Debra McKessey, CEO and Founder of Debs All Occasion Selection, is no newcomer to the world of Culinary Arts and Catering. In fact, she had a passion for cooking at a very young age. As President of the Youth Group at St. John The Baptist Catholic Church, she ensured that her group was entered into the many culinary competitions at Youth Rallies where her creativity fostered her now well-known tagline, “Simple but Significant”. This passion was further fostered, nourished, and cultivated by her Holy Childhood Highschool Food and Nutrition Teacher, Ms. Scott, who encouraged furthering her education in Foods at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Technology Jamaica where she studied Culinary Management, majoring in Patisserie; Garde Manger; and International Cuisine. Her professional career started at the University Hospital Tony Thwaites Wing as a Dietary Supervisor where her department literally “fed the multitude”, from patients with special diets, Nurses, Doctors, and visitors. Keeping true to her motto, “simple but significant”, the planned menus for her Patients, catered for their special diets without sacrificing taste and/or quality.
Always seeking a challenge and the opportunity to grow, she ventured on to work closely, as Operations Manager for the Lunch Program, with Dr. Heather Little-White of Little-White and associates where she once again she brought her creativity and love for food to their plates while learning how to harmoniously manage both people and process. Her journey then brought her to the Houses of Parliament as the Food and Beverage Manager where she was tasked with managing all aspects of the Food Services Department. Menu creation for Committee Meetings, Social Events, The Sitting of Parliament and the Senate, Staff and Visitor Lunches, Meals for offices in the surrounding environment were just a few of her responsibilities. After honing her skills for 20 years, she made the proverbial “leap of faith” to start her own Catering business where she could truly allow her creative juices to flow, and so they did with the birth of Debs All Occasion Selection in the spring of 2015.
Debra was always cooking and creating meals for family and friends who were instrumental in her deciding to become a culinary entrepreneur but her very involved mother, Beverly McKessey, who lovingly nicknamed her “Chef Boyardee” always tried to get her to do Baking, Debra hated baking! Beverly used to bake Banana Breads on Sundays for her husband; Debra’s father, Oswald McKessey, simply because he enjoyed having pastry with his morning coffee. After her mom’s battle with Breast Cancer ended in 2017, Debra decided to continue the Sunday tradition to honor her mother and satisfy her father’s sweet tooth….and there is where it began. Debra started to introduce her Banana Bread line to her already existing clientele where the word started to spread.
She offered Regular, Chocolate Chip, and Nutty Banana Breads just to name a few. And now, Debs All Occasion Selection has a wide variety of signature baked products ranging from 12 different flavors of Cheesecake and counting, variety of Puddings with her Bailey’s Bread Pudding as the star of the bunch, cupcakes, muffins, specialty and custom-made cakes. Her mother’s dream has come true coupled with Debra’s dream of being her own boss. After taking a 10 month break to take care of her father who was diagnosed with Dementia, her journey continued after his passing in November 2020.
After experiencing both her parents passing to terminal illness, Debra felt the undying need to continue her journey and her work with Debs All Occasion Selection with the hope of one day being given or creating the platform to educate and support persons touched by terminal illness.