I started cooking initially to feed my family. After exhausting all of the foods I'd grown up eating, I started to learn to do other things. Making things more from scratch, trying out more 'ethnic' cuisines just because I could. Admittedly, I watched a LOT of food network, [BEFORE all of the competition shows] and learned a ton. It's how i grew up learning about food though- watching my mom cook. I absorbed her tasks. I read all her cookbooks, but never laid a finger in her kitchen. I'm pretty sure my parents thought I would kill them with my cooking.
Years passed before I set foot in a professional kitchen. I was always in the front of the house, during my tenure employed in restaurants. After I'd had my youngest son, I needed to get back to work in a hurry. A friend was interested in training me to take her position [line cook], because she wanted to work elsewhere. Having never worked in a restaurant kitchen, I talked my way through an interview. Sure, I cooked at home, and was an amateur chef in my own right at home, but for the masses? I'd never done it.
The boss took a chance on me, and on my second day, my friend had a blowout with the boss and walked out. I was frozen in terror. I really wanted to learn what she was going to teach me, and she just walked out the door. Do I follow? Do I stay? I really wanted the job. I stayed. We don't talk anymore. But, if we did, I'd like her to know my success started with her. And I'd like to thank her for that.
I stayed for 2 1/2 years; which is a full year longer than I've ever given any other job. But I didn't leave just to leave. I loved it there. I left because I wanted more out of life. You see, while I was there, I had an epiphany while working on my massive 10 burner stove. It wouldn't matter, if I never did anything else in my life. It wouldn't matter if I never changed my industry. I LOVED cooking. I loved it before I ever worked in a restaurant, and I still love it to this day. Food is, and always has been, an expression of love. So I left. In pursuit of something "real" to put on my resume- college experience.
I moved away, much to my children's disappointment. I left in pursuit of happiness. I learned lessons that couldn't be taught in a classroom. I went to culinary school in Chicago, with high hopes. I left after a year, dismayed, discouraged by the education sales system. I learned more working for various chefs who were willing to teach and be patient with me, than I did in the classroom. One of the things that utterly shocked me was the amount of kids in my classes who wanted to be a t/v chef or a celebrity chef but didn't even work in a restaurant. ZERO experience. They worked at target. Blew my mind. Kids who never showed up to class walked out with the same grades as I did- and I was present every single day. Every lab. Every assignment. And still... same grades. Frustration was putting it lightly.
So I worked. A lot. I worked for great people and not-so-great people; chef-owners who thought they were god's gift to humanity. Indeed they were not. Some were kind, and extremely helpful. Even when I was losing my residence post-college, a boss secured an apartment for me within 24 hours of notice. I learned kitchen Spanish. Which is like normal Spanish, except centered around food, and inappropriate sayings. I took a corporate job in anticipation that I might get a head chef gig out of it. Instead, I got fired. I freaked out. Tried to make my way stumping jewelry. It didn't feel right. I was coming to the end of my rope in a hurry.
And then another friend kindly pointed me in the direction of my very first Executive Chef gig. I stumbled, succeeded, and was ultimately let go after one season. Many of the customers were disappointed; they called me personally to tell me so. Looked me up on facebook- and asked 'What happened?? Why?' And I didn't really have an answer. I never really got one myself. There were huge lessons to be learned from that place. But nevertheless, I persisted.
I formed my company, Fuchs Artisan Foods, in October after I was unkindly released from my duties. I then moved back to Wisconsin, where the climate was friendlier. I knew more people here and was determined to make my business work. But first, I needed to be present. My grandfather's health was ailing and my best friend needed a nanny. So I took time off from a regular kitchen. While I was 'off work' my bestie was off gloating to her fellow coworkers at the doctors' office- that she now has her own personal chef living with her. She would take in left overs and they would ooh and aah over them. Next thing I know, i'm getting a call telling me to put a menu together, the staff wants lunches.
Well, okay then. Next thing I know, I've got a couple of weddings to cater. All right! After my grandpa passed away, I went back to work in a kitchen. Wasn't the one I wanted, but I stayed until I got the job I wanted in the town I lived in. And it was GLORIOUS!! And I worked, and I worked...
Until the veil came down. It wasn't pretty. But it needed to happen. I needed that push; constantly I told myself to be thankful I can run my business in whichever way I saw fit. Repeatedly. It took about 18 months for me to take my leave. After that, I realized, I HAVE TO WORK [my business].
Just like my girlfriends who hawk makeup, toothpaste, jewlery/accessories, or health products, I NEED to WORK my business. There is no other way for me to succeed. A million and one ideas, but needs execution. Determination. Planning.
Which brings us into the now. Right now. Dreaming, plotting, planning. Talking to you. If I can offer an words of wisdom from my journey:
Measure your successes against your yesterday's. And the day before. And the year prior. Its much easier to see how far you've come when you only compete with yourself. Also, its frightening, but don't be afraid. #followyourstupidfuckingdreams
You won't regret it. I promise.
[thanks Brian Cherry for the hashtag. I stole it, and I hope you don't mind.]
and p.s- KUDOS to you, if you made it to the end. Know that I love you.