how does a passion for something start? what is the spark to the kindling that makes that fire burn? also, what if you have more than one fire burning at the same time?
I knew I wanted to be a model or at least be in front of a camera from the time I was a few days from 11. As I got to high school, modeling also became acting. Then college delivered a D in acting (that's what happens when you are asked to deliver your own interpretation on a scene from a play & you serve up Steel Magnolias as a comedy to an uptight dramatic theater professor who faile as an actress herself). modeling in hold because it's impossible to balance a modeling career, a collegiate sports career, 15 credit hours and a job to pay for things. Change of plan. Broadcast journalism....I'm still on a mic or in front of a camera. Then you find you can't get a job out of college because you didn't do enough internships because sports didn't allow it. Back to modeling it is. I'm not going to be stuck in Ohio all my life. This shit isn't even happening. I'm not giving the bullies the satisfaction of their being right when they told me I "was a loser who would never do anything in life." and that the only thing that I could model was "dog food".
Simultaneously, along the journey, I discovered that life doesn't come with a meal plan of 3 set meals in the cafeterias and food courts every day (and twice on weekends). That would be pretty damn sweet though especially if they served the turkey tetrazzini from The University of Findlay (so good it would make you see Jesus). I should probably learn how to cook something that doesn't involve a freezer, microwave and box entitled Lean Cuisine.
Thus, began my interest in food. I had a couple simple cookbooks & Food Network. By the time, I got done with my second degree at Ohio State in 2000, I could feed myself without (usually) setting my smoke alarm off. I got my first big restaurant job working for Planet Hollywood/All-Star Cafe (the sports themed restaurant they had) & I befriended the chefs. I didn't know how important that would be until a phone call from my mom, who was clinically depressed from my grandmother's mysterious illness that left her practically comatose for almost 9 months before her passing.
"I'm too sick, too depressed & I just can't do it. we are not having Thanksgiving dinner. we'll go out or something"
LIKE HELL WE WILL!!!
What good proper Midwestern family goes out to eat for Thanksgiving?!?! Not this one...that's for damn sure. Impulsively, I told my mom "I'll do thanksgiving. just make me some green beans because no one does them like you. I will do the rest...even pumpkin pie (I hate it...the texture grosses me out. I love pumpkin everything else though)"
what did I just commit to?!? Freak out time. I told the head chef at Planet Hollywood what I signed myself up for and frantically told him "I've never even bought a turkey let alone cook one!!?!? I can't let my family down though. they need this. my mom needs this!" he sat me down after a shift and gave me tons of pointers & short cuts (we call those life hacks now). I cook almost everything, bake almost everything, pack up my car and drive an hour to my parents' house. Everyone lived, no one complained and Thanksgiving was saved. Hey, that was pretty fun. it was like chemistry but without the pesky math. I wonder if this makes up for the time I screwed up Christmas when I was 5 with that whole trip to the ER thing.
I would then discover Rachael Ray (I have a ton of her books, cooking pans, knives, utensils, magazines, etc). She speaks to me, she's my kitchen spirit animal, make it fast & make it yum-o. I work in more restaurants (cuz that's what you do when you're an actor in Los Angeles), different cuisines & I even help open a restaurant or 2 (including 3-weeks paid gig in Aruba for Hard Rock Cafe)
Then I meet my boyfriend...he introduces me to fine dining, Top Chef and celebrity chefs. We cook together & go on culinary adventures. We've even almost "gone to network" for a major food show on Food Network (going to network is when you meet with/audition in front of the network executives/producers/etc. it's usually the last thing between you & the gig and usually only you and couple other people/groups)
anytime someone asks me how I got interested in food and cooking, I always refer back to the kindling that fueled the fire that fed my family that particular Thanksgiving. it's the burning passion of this hobby that keeps me fed without making myself a broke actor both financially and spiritually (all work and no play makes Jack a crazy boy as we all learned in The Shining).
I got let go from my latest weekend restaurant job yesterday (major overhaul of the company. nothing I did wrong). one of the first things I did was clear my mind in the kitchen. I made my own tomatillo salsa and experimented making apple chips without a dehydrator. Maybe now...I can work on replicating that perfect turkey tetrazzini from college.
Some of my culinary creations:
Breakfast: waffle sandwich with fried egg, swiss cheese and leftover brisket
Lunch: green leaf lettuce, turkey bacon, cantalope, yellow bell pepper
Dinner: Thanksgiving dinner to be exact, from 2013....I've come a LONG way from that first Thanksgiving. yes, that is a homemade cranberry mold that we made look store bought by letting it set in a can!