Who would have guessed five years ago, as I sat in an IACP session on a cool and drizzly day in Portland, that my life would change forever. Perhaps it was prophetic, possibly I was being guided by guardian angels, or maybe destiny finally had its say, but as I listened to the presenter talk about how to start a blog, which platform to use, and the best business practices to follow, the trajectory of my life changed. I took the proverbial “left at Albuquerque” and have never looked back.
With enthusiasm I hadn’t felt in years, I started to sketch out a hazy concept. I could barely contain myself as my brain darted from one thought to the next like a bullet in a metal chamber, ricocheting with increasing velocity. I couldn’t make notes fast enough. There were so many directions I could take. How would I harness my energy and focus it toward a specific point with laser-like intensity? I had started to write a cookbook before but it hadn’t been the right time. Was I finally going to be able to achieve that goal and follow my dreams?
I had been working on the periphery of the food industry for years. Taking cooking classes to improve my skills, reading every cookbook and food magazine I could get my hands on, entertaining guests with dinner parties where I could try out new ideas for dishes. I worked in a cooking school assisting visiting professional chefs, wrote the recipes for our visiting chefs, and helped other chef friends organize and formally convert the scribbling notes into full fledged recipes, creating their personal cookbooks.
A little while later I took a position as a manager in a corporate cafeteria, learning the business side of running a restaurant and filling in on the line when people called in sick. I immediately respected the skill and seeming ease of the men and women preparing meals for hundreds of people in just a few hours. I am in awe of those who do this every day – I wish I had the strength and stamina to join you on the line again.
It was clear that my passion was the food industry, but what avenue should I take? It was like a hazy light in the distance, teasing me, always just slightly out of reach. In my heart I knew I would get there, but as I worked year after year in high tech, I wasn’t sure how and often doubted it would ever happen.
And then I lost my job, my mother died of cancer, and I got married, all in less than four months.
My father had passed away nine years before after a 3-year battle with a different type of cancer, so I knew how to handle the slow decline. But my mother was gone just four weeks after I got the call telling me her cancer had returned. Reeling from shock and grief, life as I knew it was crumbling. Our wedding was just three months away, so I dove into the minute details, clutching at anything that would give me structure and focus. Our family and friends were acutely aware of the absence of both my parents. But with the love and support of The Artist, our families and friends, we made it a fun celebration.
I found a job at a local cooking school and began my career transition in earnest. I gleaned tidbits of information from each person I met, figuring out what the different options were in the industry, and which would likely fit my skill set. Along the way I heard about an organization called the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). I was fascinated by how excited people got who were attending the annual conference. I had been to many high tech conferences but they never elicited the kind of reaction I was seeing from my food industry friends. What was it about this one? A few years later I found out on that pivotal trip to Portland.
After getting home from the conference I couldn’t contain my excitement and talked for hours about everything I had learned, seen and experienced to The Artist. Poor guy, all he could do was nod and smile while I barely took a breath. 🙂 The next day I started reading everything I could about blogging, studied the notes I had taken at the conference, developed the basic theme and design, decided on the look and feel I wanted, designed my logo, and two weeks later The Heritage Cook was born!
Then panic struck. What was I going to write about? I had never done any creative writing and didn’t have a clue how to do it. I had a blog that was live but there was nothing on it. What would happen if people visited and there was nothing there for them to read?
So I wrote five days a week for two years, putting up every recipe I had made in my life and slowly learned the craft of blogging. Chocolate Mondays were born out of requests from my friends and readers for more dessert recipes – they chose Monday as the best day for chocolate recipes, declaring that the best way to start the week and combat the Monday blues was with chocolate. Thank you all for the inspiration I am still following five years later!
I am still a rather prosaic writer, but I now can write with surprising alacrity and variety. I am delighted with every recipe I develop, article I write, and with the cookbook that I wrote with my friend Shannon Kinsella. The manuscript is in and we are heading into editing mode. It will become a reality next year! I am truly living my dream and am grateful for every single day.
May you all follow your dreams and may they be a delicious as mine are.
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