BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – “I think for me excitement has always come from change. I’ve never thrived in a routine. I’ve always craved adventure and sought out experiences that challenge my mind or even my soul in some way,” said chef Jay Ducote.

The ability to pivot and take courageous risks is a quality one of Baton Rouge’s most celebrated chefs is known for. Following the sale of Gov’t Taco and his sauce company, and Ducote is planning more innovation and expansion in 2023.

Ducote, a political science major who shifted into the role of high school math teacher before trying his hand at grant writing, found his sweet spot with a food blog. The blog evolved into a culinary media empire, complete with a line of sauces sold in stores.

Since his company took flight in 2011, Ducote has played a major role in the local food scene. In 2015, he became the runner-up on season 11 of “Food Network Star” and went on to compete in multiple televised cooking competitions. He also inked a deal with Guaranty Corporation and became the driving force behind one of Baton Rouge’s most popular restaurants, Gov’t Taco.

Ducote’s success is tied to his ability to embrace change. In a January 2023 interview with BRProud, he admitted this wasn’t always easy.

“Early on in my life, or in my young professional career, change was scary,” Ducote said. “There was a fear of the unknown, and without a foundation of relationships or finances, there were certainly risks involved.”   

The mindset that helped Ducote thrive

Ducote explained that he learned to embrace change by considering what would happen if he chose to remain stagnant. 

“It is exciting to reinvent yourself, to take on a new challenge, to learn new skills, to have something truly meaningful to figure out. And with only one life to live, I’d rather live it by evolving and adapting and changing rather than being stuck in an endless cycle of normalcy,“ Ducote said.

He added, “I think I learned early on to embrace those risks, knowing that the alternative would always be there. I could always go find another job if that’s what it came to.”

Adapting to change involves following your instincts

He’s learned the importance of trusting himself.

“Following your gut can definitely be scary,” Ducote said. “Sometimes it’s telling you to go against all sense of logic or to stay in your safety net. But if you learn to harness your instincts and follow them when the timing is right, I’ve found that it can really pay off. They’re probably telling you what you know deep down to be true… that you’re stuck, or you aren’t truly happy, or you’ve lost your passion for something that you once had.“

Before becoming a household name, Ducote found himself teaching high school math. He realized something didn’t feel right. So, he took a leap of faith and made a career change.  

He explained it this way, “During the summer after my second year of teaching, I attended an alternative teacher certification program, and in the very first session, my gut told me to walk out. Leaving meant that I wouldn’t keep teaching and I’d need to find a different career path, but I knew that wasn’t the place for me anymore.”

Ducote said he appreciates his experience as a teacher, but “I followed my gut and left the program on the first day, and never looked back.”

The decision paid off.

“I landed a new job that led me down a different path and eventually into food blogging and that totally changed my life. In another two years I’d be quitting that job to pursue my food career full time,” he said.

What’s next for Ducote?

At the start of this year, Ducote made yet another courageous decision.

In early January, Flynn Foster, president of Guaranty Corporation announced, “Jay has moved on professionally from the hospitality group and will continue to grow his personal brand, focusing more of his time on his interests combining food and drink with travel. Exciting times lay ahead for both Jay and Gov’t Taco as they move into the new year. Jay will always be Gov’t Taco’s ‘Founding Father’.”

The months ahead will be an adventure for the acclaimed chef and for his fellow foodies, who he wants to spend more time with. 

“I’m currently planning a culinary expedition to Italy that people can join me on and I’m looking at other opportunities for getting around the country and possibly around the world,” Ducote said.

“2023 is going to be another huge year of change for me, he said. “It is once again time for a reset and finding new opportunities. I’m really not sure exactly where that will land me, but I know there will be a lot of adventures including new stamps on my passport, new memories with old friends, and a rejuvenated spirit of entrepreneurialism.” 

Supporters can follow Ducote on social media to keep up with his next moves.