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Tips From The Top: One On One With Serena Poon

I spoke to celebrity chef Serena Poon about her best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Serena: Hi Adam! Thank You so much for taking the time to interview me! I love having the opportunity to share and connect with you and your readers. SO, the one thing that most people don’t know about me, and probably would never assume is that: I never cooked on own until I graduated from college. Growing up, it was always my parents (both of them) in the kitchen, or my Grandmother. I loved watching the magic happen, and of course, loved indulging in their creations. While I was in college, I lived in the dorms the first year and then in a sorority for the rest of college. We were lucky enough to have a House Mom who also cooked for us. So, I didn’t start to create my own kitchen magic until after I graduated from college and lived on my own with roommates.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Serena: My journey began with my life’s biggest heartbreak, losing my dad to cancer when he was only 48 years old, and then my mom was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just 2 months after his passing, and she was only 45 at the time. This gave me determination to change the way we understand food, nutrition, healing and wellness. But I did not realize that my drive for healing others put me in a place where I was sacrificing my own health for the sake of helping others. I was trying to save everyone around me. After suffering my own health issues as a result of that kind of stress, multiple surgeries, 2 of which I nearly died from and years of self-development, I’ve learned to balance my energy, to take care of myself first so that I can take care of everyone else around me. During this time, my business evolved to include more than just practicing culinary alchemy as a private chef and caterer. I became a nutritionist, wellness expert, coach and counselor to my clients.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Serena: As a leader, I think it’s most important that 1) you never stop learning (something my father instilled in me) 2) be aware that the people you surround yourself with are the ones you are also learning the most from. So, it’s so important to listen, because there is a level of emotional intelligence that I feel is the very finely drawn defining line between a good leader and a great leader. Being present, grounded and emotionally intelligent are key components in the foundation for great communication and understanding. Which is the foundation for building a great team. And your team is everything. YOU set the tone for your team. How you handle the tough situations, how you navigate through the challenges, this is what your team will take note of and how they will mirror your actions and decisions.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Serena: Know who you are. Get very real with yourself. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? What do you truly want – without judgement from yourself or others. When you can be completely honest with yourself about what you want, Who you are, then you know exactly what you need and who you need to support you in the process of building your dream. Your team. Make time to meditate. Whether you do this in bed before you get up, in bed when you go to sleep, in the middle of the day, while you journal, while you exercise – whatever the environment you so choose, just do it. Take 15-20 minutes a day. Or even just 5 minutes. Meditate. Connect with yourself, connect with your intuition. You know what you want. You know the answers. Trust it.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Serena: Give back to your community. It can be your local community that you live in – so to a charity or nonprofit. Or to a community that you identify with. Are you an entrepreneur? Are you a cancer survivor or a member of a survivor group? Do you love animals? We are all members of sooo many communities. And by that, I don’t necessarily mean a membership or a club. I mean that we all can identify ourselves and our passions in so many different ways and categories. These are your communities. Give back in some way, whether it’s your time, your donations, or sharing your wisdom, give back to these communities as knowledge and experiences are intangible libraries filled with a wealth of wisdom that should be shared. You can even be a mentor to a young adult or student, or even a budding entrepreneur in the same field. I learned so much from my mentors, not just about my craft, but about LIFE. Experiences are such a wealth of invaluable information and it’s important to share that with others, particular younger generations.

Adam:
What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Serena: Hobbies…is eating considered a hobby or pastime?? If so, that would obviously be my number one. My number two would be travel. I absolutely love to travel and the inner calling for exploration and wander has definitely shaped my career into one that allows me to travel for both work and pleasure. Every time I get on a plane, whether it’s with a client for work or on holiday for pleasure, it’s a culinary adventure. And the experiences I have I always take home with me into my kitchen for inspiration.

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Serena: There will always be lows to balance the highs. Learn to ride the lows in the same stride as you ride the highs and you will always continue to move forward. Remember that even though life doesn’t stop or standstill, you can always hit the pause button when you need time to rest, reset, and know that you can resume right where you left off when you hit play again.

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