JOPLIN, Mo. — From George Spiva and Thomas Hart Benton to pickled jalapenos, one woman’s working world has undergone some radical changes.

Mealtime may make you think of McDonalds, Texas Roadhouse, or Red Onion.

But for one Carthage woman – it’s a chance to combine her love of art with the love of a good meal.

Josie Mai, Personal Chef, said, “I have fun, first of all I just have to say um I am a personal chef.”

A pretty recent development.

For years, Josie Mai focused on her first love – art.

“I’ve been an art educator for about 20 years everything from grade school to high school and then I did about 11 years in higher ed. I was nine years at Missouri Southern, that’s what got me to Joplin and a couple years at Pittsburg State.”

In fact, she has ties to many of the art teachers in the area.

She was a volunteer with the Spiva Center for the Arts for years and even took over as director for a while.

But she was ready for a change, heading into the kitchen.

“Essentially I made more money off my food the first month than I did on my artwork the whole previous year – not that you know selling is it. But it is when you’re creating a business.”

At first, it was just cooking for family and friends, but that evolved into a full time career as a Personal Chef.

“I essentially go into people’s kitchens, when it’s not covid, and I cook meals for them in own kitchens. Then box them up, put them in the fridge and leave, and they come home and have fresh cooked meals.”

In recent months coronavirus restrictions prompted her to add a meal delivery service that isn’t strictly local.

“I added a delivery day to Kansas City on Mondays – I do Joplin, Carthage area on Tuesdays.”

Mai considers her food a new way to express her art.

“Pattern, color, texture.”

She adds flexibility is the key to her path forward in the working world.

“Gotta pivot, pivot’s the big word right now, right? Got to pivot to the next thing.”

Which will be tested this Fall.

Mai plans to continue as a Personal Chef part time, balancing that with a full time job teaching art at Joplin High School.