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Women Who Lead Well: Leading the Way in Jamaican Cuisine with Chef Irma Gottshalk

Meet Chef Irma!

Irma Gottshalk was born in Kingston, Jamaica. At the age of 14, she migrated to the United States to live in Houston, Texas where she graduated from Elsik High School and joined the Army. Irma was deployed to Operation Desert Storm and Shield, and Iraqi Freedom. She retired from the United States Army with 22 years of service.

After her military career, she attended Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Austin before opening the first Jamaican restaurant, iGott Island Cuisine, LLC in Temple, Texas in 2014. With the insistence of her customers, Chef Irma transitioned her restaurant to a catering company, which she now calls IGott Flava Catering.

Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chef Irma to find out how she leads well in her career and life.

Chef Irma, please kick things off by introducing yourself and your story. Where are you from? Where do you live? What do you do?

I am originally from Kingston, Jamaican, and migrated to Houston in 1986. I currently reside in Killeen, Texas.

I've noticed the older I get, the more important it is to start my day off right. What's your morning routine? How do you get your day started?

I start my day with prayer; then by 5:30 am, I commute to work in Austin with the Texas Military Department as a HR Specialist. Most weekends, you will find me doing what I love, my passion, cooking, and sharing my Jamaican cuisine in my catering business.

What inspired or inspires you to do the work you do?

The love for making my cuisine beautiful and sharing it with the world.

How has a failure, or perceived failure, set you up for later success?

I have had struggles, but with and only God I continue to persevere and regroup.

You are a leader. Whether in your home or in your career, you mobilize, organize, create and nurture bonds, and facilitate harmony. As a leader (in your home and in your career), how do you take care of your well-being?

As I leader in my home, and career, I worship God, He takes care of the whole being. He maketh me lay down in green pastures (opportunities) He leads beside still water (emotional and mental peace). Psalm 23:1 – 4. I enjoy walking outside in the early morning.

Do you consider yourself to be a creative leader? If so, why? If not, what kind of leader do you identify with most? Or are you a combination of a few types? (traditional, creative, servant-leader, strategic, etc)

I am a combination of a few types; depending on the situation. I lead by example.

It's important to invest in your personal development and growth. Healing and growth are essential to being an effective leader. Do you agree? Why or why not?

I agree. If you don’t heal from the office or past hurt. You become bitter and lead with bitterness and hurt others. We have a saying in the workspace “Lessons learned”. We do an after-action report, we gather data from what went well, what needs improvement, and how to improve for the next time. Doing this gives us room to grow.

How do you stay balanced? Are you able to maintain a work-life balance or is that a challenge for you?

Staying balanced in my marriage is a struggle. I deliberately plan vacations and do things that make me happy, and drag my husband along.

I'm a quote junkie! What is your favorite quote?

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou

What can people expect from you next?

I have a cookbook that is launching this year called Bless up, Respect, and Manners: Cook and Eat Jamaican Food Weekly. Sign up for my newsletter by visiting my website for exclusive launch announcements. I am also building a bed and breakfast in rural Jamaica that I'm very excited about.

Check out Chef Irma's website at Follow her Facebook business page at and her Instagram at


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