We had the good fortune of connecting with Demaxia Wray and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Demaxia, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Cravin’ Catering Co. Chef Demaxia Wray
I pursued a creative career unintentionally. Truth be told, I was an essential worker working for a large, domestic violence program in the height of the pandemic. I was working from home at the time, and like many of us — I simply needed an outlet. I always cooked from my early teenage years but being home forced me to search deeper into my passion for food.
It started off with me ordering a few supplies off of Amazon as a demo. I then took a trip back to Jamaica and did more soul searching. I stayed with my grand aunt in the beautiful parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica, West Indies. I told her about my business venture, and she strongly encouraged me to pursue it, saying she herself used to cook for many. During my stay, I brought a journal with me in which I thought of numerous names. I tend to be more focused when I am in Jamaica so I knew the inspiration would come. I come from a lineage of amazing cooks and chefs, with my maternal grandfather being a restaurant pioneer in the Capital District of New York.
“Yuh too cravin'”, a term often said in Jamaican Patois when one is deemed as a greedy individual. Cravin’. That’s the name! I wanted people to genuinely crave the food that I prepared. I loved the play on words and from there I knew that would be the name of my new business. Initially, I only wanted to sell alcohol-infused punches. Those around me that knew of my cooking abilities persuaded me to expand to food. I was honestly hesitant and afraid. It is one thing to cook for yourself and immediate family, but another to cater to the palettes of many. In addition, the culinary arts field is male dominated. When you walk into an executive kitchen, it is very seldom you will find a female chef.
I took a walk out on faith, and I started to cook for others. It started with doing small birthday and intimate gatherings, then a high school classmate of mine invited me to do my first pop-up shop. The support was overwhelmingly surprising, and it felt like the start of something new. From there, the only way was up. I then started to take bookings for events and venues I never would have imagined. Like many business ventures, you have your ups and downs. You have those moments where you question whether or not to give up. The key is to turn your vision and dreams into goals and execute them.
Cravin’ Catering Co. has been my creative outlet when sometimes words fail me. Through culinary art, I can be endlessly creative. My Jamaican heritage is especially essential to me, and I can allow others to get a taste of the island without booking a ticket. Through my Caribbean infused cuisine, I can allow others to taste my art, culture and love. Most importantly, I make it my duty to be versatile in my cuisine. It is just as important to be able to cater and cook for everyone regardless of cultural origin. Food has the power to bring many people together no matter the occasion. Food is not just “food” to me. Food is universal, nourishing, comforting, and food is art. Most importantly, food is love when made with it!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Outside of my chef hat, I wear a public service hat also. As previously mentioned, when I started Cravin’ Catering Co. I was a Gun Violence Prevention Coordinator for a domestic violence program. Even then, I never would have imagined I’d be bridging gaps within the community I served at the time. I genuinely enjoy assisting those in need and giving back. My role allowed me to educate and bring awareness to the intersection of lethality and domestic violence when firearms are involved. Beyond surface level, role allowed me to assist those living in poverty, suffering from various forms of trauma and abuse and mental health issues. Overall, regardless of the hat I am wearing, I enjoy catering to the needs of others.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Living in New York has to be one of the greatest blessings ever — despite the high cost of living. New York is literally where dreams are made! If a friend were visiting me for the week, the planner in me would have each day written out with an itinerary of fun activities, places to see and go. Sundays are perfect for brunch. We would head over to The Pantry in Rockville Centre, NY for a fabulous brunch and a pitcher of mimosas. Then, we can head over to Nautical Mile to walk the boardwalk. On Monday, the Ice Cream Museum located in Manhattan would be ideal, followed by a nice lunch. During the week we would venture all over New York City and Long Island to see, eat and explore all there is to explore. Must tries are Margherita’s Pizza located on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, NY — my stomping grounds. I think the best visits are raw and real. I would give them the tourist experience of course, but with me, you will get the real New York. That is the real experience!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost, all thanks and praises go to God. Without him, I am nothing. The support from my friends, family, and clients that I refer to as my “Cravers” keep me going. My parents and my brother Darius are my biggest supporters (and volunteer sous chefs). My friends who are also my extended family are a unit of amazing entrepreneurs themselves. With their guidance, support. and mentorship Cravin’ grew from a hustle to a legitimate business.
A special thank you to Totia, Precious, Ashlee, Chazmin, Amanda, Gabriella, Tasheena, and Krissy for stepping in and supporting Cravin’. I could name so much more, but these individuals have dedicated their time and stepped in and stepped up to assist when needed. To my two, late grandfathers, I wish you two were here to see all that I’ve accomplished thus far.
Image credits to Steele Visions