Today I wanted to share my story. When I think back on my “journey” a lot of it feels pretty normal…but I’ve definitely come a long way. I have hit my fair share of stumbling blocks, but have always managed to pick myself up, dust myself off, and somehow turn out for the better.
For as long as I can remember I dreamed of doing something with my life, but for so long I felt lost and aimless as to what that “something” was. Throughout my life, however, I have carried a consistent love and passion for cooking and serving meals to my friends and family.
I grew up a combination of a tomboy, an activist and a dreamer. The only girl of six kids (my brothers and cousins,) second oldest in the lineup, and the first-born child of my parents. My parents divorced when I was young, and much of my early years are marked by moving, change, and plenty of good family memories. My dad’s childhood nickname for me was Captain Planet. I adopted a manatee and I even wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton about pollution when I was in elementary school!
I’ve also been a long-time advocate of recycling and eliminating waste, something that is crucial to cost-control in any kitchen environment. As a matter of fact, I bring home recycling from work to be properly disposed of, a habit I started back at my very first job.
When I was a teenager I moved in with my dad full-time and began to try to find myself in the world. I was sixteen, I had my first job as a cashier at a grocery store, and I thought I knew everything. I remember my starting wage was $6.75/hour!
One thing I did know for sure was how to shop for food and plan meals. My dad worked and travelled often, so I often used my own money to buy groceries for the house. I also ventured into cooking for the very first time, feeding the friends who came over with big pasta dinners, and putting together lunches from the leftovers.
My teenage years were crazy. I partied a lot, thought my friendships would last forever, and began to dream about who I wanted to be. I also discovered the Food Network and that’s when my love for cooking really came out. I’d watch my favorite chefs create incredible meals, go online, print out the recipes and attempt to recreate what I’d watched for my family. There were many successes, and quite a few failures as well. But the seeds were planted. I loved to cook.
As I headed towards my twenties, it seemed as though I was on the “right path.” I was employed at a credit union, doing a job I enjoyed with some pretty excellent benefits attached. I was finishing up my business Associate’s degree and was looking towards completing my Bachelor’s of Business in the next few years. I was saving money to buy my own house and my dreams became those of a reasonable person; family, house, job, happiness. Not everything was a perfect as it seemed though…
I was still partying a lot, I was beginning to develop some bad habits and addictions, but I was still cooking and exploring recipe development and meal prep. I moved out of my dad’s house to be closer to work and lived with my grandmother for a few months. I was extremely lonely and homesick, and so I moved back in with my dad. I dated some good guys, and a few bigtime losers, too. Despite my great job and the façade that I put on like I had it together, I felt like I was lost and drifting. I made some really big mistakes and lost my best friend in the process.
Then one night I was pulled over for drunk driving. I was charged with a DUI and lost my license for 3 months. My world as I knew it flipped upside down. In order to keep my job, I had to move out on my own and take the bus every day. I was 22 years old and getting a real taste of what being an “adult” meant. I had to pay for rent, utilities, and of course, groceries, all with my own money. I was make less than $14.00/hour and had to figure it out.
I was in a “rock bottom” of sorts. Despite the DUI, I was still drinking every day, smoking, and spending too many nights out late, looking for friendship, looking for love in all the wrong places, literally. I was on a really bad path that just kept getting worse. But one positive thing remained constant throughout this journey; my love of feeding people, my passion for creating a meal, and my knack for grocery shopping on a budget.
A major shift happened when my grandmother passed away. She had been a constant source of love and guidance my entire life. She was an artist and a teacher. A mother to nine and a grandmother to eighteen. Losing her felt like a big huge hole had been ripped through me. I was totally lost and craving direction. I needed a change. I left my boyfriend at the time, quit the job I was working at the time and hated, and went to stay with my aunt for a little while. I had to get my head on straight. Throughout all of the hardships, I really found a sense of peace and stability in cooking. I found that the kitchen was where my mind was most quiet, where I felt most at home.
It was while I was staying with my aunt that I decided to go to culinary school. If there was one thing my grandmother taught me, it’s that life is too short to ignore your dreams, push down your passions. At 25 years old I enrolled as a full-time day student at Johnson & Wales. Completing the Culinary Associates program was a dream come true.
To get some experience in the food industry, I worked for a while in the kitchens of a couple major grocery stores. Then, at an internship fair at Johnson & Wales I met a chef who gave me an incredible opportunity. He offered me a job, and I became a supervisor in the kitchen of a renowned catering company. It was an incredible experience.
It was right around this time that I also reconnected with the boy I had fallen in love with as a kid; my first bus-stop crush. Glen and I had been off and on throughout our teenage years and early twenties, each of us needing to experience our own life journey. Then one day he reached out to me through a mutual friend and asked me to come back into his life to stay. We moved in together and started to build a life. Things finally started to fall into place for me.
Before we knew it, Glen and I became parents. Our daughter Brynne was born in March of 2017. Becoming a mother totally changed my life for the better. I quit smoking and said a final farewell to my relationship with alcohol. I cleaned up my life. I wanted, and still want, to be the best version of myself for my baby. Because my catering job wasn’t conducive to our needs at the time, I left and went back to work for the credit union.
Leaving the catering company caused a significant drop in our income, cutting it almost in half. I found that cooking homemade meals no longer just provided me joy, it also become a necessity. We literally could no longer afford to go out to eat.
A lot has changed since then. I now balance life as a working mom and managing our household income and organization. We’re expecting our second daughter in November of this year.
Home for me has always been the kitchen. The planning, preparation, and making of meals is my life’s passion. While I love to cook for a crowd, and have had some great experiences through catering, now I am following my own dreams; to teach other women about healthy meal organization habits and kitchen management.
Money may be tight at times, but our home is full of good food, love and laughter every day.
Thank you for stopping by, and please stay awhile.
Welcome to my kitchen!