Veteran Javonte Jackson Shares How The Navy Shaped His Catering Career

Chef Javonte Jackson, creator of City Live catering, continues to raise the bar from the moment he started cooking soul food at 16-years-old with his mother for Kent State University. 2-years later, his mother thought it was time to push him out the nest, leading to his enlistment in the US Navy. 

After missing an opportunity to work at the White House to the loss of a second offer from the Pentagon, Javonte Jackson's rough beginnings will leave every aspiring chef motivated to pursue their goals relentlessly. Martin Luther King's dream was sketched into Jackson's heart beyond his desire to cook-- Jackson also hoped to mix food with a cultural experience. "I had to look at what I had instead of what I lost," said Jackson, as he counted his failures that led to his success. 

From the Kitchen To the US Navy

Culinary specialists from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Wyatt L. Anthony/Released)

As an exceptional active-duty sailor in the US Navy and recipient of the Blue Jacket of the Quarter award, Jackson's position as the Culinary Specialist on the USS Carl Vinson became his first contractual agreement. After putting together his version of the "Dream Team" to win the 27th Annual Armed Forces Culinary Arts Competition, he beat all branches throughout the Pacific Northwest while stationed in Washington. This impactful win prompted a meeting with Mayor Greg Wheeler of Bremerton, Washington, which continued to open doors to more events to come. 

To create a stronger foundation for continued success, Jackson became a member of the Emmanuel Apostolic Church led by Bishop Laurence and Dr. Lilian Robinson. While pursuing his entrepreneurship degree and completing military obligations, he joined Dr. Robinson's Health and Wellness Community Outreach program to raise awareness with his signature healthy recipes.

Chef Javonte Jackson's Dreams Become Reality With City Live Catering Company

His collaboration with Dr. Robinson jump-started his City Live catering business, landing him his first client with Naval Coast Guard, Dr. Khalid Jaboori. Jackson's mentor Chef Eric Wells not only popularized the art of intimate dinners in Cleveland but helped prepare Jackson for his big debut as a personal chef. 

City Live
City Live

While Chef Jackson prepared his first intimate dinner for Dr. Jaboori's wife's birthday, he remembers when he glanced above his cooking station to witness the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson, wish her a heartfelt happy birthday. With tears in Jackson's eyes, he knew that this was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. 

Jackson met Top Chef contestant and New York Times best-selling author of "Notes from a Young Black Chef", Kwame Onwuachi, where he received the confirmation needed to officially launch his catering service. "There are certain seasons when you have to be obedient to your circumstances," said Jackson as he pondered on his next move during the COVID-19 threat to the food industry. 

From the US Navy Back To Ohio

After an unexpected series of events leading to a drastic move from Washington back to Ohio, his beloved wife used her skills to revamp Jackson's resume, reintroducing him in his hometown as an official chef and caterer. This resume led to his current position as a personal chef for Cavalier players Denzel Valentine, Cedi Osman, and Ed Davis. 

watermelon cups
City Live LLC

When asked about his greatest obstacles, Jackson's response defeated the possibility of an excuse. "Myself! I was getting in my own way by not following through with things I wanted to do," said Jackson. "You have to make sure it fits into your why and your vision."

Jackson has some advice for aspiring chefs who are navigating unpredictable barriers. "Learn to be a follower first, you learn so much through the grind and struggle, but the willingness to learn can redirect you and open doors to new opportunities," said Jackson. "The old way is not going to make it in the new age...make it more of an experience, add in art, let's add in music, think about the demographic area, and ask, what are they missing?"

Jackson certainly found what his area was missing with the creation of City Live.

READ: Former Private Chef to NFL & NBA Superstars, Chef Todd Shares How Family Shapes His Cuisine

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