No matter how much we feel like we've got things figured out, sometimes we still find ourselves surprised by where we've ended up. Katrina Didot's vocation has taken her all over the world, through various experiences in social work, missions, motherhood, and finally restaurant ownership. Throughout it all she has followed her passion, and each step of her journey has figured significantly in her current position.
As a new student deciding on a major at Messiah College, Katrina, whose friends knew her as Jill, used experiences from her adolescence to guide her. "My parents took care of elderly people who lived in our home. They always had someone over and were always helping someone. So I learned social work in the home," she explains. For Katrina, the social work major seemed the perfect place to enhance and develop the skills of serving others she had been developing since youth.
Katrina was engaged in student life at Messiah in a wide variety of ways. She considers every experience, both in the classroom and otherwise, invaluable: whether she was serving as a class representative for the Student Government Association, studying abroad in Greece, pursuing her major, or studying hard to retain her scholarships, Katrina found herself constantly learning. She speaks highly of her education, noting that the general education courses helped her "take a look at what Christian values mean in the context of a greater culture." Whether specifically engaged in social work or involved in a related pursuit, this education "has probably defined the ways I've looked at social problems as I've worked in different settings."
Katrina also appreciates the two years she spent studying at Temple University through Messiah's Philadelphia satellite campus program. "I loved the community feel at the Philly campus; they did a great job nurturing the small group of students within the larger group of Temple University ," she says. Her love for the program led her to pursue an intensive internship in Philadelphia where she became very involved in both the local church and the community center where her internship was based.
Katrina found her first post-collegiate job through the network of friends and resources she acquired while at Messiah. A friend who had graduated the year before referred her to Lutheran Children and Family Services, and from there Katrina began her long and winding vocational journey.
"Social work is a very eclectic major; we focus a lot on generalist practices. I probably have done a little of everything since I graduated," Katrina explains. "I've done a lot of different things; I see them all as very social work related. The major really teaches you to be a change agent in whatever setting you might be in." Katrina has been able to apply the principles of her major to her vocational path, which has led her from social work positions in several states and third-world countries to her current job as a restaurant owner and cook in Virginia.
• "Don't take [your career path] too seriously; you never know where you're going to end up. I never would have guessed I'd be a restaurant owner."
• "Anything you do is going to be part of your experience, and it all eventually comes together."
• "Nothing you do is going to be wasted; do it all with a [passionate] heart."
--"Don't be afraid to take a couple years off and then go back."
After some time in her first position, Katrina moved to Haiti to serve as Assistant Acting Field Director for the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE) in Haiti, a group founded by Tony Campolo, which would eventually evolve into Beyond Borders. While in Haiti, Katrina met the man who would become her husband. She then moved to Washington, D.C. to work on her master's degree in social work. After getting married and completing her degree, Katrina spent two years working with the local government through the Crime Victim Assistance Program, counseling violent crime victims and homicide survivors and working with domestic violence therapeutic support groups.
Eventually Katrina and her husband decided to bike across America in an effort to spend some time away from the D.C. political system. "We gained a better outlook on life after spending some time in ordinary America, as opposed to D.C.," Katrina says of this experience. After her bike trip, Katrina went to Guatemala to work with Food for the Hungry's educational program. Her family spent several years working with the Poqomchi people and other Mayan groups producing educational videos in their languages and contextualized for their cultures. Katrina remained in touch with people at Messiah College and helped host two cross-cultural programs. She also found herself doing social work and private outpatient counseling in Guatemala City, and she even extended her family by adopting two Guatemalan children, Luther and Eva.
Katrina and her family moved back to the United States, and she spent a year doing intensive in-home family preservation work. Then, in February 2005, Katrina was "given the opportunity to open a café . . . inside of a natural foods store in Harrisonburg, Virginia." She explains, "I was looking for a way to have a career that would allow me to be home in the evening; this provided me that opportunity." At A Bowl of Good, her café that doubles as a catering business, Katrina speciailizes in what she calls "healthy hearty food with an international zing." A Bowl of Good is not Katrina's first experience with food preparation and catering: "I've done catering here and there. The first year in Philly I was living with two Messiah students and our landlord asked the 3 of us to cater his wedding and we did. From there we got a couple more gigs and that was our second income and we were very successful. That piqued my interest in catering. In Haiti and Guatemala I got a lot of experience cooking for big groups," she explains.
"I define my experience by the food that I eat," Katrina asserts, "I do a lot of Mediterranean cooking now in my café." Moreover, she finds that through cooking and food preparation, she is still serving needs similar to those she encountered as a social worker. "I see in my own children the need for sleep, play, and good solid fresh food. Those three things often define whether my kids are going to be behaving right or not. As I look at social problems with the children I've worked with these same things are true. Food and how it affects our life has always been very interesting to me. It's something I really enjoy when I travel."
During a typical day at A Bowl of Good, Katrina might be "making good solid homemade soups from Guatemalan Highland chicken soup, Thai Tomkagai, to Cuban Black Bean, . . .making homemade nine-grain bread, doing salads that represent the world that are always made from really fresh local ingredients, [or] catering luncheons that could be a Mediterranean Vietnamese sampler." Truly an eclectic and dynamic experience!
Katrina finds peace in her vocation when she reflects upon her current concerns. She believes that her current job brings "stability and creativity to my life; I'm doing something I like. I'm meeting a need. When I wake up in the night worrying I would much rather be worrying about food and what I forgot to order than if the kids I'm working with are out dealing drugs. At this point in my life, given where my children are, it's a better place for me to be."
"I have a lot of customers that are very affirming. I am meeting a need. I'm at peace with where I'm at and how it's working in my family life. That gives me a lot of comfort. I feel like God has created this world full of all kinds of incredible foods, and I feel privileged to be able to play in it in this season of my life."
"Our bodies are our temples, and what I'm doing is making good solid food and modeling how to eat right," Katrina emphatically illustrates, affirming how her restaurant business helps serve God and others. "Because I've lived in so many places, I've learned to cook everything fresh and wholesome. God can be a part of all we do if we allow him to be. I feel like He has used every single experience I've had, and it's coming all together with food. I feel like doing this has given me more peace and time to really focus on my children and their needs too."
Assessing her vocational journey thus far, Katrina knows it's far from over. She plans to expand her business but doesn't ignore the possibility that she could return to counseling in the future. For now, though, she sees the café as "a great business as [her] children get older and are able to contribute. As long as they're in school," she explains, "this is a good place for me to be."
Find out how other Messiah graduates became entrepreneurs:
Liz Demery, owner of comedy club
Shelly Tolo, owner of event planning company
Deb Pierson, owner of computer consultation business
Paul Logan, owner of medical information technology consultation business
Profile by Tyler Baber, March 2006