Tag: culinary arts

Take the Leap

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s a phrase I heard many years ago in a motivational speech and it has replayed in my head over and over again, countless times since.

I’ve now been working at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio as a kitchen assistant for almost five months. (Is that even real?! How is that even real??). I’m still pinching myself and I probably will be for a long time. My glass is definitely more than half full but I’m still trying to find my confidence and footing in a professional kitchen. As they say, all good things take time and I know this journey is no different. However, until that confidence is gained, I’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, with making mistakes, receiving honest feedback… and, truth be told, I’m starting to.

Anyone that has ever begun something new, knows the feeling I’m talking about. You want to be helpful but you’re not entirely sure what the next move is and you’re pretty sure you’re just getting in the way. Push through it. Much of the time, it’s just you overthinking anyway.

I listened to a podcast recently that resonated with me and I want to share a few snippets with you:

“Rejection… it’s just redirection… how often do we compare the behind the scenes crap to other people’s highlight reals and go, oh well, forget it then. You know, they had it and I don’t… [They’re probably] doing exactly what I’m doing and it just worked for them faster. No. You didn’t see the fifteen albums of garbage before they got signed. You don’t see all the work.

Ed Sheeran says, ‘Everybody looks at my work now and goes, Wow, every song you write is amazing. First of all, that’s not true. You don’t hear all the songs I write that don’t get released. When I started writing music it was like this brown sludgy water and I had to stomach how uncomfortable I was when the music wasn’t what I wanted it to be the first, second and forty second time. I had to sit through that feeling.’

Ira Glass says there’s a gap. You have good taste but then your ability to make the thing that you can identify as great is going to take a second. So really, if we could be way kinder to ourselves, maybe there is so much brilliance that we could uncover. Maybe the trick is to make mediocre things and keep making things, seeking out that feedback, and perhaps you’ll be that next brilliant maker. But you might need to give yourself five whole minutes. Maybe that’s okay.” – Cathy Heller, episode 215 on the Creative Pep Talk podcast by Andy J. Miller.

Pretty good stuff, huh?

I want to stress the importance of feedback for a minute. Feedback is integral to growth but it can be a scary thing. If I were to pick out one thing that holds me back and I’m consciously working to change, it’s not fear of feedback itself but more fear of the failure that feedback might reveal. No one wants to be wrong and no one wants to look stupid. I am by far my toughest critic.

I’m fortunate to be in an envrionment where a wrong answer or a mistake is not a condemnation (though not often, I’ve been in situations where it is… it makes true learning very difficult if not impossible). Instead, it’s viewed as a learning opportunity and something that paves the way for future growth. And yet, even with this, sometimes I still hold back… an answer that I’m not certain about, a question that I have but perhaps should know the answer to (or maybe not). Every so often I let the fear of being wrong, of potentially looking stupid slow me down and I shouldn’t. Neither should you.

(Also, if you happen to be in an environment where you spend 8-12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week with the same people, they’re bound to see plenty of your mistakes and listen to loads of your dumb questions anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it all you’ve got).

One night at work, not long ago, as we were finishing up for the day, almost through with our daily “break down” routine, I was talking about some of my recent mishaps and mistakes with the guys. I was a little down on myself and they knew it. As usual, their advice was spot on.

Keep in mind, they reminded me, that you’re comparing yourself with people who, combined, have over three decades of experience in the industry. They are great at what they do. That experience doesn’t come all at once and the knowledge is acquired over years and years of hard work and research. There are endless concepts to explore but first, you MUST learn how to hold the brush.

Spot on.

Last week I stepped down from my position at Wooden Horse Corporation to devote 100% of my time and energy to this new passion and way of life. It was hard because I loved what I did with the Equicizer and while I’ll still be involved from afar, I was at a crossroads and something had to give.

Summer is coming and things are really picking up at CVI. When you’re working 50-60+ hour weeks at one job and still trying to juggle another, they are both going to suffer. It’s not fair to your employers and it’s not fair to you. So, I made the leap. One down, so many more to go. Bring on the mistakes, the feedback, the opportunity for growth. I’m ready. I’m all in. Let’s do this.


Cooking Up A Storm

Now that I’m pursing a career in the culinary field, I often get asked what my favorite thing to make is. The truth? I don’t have one! (No one is satisfied with that answer.) My favorite thing to make is the thing I haven’t yet made. Yeah, that’s definitely an oxymoron but it’s true.

We all have our go-to’s, those make up the majority of our weekday lunches and dinners. When we exhaust our list of staples, what do we do? We run through them again. My week is usually pretty packed and the meals I make reflect that. They don’t take long to make and they’re pretty simple (I think I’ve said it before, but leftovers are SO underrated).

Baking with Grandma and little sis, Emma (right), circa 2004

The kitchen has always been a therapeutic place for me. Whether I was baking with my grandma’s or concocting my own creations; I was constantly coming up with substitutions for ingredients (like eggs) because we were often short of something integral to a recipe (I write that with a smile on my face – love you, mom!). The kitchen is, in many ways, a safe haven for me. A place where creativity can shine and memories can be made.

Right now, I have the best of both worlds. Technically, thanks to my day job, I work in a kitchen all week long, and I love it, but it’s different than cooking in your own kitchen. It just is. The environment is faster paced and mistakes come at a higher cost. It’s where I go to learn, to push myself out of my comfort zone and to grow. It’s expanding my mind in so many ways, yet, I still crave that quiet time in my own kitchen.

My kitchen is where I go to clear my head and de-stress. From a professional standpoint I’m still very much in the stage where I don’t know what I don’t know and everyone knows it, which is something I am very aware of. I’ve been graced with such a patient, open minded learning environment but that fact also makes me want to try harder. It’s a total blessing to have people investing time and energy into teaching you but it makes me want to show up tenfold in return. At work, I take things very seriously, myself included.

When I have a day or two off sometimes other things take priority but I usually find time to cook up at least one or two new recipes. Those are my favorite ones. So many people get in the rut of making the same meals over and over and over again… year after year after year. If that works for you then keep on keeping on, but it just doesn’t jive with me. There’s so much potential, so many different kinds of food. I actually freak out a little when I think about all of the ingredients I pass in the grocery store that I’ll never notice or get a chance to try.

A few weeks back I took advantage of an extended weekend and immersed myself in the kitchen. I come across a lot of recipes online that I put aside for an opportunity when I can make them, or I’ll see one in Bon Appetit, the monthly magazine I’m subscribed to. More recently, as I continue to learn about different kinds of foods and various cuisines I’ll challenge myself to come up with something I would normally only get from a restaurant or buy from the store, then I’ll do some research and make it. Easy as pie, right? Not always, but it’s a learning experience and that alone makes it rewarding.

These times in the kitchen, by myself, with the music blaring – no where to go and nothing pressing to do – will always be some of my very favorite. On my own, I love to experiment and lost in my own thoughts, I’m free to do just that. The recipes, for now, provide an often needed guide but liberty is always taken and so are lots of photos (because nothing’s better than the chance to combine two of your passions).

I just bought my first chef’s knife and it is SO SHARP. (I’m told – repeatedly – that fingers grow back so there’s not much to worry about.) Honestly, I can’t wait to put it to use. My knife skills are sorely lacking and I’m more than ready to remedy that situation. I look forward to continuing to share my journey and my food, with you, the reader. I regularly share posts and story updates on my adventures in the kitchen (at work and at home) via my Instagram and Facebook pages. Follow along and send me a photo of your latest creation! Check back soon for some of the things I’ve been cooking up recently.