Bojana is a 40 years old married mom of two boys (7 & 9). She is a MasterChef finalist and a former strategy consultant turned professional chef. Drawing from her experience as a working mother and professional chef, she wrote a cookbook for parents: The Plan Prep Plate Method – Simple Dinners for Busy Families.
How was your career before becoming a mum?
Working before having children was easy! I enjoyed my job and the “work hard, play hard” culture. Weekends were for recovery – sleeping, relaxing and doing the fun things.
How did motherhood change your career?
How did it not? I was a convinced, ambitious proponent of full-time working before I had children. My job demanded long working hours and international travel. Having a baby changed everything. The lack of sleep was brutal. It affected my performance. Moreover, I did not want to spend long hours away from my child. Childbirth left me with a chronic back pain that made things only worse. I had a burnout and had to redefine completely who I was as a person.
Tell us about your passion for cooking. How did it all start?
Ever since I can remember I loved being in the kitchen with my mom. There is a strong lineage of great cooks in my family and I owe the passion part to them. The second part I owe to my dad who is an engineer – he has a very analytical and scientific mind and I inherited that from him. Once I understood that good cooking was not a mystery but a deliberate sequence of simple, logical steps that were rooted in science – I was fully hooked on learning and understanding every aspect of it.
What does it take to transform a passion into a profession?
There were two things. Firstly, hitting the rock bottom, (as I perceived it), in my previous professional life and realizing that I could not do what I wanted professionally while being the kind of mother I wanted to be. I changed, not because I wanted to but because I had to, which in hindsight was a blessing in disguise. Secondly, I could not do it without the support of my family and friends and, in particular, my amazing husband Arjan.
You’ve recently published your first book. What made you write it? And what have you learned from this experience?
MasterChef provided the opportunity to work in the best restaurants in the Netherlands. My lightbulb moment occurred while peeling beetroot at the two-Michelin-star restaurant Bord’eau: chefs do not cook a whole dish at once. They break down a dish into elements. Every element that can be made in advance is prepared and stored. When an order comes in, the prepared elements are reheated and served. I realized that busy parents like me need a similar system to get through the daily dinner rush! As I developed these lessons learned into a method suitable for home cooking, I knew I had to write a cookbook to help all other parents who, like me, care deeply about how their children eat.
Food for you is…
Food is the memory, the childhood nostalgia, the curious sparkle, the fundament of how my body feels and how my mind works. It is a mundane necessity and sensual pleasure at the same time. I refuse to eat bad food, life is too short for that. Food is how I express love, a connection with my past extended into the future through my children.
What do you see yourself doing in 3 years from now?
What started as a cookbook will grow into an educational platform for all the parents to feed their families well. In three years time, there will be a range of tools and products to support this: an interactive app that makes planning and food ordering easy, quick and clear online courses, planning tools, live demos, and opportunities to connect and learn from each other. I cannot wait!
What will you cook tonight?
My son asked for gnocchi with poached salmon and white asparagus, which is now in season in the Netherlands. I’ll add some wilted spinach and top it with crunchy hemp seed. Quick and simple – I have most of the elements prepared already – it should not take me more than 10 minutes to put it on table. Eet smakelijk!
A link to Bojana’s website: www.planprepandplate.com