DJ was born and raised in Michigan. She schooled to become a CPA but embarked on another career altogether. After moving south she became co-owner of a yacht which led to her present career as chef. For the next ten years she cruised from Maine to St. Barth’s as chef aboard private yachts before coming to California for a visit with her mom. The visit turned into a decision to attend culinary school at the prestigious California Culinary Academy. DJ graduated in 92’ with high honors and was the recipient of The Danielle Carlisle Walker Award for excellence in culinary studies. While in school she entered an American Culinary Federation sponsored Salon and garnered a gold medal. When she was contacted by the Academy that Cooks and Books was available it piqued her interest. It was not a hard decision to take on the ownership and create her dream business. It was then that she met her future husband, Kent Nielsen.