DeíJeune (Dee) Kinchen

Certified Pastry Chef, Personal Chef, and Owner of JAM Confection Co., LLC and Deelish – Personal Chef Services 

Dee Kinchen has overcome obstacles and worked hard to make her childhood dream come true. Growing up, she cannot remember a time when cooking did not intrigue and inspire her. “When the other kids were watching cartoons and music videos, I loved to watch Emeril and Rachael Ray shows. I would stay up late to watch Iron Chef with subtitles,” Dee says. “I was amazed that the chefs could create tantalizing dishes without even a recipe.” 

In junior high, Dee researched the career of a pastry chef in her occupations class. “It sounded great, but I’d never known anyone who was a chef or how to get into the field,” Dee says. “At the time, it was just a dream job.”

Though she didn’t quite know where or how to begin, Dee followed her passion for food and started cooking and baking sweets for school. Dee vividly remembers a time when she made snickerdoodle cookies for her friends. “They loved them,” Dee says. “Through this experience, I learned how giving sweets made with love could really make a person’s day.”

In tenth grade, Dee took a cake decorating class, and it further ignited her passion for baking. Inspired by the class, she started decorating cakes and cupcakes for teachers and friends. Then, her senior year, Dee was gifted the baking pans of her talented grandmother, Mattie. “She had also baked and decorated cakes, including my very first birthday cake before she passed away,” Dee says. “At that point, I realized baking was not just a hobby, it was something that I really loved to do, and it seemed as though I was already headed in the right direction.”

After high school, Dee was offered and accepted an opportunity to become the pastry chef at the prestigious Country Club of Little Rock. However, Dee decided that to be most successful in this industry she would have to be a business owner, so she pursued a degree in hospitality administration at Arkansas Tech University. “An old friend once told me, ‘You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Imagine if Steph Curry never attempted shooting a 3-pointer because he was afraid of missing the goal.’ That really stuck with me,” Dee says. “I had to decide if my fear of reaching for an opportunity and being denied or trying something new and failing was worth being stagnant and never reaching any of my goals. From then on, I began to network with new people and try new things. More times than not, it has resulted in a win for me. Missing the shot doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you can learn from the error, readjust, and shoot again.”

While attending Arkansas Tech, Dee created a mosaic with 300 cupcakes of the school’s logo for the homecoming football game. “Everyone was amazed and excited for the cupcakes,” Dee says. “I was so proud, and I decided to do an even bigger mosaic in the future. Then, in 2019, I created a 1000 cupcake tiger mosaic for Ouachita Baptist University.” 

Dee has also competed in and won several dessert competitions over the last few years, but she is most proud of winning the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Pastry Chef of the Year competition in 2019. “I love a good challenge, so my most proud moments came from times when I pushed myself to do something that would test my skills and creativity,” Dee says. 

Today, Dee is glad to be back in Texarkana with her businesses, and she is proud to be active in the growth of the city. “I absolutely love that the downtown area is growing and becoming more of a destination for locals. 

I’ve seen awesome downtown areas in other cities, and I believe we are on the path to creating that here. I have participated in holiday and food truck festivals around the city for the last few years,” Dee says. “I hope to continue to do so in the future and maybe even find a location to become a permanent vendor. It’s great to see participation grow each year as locals come out to support the small businesses.” 

For her unique and innovative recipes, Dee draws inspiration from what’s trending in the food industry; then, she puts her own creative spin on it. “I often take traditional flavor profiles and experimentally transform them into other desserts. My favorite medium is the cupcake,” Dee says. “I absolutely love being able to use my creativity to bring joy to my customers and their important life events. That joy is my daily motivation to keep creating.”

Dee loves to travel and try new foods when she is not working. She especially loves chasing food trucks and trying out their unique items. “Since I was younger, my goal in life after retirement is to travel the country and try all of the best foods in each region. I am a serious foodie,” Dee says. “Beyond food, I also like to complete DIY crafts and to garden. I’m a really proud plant mother. I have come to love gardening over the last two years, experimenting with various fruits and vegetables. Caring for plants requires consistency and patience. I’m most proud of my avocado trees, although they won’t produce for several more years.”

Though she has had many successes, Dee has actually faced an intense struggle that could have caused her to give up on her dreams. Very few people know this about her, but Dee was diagnosed with a neurological sleep disorder called narcolepsy. “I struggled with this from high school through college and finally got officially diagnosed my senior year,” Dee says. “Narcolepsy is different for each person, but I see it as having half the energy of a normal person. I’ve never wanted it to be an excuse for me, so instead, it’s my motivation to work twice as hard.” 

Though she still battles silently with narcolepsy daily, being self-employed allows Dee to create her own schedule and work during her most productive days. “Although they don’t know it, on most days, it’s the idea of making my customers’ day that keeps me going,” Dee says. “The instant joy on their faces reminds me that I couldn’t let them down because they trusted me to BAKE their day sweeter.”  

In the future, Dee’s goals include creating a successful national brand that branches from her current sweets business. This would include creating cookbooks and online classes and selling baking supplies and merchandise apparel for chefs and bakers, some of which Dee already does. “I would also love to collaborate with local business owners along the way,” Dee says. “One day, I hope that I am remembered for my passion and dedication to my craft, and as a real life example that we can become or do anything we dream of. Even if people can’t see how dreams will work out, doing their best can create opportunities for them.” 

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