We recently connected with Donna Mesa and have shared our conversation below.
Donna, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Are you happy a creative professional? Do you sometimes wonder what it would be like to work for someone else?
Couldn’t be happier! I knew from an early age I could never have a career from a cubicle or a “desk job”. It’s just not my personality! And while I can admit having a 9-to-5 job does offer a certain type of stability routine and predictability for others … I know myself and I would be miserable if I didn’t have the professional outlet to be myself and express my talents and my passions. I value the art of excitement in my daily life and especially as part of my job. For me, it’s never been about becoming rich or needing my paycheck to validate my job. I would rather LOVE what I do and be happy with myself for doing what I love! Happiness is everything. Waking up every day excited to go to my “not a regular job” brings me happiness, and that’s far more valuable to the life I choose to enjoy. I feel the recipe for success is being grateful for what you get to do and being thankful for where your choices have brought you.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
My name is Donna Rodriguez on-air (my maiden name) and Donna Mesa to the rest of the world. I am a Radio Personality as well as a Personal Chef. I jokingly like to tell people I lead “a double life”. I’ve been blessed to work in the radio industry for over 20 years, and currently on-air with a popular radio station in Atlanta that I absolutely love which is 104.7 The Fish! Additionally, my Executive Chef husband and I also have a side business together called Entertainment Chefs. We actually met through the Food Network while he was on TV and I was an entertainment correspondent for radio with a passion for cooking and hosting/emcee’ing food festivals and culinary competitions. I graduated with a Broadcast Journalism degree and went immediately into voice over acting for radio commercials as a kickstart into the industry. One of the highlights of my career is when I was later offered my own talk show program called ‘Dishing With Donna’ and it aired successfully for about six years and featured all around the world. Believe it or not, it was a food show … on the radio. And after only 6 months, it garnered the attention of the Food Network during its own peak of popularity and I was blessed enough to be able to work alongside the Food Network as my radio program then evolved into a Celebrity talk show where I would regularly interview and spend personal time with famous chefs such as Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Giada DeLaurentiis, Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, etc …..
This catapulted my career AND my personal life, because during the 4th year of Dishing With Donna, I met a hilarious, charismatic, handsome and talented chef named Herb Mesa with more energy in his pinky fingernail than most people have in a lifetime. We immediately connected, fell in love, and got married. Now (12 years later) we have a 6 year old son together named Ozzy with the same larger-than-life energetic personality as his Dad. We eventually created Entertainment Chefs together, a company which specializes in private catering as well as special meal plan programs for individuals looking for a healthier lifestyle. Some couples wouldn’t want to work together side by side every day, but we can and we do. We both love it! We have learned so much from one another along this journey of marriage and business and navigating through the entertainment world.
As for my radio career, my true bread and butter …. I get to enjoy the excitement and exhilaration of being on live radio every day and create such fun content and be part of not just a team of talented personalities, but a family here in the studios too. It’s a faith based organization and an environment I look forward to coming to every single day.
My “double life” definitely keeps me on my toes, always exciting, never a dull moment, and absolutely fulfilling.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
Life has definitely had twists and turns for me, both personally and professionally. I remember a specific time when I was really having to ask myself some hard reflecting questions and had to make some difficult decisions about what to do with my career path. I went straight into radio and voice over work right after graduating college and continued that for 5 straight years before switching over to print media where I tried the advertising side of magazines and newspapers. I only did this because I wasn’t making much money with voice over work, despite truly loving it. But it was during this transitional experience of shifting my career onto a different path that I realized how unhappy I eventually became, even though I earned a significantly higher income. I had moved to Miami Beach, single, making an impressive salary, driving my convertible sports car, living in a gorgeous condo right on the beach, and embracing the ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle … and on the outside, it looked like I was “living the life”, so to speak. But on the inside, I knew I wasn’t happy because I struggled with the corporate advertising sales job. I didn’t like it. I actually dreaded going to work every day. It wasn’t fulfilling. I had no passion for it. I had to be inside an office a lot. I was in a bad mood every day during work hours. There was so much stress and pressure and it became overwhelming. Again, that’s just not my personality. I’m a creative spirit! I missed radio. I missed the feeling of loving what I do. I missed the eagerness to go to work, the exhilaration of being live on air, the thrill I felt when I would walk into the studios and the thrill I had when meeting all different types of celebrities coming in for interviews. I missed working for something I’m actually passionate about and have a love for. Plus, I knew I was good at it. Lord knows I’ve never been shy in any studio, working at a radio station or tv station is a comfort zone for me. I lacked that confidence while trying to work behind the scenes in print media for a high pressured sales job.. And it ultimately became difficult to decide what to do. There were clearly pros and cons to consider.
After nearly 4 years of living in Miami with that stressful job, I finally decided to take the pay cut plunge, say goodbye to that lifestyle, and move back home to Atlanta to try and pick up where I left off in radio entertainment. For me, having my inner peace back without that mental tug-of-war was simply more important! I may miss my ocean view from time to time, but I felt stronger and richer in my soul after I moved back home to Atlanta. A decision I couldn’t be happier about as I look back and feel so thankful for the doors and opportunities that opened up for me when I did!
What do you find most rewarding about being a creative?
There is such rewarding joy in creating a life around the things you love to do most and the people you love. I get to cook for a living alongside my husband, which is completely awesome. We have different styles of cooking and his professional technique and long term restaurant Chef experience and resume blows my cooking “hobby” out of the water of course! But he has always been so supportive and eager to teach me everything he knows and my cooking talents have grown exponentially since he came into my life and we have become partners in business as well. Feeling confident in the kitchen and confident to feed others on a professional level has been an incredible adventure.. I get to be as creative as I want and as experimental as I want and we make our own rules. It’s so rewarding and humbling to see how far I’ve come in the culinary world and know that I’ve earned the respect and the authentic right to be titled a Personal Chef. I am thankful to my husband who has taken my passion for cooking (way before I ever met him) and turned it into a successful business for the both of us! For years and years, we were hired to do cooking demo shows together for the Atlanta Braves, yet another and different highlight of my career. We were constantly being filmed and featured up on the JumboTron together during our Live demos and it was so much fun cooking for live audiences. We have cooked private events and dinners for celebrities. We have also watched our individual meal plan clients literally transform their bodies and lives while incorporating our daily meal program into their health routines. – It’s all been such a wonderful ride, we genuinely feel appreciative, blessed and grateful every single day.
- Website: https://thefishatlanta.com/content/all/dishingwithdonna
- Instagram: dishing_with_donna