The holiday season has arrived and Chef Millie Susan Peartree is here to serve her tips for holiday dining, whether you are the hostess or guest. After growing her catering business while working fulltime, Peartree became her own boss. See her recipe for success.

Name: Millie Susan Peartree

Age: 34

Title: Owner and Executive Chef Millie Peartree Cupcakes & More and Millie Peartree Catering

Location: Bronx, NY 

Twitter: @mpcupcakes

Instagram: @mpcupcakes

The gig: I’m an executive chef, pastry chef, caterer and private chef. I create happy and joyful memories through food. The best thing about my job is I have the ability to bring people together around delicious meals. Whether it’s cooking privately for professional athletes or catering events, the joy is seeing the client gets when they take the first bite. 

The journey: I’ve always had a passion for cooking. After I lost my mother to colon cancer and had to take care of my younger siblings, two with autism, I needed an outlet to cope with our loss and realized I could bake as a business. While working in corporate America, I baked at night and slowly built my company and expanded to being a private chef. After I got laid off from my 9 to 5, I had enough clients to pursue my catering business full-time.

Her holiday hosting tip: Always write out a to-do list. Make sure you shop for food days in advance and prep your meals in advance. The day of your event, gathering or function, you want to spend your time with your loved ones, not slaving over a stove or running to the store.

How to be a great dinner guest: Bring something that can transport easily, preferably on good disposable “china” and food that can be served at room temperature. You never want to rely on someone’s kitchen, as you don’t know if they will still be cooking or if someone else is warming something. 

Her holiday fix: My maple orange sweet potatoes and my piecaken. Piecaken is a cake with a pie baked in the middle! It’s so rich, sweet and decadent that you only need a slice once a year.

Her best career advice: Invest in yourself. It’s tempting to buy the newest Chanel bag and hottest shoes, however when you own your business and want people to take your business seriously you must take it seriously first. When I started my cupcake company I knew who my competitors were and I knew I couldn’t take cupcakes to clients in aluminum foil and shopping bags. I made sure I had packaging made and great business cards.

Her biggest lesson learned: It’s ok to say no, there were times where I was stretching myself entirely too thin and my product suffered. Honesty allowed me to recover. If people believe in you and you have a good heart, more than likely they will give you a second chance. 

Her career highlights: My ongoing corporate dining relationship with Restaurant Associates/Compass Group USA and my new partnership with Delta Airlines working on some fun projects. One is Holiday in the Hanger where they take 150 youth from the YMCA in New York to the North Pole.

Her secret superpower: The ability to turn leftovers into a completely different meal. I don’t believe in waste, I will recreate something until it’s no longer “safe” to use.

Her downtime: I attend church every Sunday. I’ve learned to develop a work/life balance and take an annual trip. The way I manage stress is one hour a day in the gym. I am now down 80lbs. That one-hour is my alone time daily. 

Her tech fix: The apps I visit the most are Instagram, Facebook and the Bible.

Her beauty bag: Ginger Liz nail polish, Dove’s winter body wash and CLEAN perfume.

Her power style accessory: My Cartier love bracelet and Yurman bangles! You can dress them up or down.

Her theme song: “Stand” by Donnie McClurkin.