DALLAS — In case you don’t know her, allow Yaschica Higgenbotham to introduce herself.
For starters, Higgenbotham — nicknamed “Coko” — is a 33-year-old native of Amite, Louisiana.
A 2001 graduate of Amite High, Higgenbotham is a few years removed from having enrolled at Delgado Community College in New Orleans and two years removed from having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary in Dallas.
A first-generation college graduate, Higgenbotham didn’t just earn a college degree, she mastered school in flying colors, having registered a cumulative grade point average of 3.26.
Add to the fact that the vibrant, progressive Higgenbotham is an accomplished bass guitar player, an avid painter, and often finds pleasure in preparing delectable meals for friends, and it’s no wonder she has become a fixture in her brief time as a member of West Irving Church of God In Christ.
“I really began to truly believe that Dallas was a part of God’s plan when He started to put great people in my path,” Higgenbotham told longtime journalist Andre Johnson during a recent exclusive interview. “I like my church family. They get on my nerves just like my church family back home, but I wouldn’t trade them at all. They embraced me with loving arms and they believed in me.”
In assessing her brief time in the Lone Star State, Higgenbotham doesn’t shy away from the notion that she’s in the right establishment, at the ideal time during what undoubtedly has become a rather dazzling transition in her young life.
In a nutshell, while many who watched her grow up in a rural Louisiana town sensed that relocating to a massive city wasn’t in her best interest, Higgenbotham admittedly knew full well she had arrived at a pivotal point in her life where she had to refrain from watching things happen, but rather she had to begin to make things happen.
Did she ever.
“I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey here in Dallas,” Higgenbotham said.
Given the commendable strides she has made in recent years, it’s safe to assume there’s no turning back now.
Higgenbotham undoubtedly loves Dallas and Dallas loves her back.
“Dallas is where I believed in me,” said Higgenbotham, displaying a smile that was virtually nonexistent upon her move here. “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey here in Dallas. Dallas is where I became a woman. Dallas is where my faith has grown in God. Dallas is where I began to believe in myself. Dallas is where my culinary career began. Dallas is where I began to love Yaschica Higgenbotham. I don’t know what my future holds here in Dallas. But whatever it is, I will always put God first.”
It is, by all accounts, because of her devout faith, coupled with her solid support system that Higgenbotham not only mastered culinary school, but she’s without question starting to flourish as a thriving professional chef in the process.
A little more than a month removed from having been thrust in the executive chef plateau, Higgenbotham’s astounding cooking repertoire has given way to her becoming a household name at the popular Orion Café and Grill in nearby Rockwall, Texas.
As the restaurant’s executive chef, Higgenbotham — widely known as “Chef Coko Antwan” — is afforded the opportunity to customarily put her immense culinary talents on display, a long-waited dream that, to her credit, further sums up why vacating the small town of Amite for a much larger city was a foregone conclusion all along.
So much for the constant fear she routinely harbored upon her move to Dallas.
“Wow…what a leap of faith,” said Higgenbotham, appearing rather in awe of her rapid success since coming to Texas. “When I moved to here, I knew no one. I prayed and ask God to show me where to go and He gave me Dallas.”
Surely, life for Higgenbotham had its share of hardships and obstacles. But for a woman who was taught as a child to cling to unwavering faith, Higgenbotham’s life today is such that she has gone to great lengths to clear every hurdle that has come her way.
Look out, Texas. There’s no stopping her now.
“It has been a journey of ups and downs,” Higgenbotham said. “Some days I thought I wasn’t going to make it here. But I was so determined to fight the good fight of faith. I knew that going back to Amite was not an option for me. I was determined to break every generational curse that had attached itself to my life and to my destiny. I was just crazy enough to believe that God didn’t send me here to leave me.”
Her rise to success, she said, has come full circle, in large part because of the continuous guidance of her mother, Vanessa Higgenbotham, her grandmother, Mary White, and her godmother, Annie Sudduth.
“But there is one person who have taught me a lot since I’ve been here in Dallas,” Higgenbotham, whose long-term goal is to erect her own restaurant and food truck before she turns 40, acknowledges. “Her name is Retta Mitchell. No…I don’t want to start naming names. But I have to say she’s been my (biggest) supporter here in Dallas. Retta has taught me how to find the bright side of everything I go through in life. I truly thank God for Retta J.”
Now that she’s steadily becoming acclimated to the Dallas and its surrounding areas, the possibility exist that Higgenbotham’s skills as a professional chef will ultimately give way to catering opportunities, a trend that, given her continuous success, she’d welcome wholeheartedly.
“I love to experiment with different flavors and texture,” said Higgenbotham, “but most all, I love to plate my creation. I love to entertain and watch the face of the people when they take that first taste. It puts a smile on my face to see people enjoy great food. As a woman in this field, you have to know your stuff. If not, the male chefs will kill you. I had to fight so hard to get where I am now. God is good. I just know that this is the next step to my very own (venture). I love it.”
Not only that, Higgenbotham has come to love Dallas and Dallas has shown it loves her back.
There you have it, a thorough introduction.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to email@example.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.