Jolhea Muhammad-Payton made a vow at the age of 15 to learn a new skill, earn a certificate, or earn a new type of license.
At 35, she has amassed an impressive list:
International hairdresser, phlebotomy, radiology technician, medical assistant, medical billing and coding, certified practical nurse, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, class A truck driver, travel agent, air ramp agent and trained in hand-to-hand combat. She recently started training for her commercial pilot license.
But the one constant throughout his explorations has been his passion for food.
“Hair and food were always something I could fall back on. Cooking has always saved my life,” said the single mother of three aged 16, 2 and 1. “I loved cooking for my family and friends. I have always dreamed of having a restaurant.
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She found her inspiration watching her mother cook, which she says is her earliest memory.
“She was meticulous about how she cut everything,” Muhammad-Payton said, “taking her time to be perfect and adding every ingredient with love.”
The eldest of three children, she grew up in Guam, the Philippines and Hawaii. His father was a Navy SEAL and now an entrepreneur. Her Filipino mother is a housewife and runs their family’s businesses. After graduating from high school, Muhammad-Payton began pre-medical studies at a community college. At 19, she married her high school sweetheart, an Army soldier, and moved to Colorado Springs. She went to college, had her son, and styled her hair to the side.
When they divorced, she returned to the Philippines to be closer to her family and moved to Guam soon after so she could work and help her mother, who was sick.
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In 2015, she married an airman she had met in Guam and returned to Colorado Springs for a communications opportunity.
Muhammad-Payton continued to accumulate skills in the sources, but also began to focus on his culinary specialty of preparing traditional Filipino, Asian and Islander dishes. She also prepared foods from other cultures and styles.
She has a knack for turning food into comfort food. She is particularly known for her lumpia, which she says are perfectly fried, slightly crispy spring rolls.
In February, she took a chance and incorporated Lumpia Lheas – The Island Cuisine Queens, a catering, events and personal chef experience business.
“Lumpia Lheas was built with love, with the intention not only to share the food of my culture and many others in which I grew up, but to provide an experience which in turn creates memories between the family , friends and even strangers,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
She was invited to participate in the Rocky Mountain Health Care Services Leader Showcase, held at The Antlers hotel in May. She won the top prize: a gold medal for her island barbecue chicken, steamed white rice and lumpia with sweet chilli sauce.
“It was the first time I had participated in a cooking competition of this caliber,” she said.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea there would be all the best chefs in Colorado Springs competing. They told me to prepare 500 servings. I was so nervous I brought 1000 servings. I didn’t want to burn myself out or make any mistakes.
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There was a non-stop line at his table that night. And when they announced her name as the winner, she was so surprised she burst into tears.
“It was confirmation that I had made the right decision, after all we’ve been through and all the hard work and sacrifice, my dedication and determination to perfect my craft has finally paid off,” he said. she declared.
After that, calls started coming in twice as fast for catering events. She received regular concerts. But just two months later, she injured her back while stocking up for restoration work and ended up in hospital with three herniated discs, torn muscles and nerve damage.
She remained in a rehabilitation hospital for two weeks after a week-long stint at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North – learning to manage her life in a walker and wheelchair to rebuild her mobility.
Her recovery could take six to eight months, but with her discipline and determination, she says she will pull through.
“I always have my greatest growth in the darkest times of my life,” Muhammad-Payton said.
“I turn pain into profit,” she said. “God provides, and I always figure out how to make things happen. I am lucky that my family lives here and helps me with my babies. I owe so much to my mother, Bethlea, the other queen of the island of Lumpia Lheas. I love her more than words could ever explain. She sacrificed so much to help me make my dreams and goals a reality.
She thanked her Facebook followers for their words of encouragement: “I’m forever grateful for all the support from the community and I can’t wait to come back better than ever.”
Her goal when she can go back to work: own her own food trailer.
“We will achieve this goal even with this setback,” she said.
You can follow her on facebook.com/LumpiaLheas.
Contact the author: 636-0271.