Ajana Jones loves making bread.

It’s the smell of the flour and yeast mixed together. The aroma when the bread is done.

“I just love the whole process,’’ she says.

There isn’t much that Ajana doesn’t like to make. The 18-year-old has run her own catering business, The Midnight Chef, since she was in eighth grade.

She got the name from her mother.

“I would always be up at night cooking,’’ she says. “My mom came down and called me that and it stuck.’’

She’s still doing some catering as a freshman at Metropolitan Community College, where she’s taking classes in the culinary arts. She could be done in December 2020 with an associate degree in baking and pastry, but may stay until May 2021 to get a certificate in savory.

Her culinary studies have opened up a whole new world. She’s learning how to cook faster and safer. Her goal is to run a full-fledged catering business after graduation.

Ajana began with just one kind of cookie. That progressed to a variety of cookies, which turned into cakes and now savories. She was working on a chicken and shrimp alfredo dish while doing this interview. The day of our photo shoot, she was baking a special order cake with lemon curd filling.

Ajana sold her cookies to classmates. She played softball for four years at Omaha North High School and would bring food for her teammates and sometimes their parents.

She loves how combining items turns into something wonderful.

“Eggs, cream, sugar and butter can make so many things,’’ she says.

Her current specialty is cheesecake. (Fresh strawberries stuffed with strawberry cheesecake, anyone?)

If that sounds hard, it isn’t, Ajana says. What’s difficult is trying to concoct her masterpieces in the family kitchen. She needs a bigger oven.

“Space is the hardest thing. I just do small stuff.’’

There have been a few trials and tribulations along the way as she has learned new and more complicated dishes. Last semester, a pie blew up in her baking basics class. There was too much filling for the crust.

She still passed.

She doesn’t mind making a mistake. She has learned something from every miscue. “Through failure you learn lessons.’’

Ajana picked up a lot from her grandfather, Eugene Persons, who was a chef. Her Metro teachers are helping her grow, too, she says. On the professional stage, her favorite chef is Emeril Lagasse.

A lot of the world’s best chefs are men. That’s changing, Ajana says, although she knows there will be challenges as a woman in the field. But it’s her calling.

“I like seeing people like the food,’’ she says. “I like cooking to make people feel good.’’

Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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