For first-generation Black Americans with Caribbean-immigrant parents, there’s usually a traditional roadmap for life that’s instilled early on: you get the best education you can, translate that into a prosperous career, and that’s the recipe to overall stability. Forget passion, it’s all about practicality. But young folks continue to exemplify that it’s possible to turn passion into profit, a path nurse Helena Faustin is proving true through her food blog, That Nurse Can Cook.
The thought of cooking as a means of income wasn’t fathomable to Faustin until the COVID-19 pandemic. Until then, the 36-year-old’s life consisted of working through long shifts as a nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), being a wife to her husband Gregory, and a mother to son, Gregory (8, whose nickname ‘TiGreg’ affectionately means Little Greg) and daughter, Aria (6).
In a conversation with Unbothered, Faustin admits, “I fell in love with nursing but experienced burnout early in my career. I turned more to cooking and content creation as an outlet to deal with bedside nursing.” Despite reaching massive success through her side hustle, the London-born, Brooklyn-raised entrepreneur opens up about the exhaustion she felt at work, the difficulties she faced on her culinary journey, and the steps she took to achieve peace of mind.
Cooking Up a Plan
Being on the frontlines during COVID took a more significant toll on Faustin than she anticipated. The uncertainty of the world caused her to explore cooking, a skill she learned early on thanks to her mom, Veronica Grant, who taught her the basics. First, Faustin says “I needed to figure out a way to make money.” Since she worked full time and realistically wouldn't have the time to pack and ship orders, Faustin made the executive decision to create digital, printable e-books. Irie Delights, Faustin’s first cookbook, features 19 of her favorite Caribbean recipes. Irie means “nice, good, or pleasing” in Patois. “It proved to be a viable source of revenue for me and due to the success of that book, I created another ebook called ‘Dinner in 30,’ to solve the issue of people not wanting to spend time in the kitchen.”
Between those two e-books, YouTube revenue, and brand partnerships, Faustin earned a total of $117,000 in 2021. That was enough money to scale her hours back to part-time at the hospital and invest more into creating cooking content. While Faustin felt she matured during that time, she experienced new challenges.
Too Close to the Fire
Anyone who’s ever made an Instagram reel understands how time-consuming it can be. Faustin has felt that pressure and reflects on the transitional period of posting more content. “Honestly that probably was the most challenging thing for me to do, balancing my career in the hospital, creating content, being present in the home as a wife and as a mother,” she says. I was failing miserably, I won’t lie, in the early days of my career.” Faustin continues, “As I matured, I really appreciated the value in setting healthy boundaries and making sure I set aside time in my schedule for myself. I also learned the power of saying ‘no.’ Sometimes you just have to say ‘no’ in order to gain your peace of mind and make sure you’re not overextending yourself.”
Thankfully for Faustin, she’s able to turn to her compassionate husband who she refers to as her “pop-off valve” because he hears her frustrations, pours into her cup, and reminds her to take breaks for herself. “If you’re going to embark on any journey, you’re going to need support in the form of a close partner, a friend, a family member, somebody.” When it comes to her cooking career, Faustin’s family is all in.
A Family That Feasts Together
Since beginning her journey, Faustin’s family grew more involved as she opened up her content for her audience to truly understand who she is as a wife, a mother, and a nurse. You may catch TiGreg on her page preparing dinner for the fam, and according to Faustin, Aria is not afraid to let mom know when grandma cooks legume (eggplant stew) better.
Faustin is now-dedicated to infusing more Haitian influence into her recipes. Her mother-in-law, Raymonde Faustin, taught her how to make diris djon djon, the famously delicious black rice dish. Faustin also shares, “His aunt taught me how to make epis (spice), and I incorporate that into my cooking.” It’s Faustin's way of honoring her husband’s Haitian culture while staying true to her own. “The merging of Jamaican and Haitian food, it doesn’t get better than that. I look forward to learning more about Haitian food.” Anyone who’s had jerk chicken with pickliz (pickled vegetable relish) understands that is facts.
A Recipe For Success
Now that Faustin is a mom, she feels all children should learn how to cook as a survival skill, and more parents should support their kid's passions.
To people experiencing burnout and seeking out a side career, Faustin says “I realize burnout often happens due to a lack of healthy boundaries, and the first key to finding your way outside of burnout is to set [them]. Learn how to say, ‘no,’ and create a schedule that you stick to. Set aside time when you watch your favorite show. Make a date at the spa. Connect with your family and circle, and check in. If you have to, find a therapist or someone to talk to about what you’re feeling or experiencing, and take that energy and channel it towards something that you’re passionate about.”
Strong advice from a woman who is living proof that it is possible to make six figures from a side hustle while eating well and maintaining peace.