your end goal. Work on one little thing that’s going to bring you closer to where you want to be.”
Her focus on building momentum led to the opportunity for her to write the cookbook fall on her lap, thanks to establishing the right brand and having the right connections and support system that wanted to see her thrive.
Stop waiting for something big to happen.
As Vanessa kept scouring bookstores and websites for cookbooks with Dominican recipes, she knew she needed to stop waiting for someone to make it and look past her fear – it was her calling and destiny to create ‘The Dominican Kitchen.’
“A lot of times, we are so afraid,” shares Mota. “We never feel prepared, we never feel ready. You’re in this state where you are building your side hustle, and you wish and dream that you could leave your job, so you can dedicate yourself to your passion full-time. But you are so deep in the fear of, ‘What if I’m not ready.’ You’re always waiting for something big to happen, or reach a certain number of visitors on the blog, or amount of money with display ads before they can leave a job. Don’t wait.”
Her success is also partly thanks to her friend Mely Martinez, who put her in touch with her editor after publishing her own cookbook, ’Mexican Home Kitchen.’
“To get a book traditionally published, it’s really hard to find a publisher. You need to pitch to so many people and find an agent because they’re the ones that have connections,” shared Mota, explaining how this all felt very out of reach, especially for someone who had never even touched the world of publishing.
“Mely was just like, ‘Well, I’ll introduce you to my editor.’ And I spoke to her, and she just loved the idea,” said Mota. “I was flabbergasted. I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ The fact that it happened so easily.”
Community and connection are at the core of our successes, and it takes a village to build us up. Especially when we don’t know what we don’t know, our community will back us up when we need help, especially when it’s working towards our passions and what we were meant to do.
“I think that meant that I was meant to write this book. So even though I don’t feel qualified to do it, the universe is telling me that I am, so I have to run with it.”
‘The Dominican Kitchen’ is out now, and you can purchase your copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indigo, IndieBound, or Bookshop.org.
About the Author
Priscilla Castro is #WeAllGrow’s Director of Digital Content & Partnerships. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her at @kodeofkondukt. Read more of Priscilla’s pieces here.